The Battle is Not Yours But God’s

What’s the battle that you’re facing right now?

Three thousand years ago, God’s people faced their own battle. Victory came, but only after struggle. And it came in the most unlikely of ways. The lesson they first had to learn was this:

“This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf.”

It’s the story of Jehoshaphat, found in 2 Chronicles 20:1-30.

The setting for the story is this: the tiny kingdom of Judah find themselves surrounded by not one, but three invading armies. From a human point of view, they’re about to get decimated.

Judah’s king at the time is Jehoshaphat. He’s in the middle of a 25-year reign. He’s a good king—a man of integrity, and a skilled diplomat. Most importantly, he is deeply committed to the ways of the Lord.

With armies about to wipe Judah off the map—in the face of great discouragement and defeat, Jehoshaphat does five things that change the game for God’s people.

These are five things we can do when nothing else is working, when we need our own But God moment.

1. Own Your Problem | v1-4

The first is own your problem. It’s possible for weeks or even years to pass before we’re honest about our need for help. Human cultures reward performance and encourage us to hide our battles behind an “I’ve-got-it-together” facade.

Jehoshaphat dropped the facade. In verses 1-4, we read that:

“Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s help.”

He owned his problem. He didn’t hide his fear and pretend everything was okay. He begged God for guidance, and wore his weakness in public.

If only you and I allowed ourselves to be that vulnerable. When’s the last time you shared your deepest fears with a friend? Or cried in public? Or healed a broken relationship with the word sorry? Or asked someone to pray for you?

You’re not weak if you admit weakness. Admitting weakness is actually what makes you strong. That’s what takes courage. That’s how you live from the heart. So own your problem, and be vulnerable, like Jehoshaphat was.

2. Lean Into God | v5-12

The second is lean into God. Notice that Jehoshaphat doesn’t go to the pantry and binge. He doesn’t medicate himself with Netflix, a night out on the town, or a sinkhole of self pity.

He goes to God. Read his prayer in verses 5-12. He begins by reflecting on how good God has been in the past, helping Israel take the promised land, and fight off their enemies, and build the temple.

What are the good deeds God has done in your life that you can recount? If you’ve grown up in Australia, you’ve probably got thousands you could list.

When we refocus our vision on the character and faithfulness of God, as Jehoshaphat did, it actually changes the way we view our circumstances. Our circumstances themselves may not change, but we can always choose to wipe our tears and lean into God for another day.

3. Trust His Promises | v13-17

The third is trust his promises. The Bible is full of promises. Some have counted 8000 of them. That’s a lot of promises (and a lot of counting).

Here, in verses 13-17, God gives a promise through one of his people. He doesn’t use someone famous like Isaiah or Ezekiel. Instead, the Spirit of the Lord comes upon a man called Jahaziel, who we know almost nothing else about. This is what he says:

“Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.

“Tomorrow, march out against them… But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”

The timeless truths of Scripture, so full of God’s promises, are our sure foundation. But we also must be ready to trust his promises when they come as a word for the present moment. We even need to be ready to be the prophetic voice he uses.

Just think. Those powerful words, the battle is not yours but God’s, weren’t uttered by anyone famous. They came through a little person—Jahaziel—someone like you or me.

4. Choose To Worship | v18-21

The fourth is choose to worship. A prophet has given a rousing speech, but Judah is still on the brink of annihilation. Peasants have taken refuge inside Jerusalem’s walls. Invading armies close in. The people are terrified.

What do they do? In verses 18-21, they worship. Jehoshaphat bows low with his face to the ground. Then the whole nation joins him. Imagine the scene: hundreds of thousands prostrating themselves together before God.

Then three groups of worship leaders, who are probably scattered around, stand up and begin singing with a loud voice, praising God.

And as the story fast-forwards to the next day, King Jehoshaphat gives a Braveheart-like speech.

“Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm.”

They don’t sharpen their swords or conduct last-minute training for battle. Instead:

“The king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendour, singing: ‘Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!’”

Remember that still, nothing has changed. They’re putting on their armour. The enemy draws near. Besides a prophecy, they have no reason to believe they’ll be alive by sundown. Yet they choose to worship. “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever.”

If Judah could worship God in the face of all this, will you worship God in the face of your battle?  Will you stubbornly give God glory and declare his goodness over your life?

That’s what Judah did. And if you peek ahead, it says God came to their rescue “the very moment they began to sing and give praise”. Worship, in other words, was the key to their triumph.

5. Wait for Victory | v22-30

That leads to the final point, wait for victory. Judah’s victory was incredible. Verses 22-30 tell us that:

“The Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves…

“So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.”

Not only did Judah survive an imminent invasion. Not only did they survive it without swinging a sword. But we also read that it took them three days to collect the booty. They went home with more showbags than they could carry.

And the story ends with these words:

“So Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.”

You might be staring down a big army at the moment. But take heart, because victory is on the way. It might not feel like it right now, but as we see in the story of Jehoshaphat, God sometimes lets the odds get stacked against his people so that he gets even more glory in the end.

When you’ve owned your problem, leaned into God, trusted his promises, and chosen to worship, there’s only one thing left to do. You need to wait for victory.

This is the hardest thing to do, because it doesn’t involve you at all. But that’s the point.

“This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf. Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”

Israel Folau and the Hogwash of His Heresy Hunters

It’s been three months since Israel Folau’s sacking, but the nation’s big news outlets are still finding stories to publish about the saga. Last week, the Sydney Morning Herald carried two hit pieces on the former rugby star, and they’ve unsettled many who had sided with Izzy.

In an article called Did Israel Folau actually misquote the Bible? Hell, yes, John Tait took issue with Folau’s use of the KJV Bible, accused him of misquoting Scripture, and claimed Folau is reading modern ideas of hell into the text.

“I’m convinced that Folau’s heresy hunters are full of hogwash.”

A few days later, Kate McClymont wrote, Why the PM and most Christians are ‘going to hell’. In it, she depicted the Folau church as an ‘isolated hate group’ that denies the Trinity, promotes end-times conspiracy theories, and is deeply judgmental towards outsiders.

It’s enough to rattle anyone who’s stuck by Folau thus far. Or is it?

This is the sixth article I’ve written about Israel Folau since April, and personally, I remain unmoved by these latest ‘revelations’. The SMH has not only missed the point of the entire issue, but they’ve further exposed their own deeply illiberal motives.

Here’s why I’m convinced that Folau’s heresy hunters are full of hogwash, and why deep down, they think little of freedom.

They think freedom is only for the orthodox

From the beginning, I have defended Israel Folau’s right to free speech. But along with the majority of Christians who’ve sided with him, I’ve distanced myself from how Izzy communicated his beliefs.

You’ll never see me post anything like what Izzy did on Instagram. It was clunky, brash, and came off as judgmental—even to me, a Christian.

But the fact remains that what he posted was a paraphrase of a Bible verse. The Bible, or parts of it, are considered holy writ by Christians, Jews, Muslims, and a thousand cults besides. Moreover, this book has had more influence on the West than any other piece of literature.

“The end of anyone’s precious freedoms is bad news for everyone.”

If someone can’t paraphrase the Bible without losing their job in 2019, it’s not just sports stars who are in trouble—it’s our civilisation. This is why I continue to stand with Izzy, despite how wacky some of his beliefs might be.

The SMH have sought to disperse Folau’s supporters by appealing to Christian doctrine. Does anyone else find it odd that a secular paper, so often hostile to Christians, is suddenly to be trusted as the standard-bearer for Christian orthodoxy? I certainly do.

I also find it odd that they assume Christians only want freedom for like-minded Christians. Most of the vocal Christians that I’m aware of in this debate all seem to agree that the end of anyone’s precious freedoms is bad news for everyone.

“The Bible has had more influence on the West than any other piece of literature.”

The minute our society defends freedom only for ‘orthodox’ beliefs—whether sacred or secular—is the minute we abandon freedom altogether.

Maybe Folau’s church does deny the Trinity. Maybe they’re guilty of every accusation the SMH could throw at them. Still, I would repeat those words attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

There’s little point to freedom otherwise.

They gave Folau no freedom to speak

Both articles included quotes from Israel’s Instagram account—and Kate McClymont especially went out of her way to find the juicy ones. But neither of the journalists actually spoke to Israel.

Martyn Iles is managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, the group that hosted Israel Folau’s fundraiser and are in regular contact with the Folau family. He said this in response to the McClymont piece:

“[Folau’s] alleged beliefs are largely unsourced and unreferenced. It is written by hostile journalists who have been listening to a woman with an axe to grind against Izzy’s family (who won’t identify herself and has been trying to make trouble for a while now).

“Izzy’s people asked to include a comment in the article, even if only one sentence, and were refused.”

And if you’re wondering what Folau and his family thinks about the allegations, read on:

“We are extremely disappointed the Sydney Morning Herald’s Kate McClymont did not seek comment from Israel, his family or his church, for her story focussed on Israel’s church and its doctrine.

The story carried a number of factual inaccuracies which could have been avoided had Ms McClymont simply followed standard journalism practice and approached us for comment.

The story appears to be based predominantly on quotes from a single anonymous source who has been acting in concert with Rugby Australia. Any suggestion that Israel would stand in judgment of another person is incorrect.”

If McClymont is so interested in what Israel Folau believes, why didn’t she just ask him?

They disregard the fount of our freedoms

In the rush to uphold the new rainbow orthodoxy, many journalists are using their free speech to shut down Israel’s—and they don’t seem to realise the irony.

It isn’t just people who quote the Bible who should have the right to speak freely. It’s also people who are hostile to it, including Izzy’s opponents. After all, freedom of belief includes freedom from belief.

But the desire to put an end to these freedoms is born of a dangerous disregard.

“If they successfully shut down Folau’s freedoms, they ultimately undermine their own.”

English philosopher G. K. Chesterton wisely said that if we come across a fence that our society has constructed, we’d do well to inquire of its purpose and origin before we rush to dismantle it.

What Folau’s critics are yet to realise is that if they successfully shut down his freedoms, they ultimately undermine their own.

Freedoms like speech, conscience, religion and association were hard won. They’re easy to lose, hard to regain, and still considerably rare on the global stage.

“Journalists who think little of Christianity are a dime a dozen.”

Most important of all, these freedoms were deeply informed by the Christian faith that Israel Folau subscribes to.

Journalists who think little of Christianity are a dime a dozen. But as they enjoy the freedoms it inspired, they forget just how indebted they are to this civilisation-shaping faith.

And they’d do well to think on this before they continue their crusade against it.

Do Facebook, Google and Twitter Censor Conservatives?

‘Big tech’ plays a huge and ever-expanding role in our lives. Without a thought, we now trust platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter to inform us about the latest trends in culture, the products we want, and the news stories that matter.

But over the last year or so, evidence has been mounting that big tech is biased. Disgruntled employees are leaving Silicon Valley with stories of systemic prejudice. Organisations have formed, claiming that the companies we trust are using their power to silence conservative viewpoints and favour progressive ones.

Could it all be true?

I first became aware of this issue not through news stories but through my own experience. I began a blog back in 2014. Like many bloggers, I’ve since worked hard to increase my readership and visibility, relying mostly on Facebook for traffic. I’d been seeing great progress—until around a year ago, when my stats began to stagnate.

“Evidence has been mounting that big tech is biased.”

Maybe the explanation is simple: I’ve become irrelevant. As I’ve pondered this, it seems an unlikely reason, given that in the same period I’ve had many articles published by websites with readership in the tens of thousands.

Ultimately I can only speculate about causes, since big tech companies are tight-lipped about their techniques. But in May this year, something ominous happened.

A close friend shared one of my articles, only to be told by one of his Facebook friends, “I just posted this to a Christian Group Page I am a member of and received a warning from the Facebook Admin for posting inappropriate content.”

“Big tech’s track record was worse than I’d imagined.”

What was so evil about my article that it violated Facebook’s ‘community standards’? Well, in advance of Australia’s federal election, I explained that Christian values can be found on both sides of politics—but given Labor’s policy platform this year, I couldn’t in good conscience vote for them. That’s all. Read it here.

This wasn’t the first time I’d heard of ‘conservative’ content being censored, so I decided to do some research. What I discovered about big tech’s track record was worse than I’d imagined. Here’s just a sampling.

Google fires its first whistleblower | July 2017

The first big story begins in mid 2017. It centres around Google employee James Damore who sent an internal memo highlighting what he called Google’s ‘ideological echo chamber’.

The company, he complained, was guilty of ‘reverse discrimination’ against conservatives, white people, and men. In response to his complaint, Google fired him.

Damore is currently pursuing legal action against the big tech giant.

Twitter allegedly ‘shadow-bans’ Republicans | July 2018

A year later, it came to light that Twitter was using a technique called ‘shadow-banning’ to make prominent Republicans less visible on their platform. When this blatant bias was exposed by VICE News, Twitter adjusted their platform overnight.

Facebook whistleblower quits | August 2018

The next company to show cracks was Facebook. The following month, Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer, made a post on the company’s internal message board with the title, “We Have a Problem With Political Diversity”.

He wrote, “We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views. We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack—often in mobs—anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.”

In response to this, over 100 employees at Facebook formed an online group called “FB’ers for Political Diversity”. Amerige later quit Facebook over concerns with its ‘hate speech’ policy.

Conservative non-profit files censorship lawsuit against YouTube | January 2019

Fast forward to January of this year, and the conservative non-profit PragerU filed a lawsuit against YouTube for what it claims is unlawful restriction of speech.

PragerU’s videos focus on America’s founding values, and they’ve been viewed online over 2.3 billion times. But currently over 100 of their videos—or a full 10 percent of their video library—are flagged as ‘restricted’ on YouTube, making them difficult for young people to access.

On watching any of their restricted videos, it’s difficult to see how they could qualify as ‘inappropriate’ for younger audiences.

Twitter and Google censor pro-life movie | April 2019

In April, the highly successful pro-life movie Unplanned had its Twitter account suspended. After public outcry, Twitter restored the account, but with almost all of its 200,000 followers removed, and other users unable to follow it.

Around the same time, Google listed the movie as ‘propaganda’. Soon after, the search engine reported that they’d fixed the issue.

Facebook censors author for protesting censorship | May 2019

Yet more happened in May of this year. In an ironic twist, Michelle Malkin, a high-profile author and commentator, was censored on Facebook for protesting the censorship of two other conservative figures, Laura Loomer and Gavin McInnes.

In her post, she wrote, “They are banned from Facebook and Instagram for exercising their free speech—while violent jihad groups are allowed on these platforms to spread their murderous poison… I do not know how much longer it will be before I am next.”

She was next. Facebook removed her post, saying that it was a violation of their ‘community standards.’

University study reveals Google political bias | May 2019

In May this year again, a study conducted by Northwestern University found that 86 percent of Google’s top news stories over the course of a month came from a narrow band of left-leaning news sites. CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post appeared most often in these searches.

This came after a seperate study revealed that 90 percent of political donations by Google employees had gone to Democratic candidates.

Google fires a second whistleblower | June 2019

Just last month, Google software engineer Mike Wacker was fired after he criticised the company’s anti-conservative bias in a cable news interview.

He’d previously written a controversial open letter describing ‘outrage mobs’ at the company who “will hunt down any conservative, any Christian, and any independent free thinker at Google who does not bow down to their agenda.”

Pinterest bans prominent pro-life group | June 2019

Also in June this year, Pinterest permanently banned the pro-life organisation Live Action from their platform. Incredibly, Pinterest claimed that Live Action disseminates “medical misinformation and conspiracies that turn individuals and facilities into targets for harassment and violence”.

Earlier in the year, users on Pinterest had been complaining of difficulty pinning Live Action’s content on their pinboards. The reason for this became clear when Eric Cochran, a software engineer from Pinterest, blew the whistle on his own company. He revealed that Pinterest had secretly placed the pro-life group on a list of banned pornography websites.

When Pinterest learned of this, they responded in the most inglorious of ways, by having security escort him from the building—making it clear that he’d been fired.

Google executive filmed hoping to prevent Trump’s re-election | June 2019

In what has been the most widely-reported revelation of big tech bias, last month a senior Google executive was caught on an undercover video. In the video, she suggests that the search engine giant hopes to stop “the next Trump situation” in the upcoming election.

Jen Gennai, Google’s Head of Responsible Innovation, was responding to the idea that Google should be broken up into smaller, less powerful, companies. She was filmed saying, “Smaller companies who don’t have the same resources that we do will be charged with preventing the next Trump situation… a small company cannot do that.”

“Last month a senior Google executive was caught on an undercover video.”

She went on. “We all got screwed over in 2016… the people got screwed over, the news media got screwed over, like everybody got screwed over so we’ve rapidly been like, what happened there and how do we prevent it from happening again.”

The footage, uploaded to YouTube, was quickly removed, with YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, citing its privacy guidelines.

Following the revelation, Google of course denied that they are working to alter the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

Who Will Be Next?

Perhaps some of these accounts are tainted by exaggeration, half truths, or even genuine mistakes. But it seems unlikely that they can all be explained in such a way. As many have pointed out, those affected almost always seem to be conservative personalities and ideas.

What’s concerning is that the stories I’ve retold here have only come to light because the people affected were high-profile enough to matter to the media. My story was untold until now: doubtless there are many more everyday people like me falling victim.

This leaves us with one lingering question: who will be next? Based on how quickly big tech bias has accelerated in the last year, it seems to be a question of when and who, not if.

“Doubtless there are many more everyday people like me falling victim.”

Many who discuss this issue contend that since social media and search engine companies are private enterprises, they can choose who and what takes up space on their platforms—so this isn’t really an issue of free speech.

There is merit to this perspective. But it’s also true that these companies now function in a very similar way to the utilities we use daily, like electricity, roads and gas. Intended or not, Facebook, Google and Twitter are now gatekeepers of the internet—and therefore, culture.

As such, when these companies draw lines as they surely are entitled to do, they should apply rules consistently, regardless of politics—and they should do so with the lightest possible touch.

“Facebook, Google and Twitter are now gatekeepers of the internet—and therefore, culture.”

Surely people are best served when public spaces, including online ones, are a battleground of ideas, not a battleground against ideas.

Until something changes, it’s likely that many progressive voices, unaffected by big tech bias, will deny that any bias exists, and that free speech isn’t under threat.

When I hear this, I will simply recall the mantra I’ve heard from progressive circles for years now: privilege is invisible to those who have it.

I’ve got some big writing and travel adventures planned for 2019. If you’d like to stay updated every once in a while by email newsletter, let me know here.