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How to see the news as God sees the news

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Ali Skipper moved into an apartment in Orlando, Florida, several weeks ago. However, the previous resident apparently left something behind—a four-foot ball python snake.

Last Friday, she woke up to find the snake curled up on her bathroom sink. She believes that it likely spent most of its time hiding under her refrigerator while she was completely unaware that it was in the apartment. 

The snake has reportedly been removed safely and relocated somewhere else. 

Last month, a woman in Australia was looking for paperwork when she opened her filing cabinet and discovered a snake on the top of the files. Fortunately, it turned out to be a common tree snake, which is not considered dangerous to humans. Rescue workers removed it and released it in their backyard. 

One more snake story: a West African banded cobra escaped from its owner’s home Tuesday. Authorities are warning people not to approach or try to catch it since it is venomous and thus considered dangerous. Police and firefighters have alerted area hospitals about the missing snake and initiated a protocol with a local hospital to treat this kind of snakebite in case someone is bitten. 

Here’s why the third story is more personal for me than the first two: it is occurring in Grand Prairie, a community just west of Dallas. I don’t live in Orlando or Australia—I live in Dallas. 

Reading the news on our knees 

In my Daily Article for today, I quoted Dallas Baptist University economics professor Dave Arnott’s reminder that most of the bad news in the news isn’t really relevant to us. He’s right, of course. Except for the coronavirus pandemic, it’s hard to think of a story dominating the news that directly affects my life today. 

As a result, we should not become discouraged by the discouragement in the culture, choosing not to allow the problems and challenges of our fallen world to affect us more than they already do. 

At the same time, there is a direct and practical way Christians should be affected by news that does not affect us. 

God’s word calls us to “pray for one another” (James 5:16), to offer “supplications” for “all people” (1 Timothy 2:1), and to be “praying at all times in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18). These imperatives call us to pray for those we may not know, people whose sufferings may not be ours. 

In this way, we can read the news on our knees. 

Three examples 

For example, the Beirut port explosion a year ago is a terrible tragedy. Of course, it directly affects only those in the area and those affected by shipping impacted by the blast. 

However, you and I should be praying for the survivors and those who lost loved ones as well as for Lebanon to find a way forward in the midst of its dire challenges. And we can be praying for the Holy Spirit to use believers as his witness to Muslims and others, showing them the compassion of Christ in the midst of their crises. 

The Dixie Fire is engulfing portions of a small town in Northern California today. According to the New York Times, the blaze is “leaving stretches of the community unrecognizable and covered in rubble.” 

This fire directly affects only those in its path and those who know and love them, but you and I should be praying for them. We can ask God to bring weather changes that will aid firefighters in stopping the blaze; we can pray for God’s protection for those firefighters; we can pray for the Lord to comfort those who have lost so much and to use Christians to demonstrate his love for them. 

In other news, an overloaded van carrying twenty-nine migrants crashed Wednesday on a remote South Texas highway. At least ten people were killed, including the driver, and twenty others were injured. 

Like the other stories we’ve discussed, this tragedy directly affects only those involved and those who know and love them. However, we should be praying for those affected by it, asking God to comfort them with his peace. And we should be praying for the authorities and all others involved in the immigration crisis on our southern border, asking God to bring about resolution, justice, and grace. 

Is there a greater privilege? 

We could go on, but the point is simple: news that does not seem to affect us affects our Father. As St. Augustine noted, he loves each of us as if there were only one of us. 

When we view the events of our day through the lens of his love, seeing those affected as if they were our children, we see these events as he does. Then we can join him in prayer, knowing that he will use our intercession to change the world and to change us. 

One last point: after we pray, we should look for ways to be the answer to our prayers. Perhaps we can offer direct aid to ministries in Lebanon, Northern California, or South Texas. Perhaps we should give time to volunteer and serve in response to these and other crises of our day. 

After Jesus instructed his disciples to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38), he sent them out into that harvest (Matthew 10). 

When we pray, we join God at work. Is there a greater privilege?