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Saturday, August 24, 2019

News Weakly - 8/24/19

Solving Suicide
California passed a resolution (ACR-99) that addressed the problem of LGBT ... oh, sorry, they amended that ... LGBTQ suicides. In it they claim that "The stigma associated with being LGBTQ often created by groups in society, including therapists and religious groups, has caused disproportionately high rates of suicide, attempted suicide, depression, rejection, and isolation amongst LGBTQ and questioning individuals." Hey, I bet you didn't know that, did you? Therapists and religious groups are the cause of disproportionately high rates of suicide among those LGBTQ folks. This was just a resolution. The bill banning therapists and religious groups should probably be forthcoming soon. Well, at least the Bible will be banned, because "God does not approve of this behavior" is there in print.

Not Anti-Semite
The World Jewish Congress condemned Rashida Tlaib "for suggesting a boycott of Bill Maher's HBO show after the comedian denounced the international movement to boycott Israel." You see, she's not anti-Semite. She just hates Israel ... and anyone who doesn't.

Of course, it only gets worse from there. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has banned the LGBTQ community from carrying out any activities in the West Bank. According to the PA, such activities are "harmful to the higher values and ideals of Palestinian society." It shouldn't be a surprise; homosexuality is already illegal in Palestine. Now, given their affinity for the Palestinians and their hatred for Israel, what does that tell us about those who oppose Israel in favor of Palestinians? Who else are they opposed to? And I'm just wondering here: why do folks who identify as LGBTQ support lawmakers who favor those who outlaw them?

The Story in the Story
A group of student activists and survivors of the Parkland shooting of 2018 have produced the Peace Plan for a Safer America, a plan to cut gun violence in half over the next decade. The plan hopes to end mass shootings and decrease everyday gun violence. The plan includes a licensing and registry system, bans on some weapons and magazines, a "red flag" law, and a national gun buy-back program, as well as an automatic voter registration at the age of 18 to make sure the youth are politically engaged.

Buried in that story is this statement from co-founder David Hogg. "It is clear that the time for thoughts and prayers has come and gone. It is now time for real change and real action." Obviously we've been hearing this for years now, but this is the real story in the story. Being thoughtful, concerned, and caring is no longer of any value. Prayer is of no use. God is out of the picture. We're on our own. Good luck with that. It's sad that our country in general and our youth in particular seek to eliminate the best help for the problem of murder in favor of an obviously ineffective help in the form of government.

A Strange Turn of Events
Those that actually value human life have been trying for years to stop providing government funds to Planned Parenthood for killing babies. Never worked. Until now. The Trump administration put out a rule prohibiting Title X federal funds from going to family-planning organizations that refer patients for abortions. They can discuss abortion; they just can't tell them where to get one. Because Planned Parenthood is deeply concerned about women's health and all, they refused the federal dollars so they could continue to kill babies. I guess we know where their priorities lie.

What is wrong with this church?
In a gross miscarriage of justice, a church in Mississippi has exercised what appears to be biblical church discipline in the case of a (former) member who declared herself a lesbian and, after being warned, entered into a gay mirage with her female partner. Of all things, they terminated her membership and begged for her to repent so she could be restored to full fellowship. What kind of Christian church is it that abides by biblical principles and expects their membership to actually be Christian for pity sake??! What's wrong with this church? My answer: There is likely something, but it's not this.

(Note: The woman in question complained that "my church said you can’t go here" and the letter she received simply said her membership was terminated. Having seen the letter, it cannot be concluded that "you can't go here" is part of what they wrote, and for those who are offended that a church would hold to biblical standards and forbid a person who identifies as homosexual to attend, please stop. This church didn't say that. Some might (and they'd be foolish and wrong), but not in this case.)

Another One Wants Your Money
Ocasio-Cortez floated her "Green New Deal" some time back. Now Bernie Sanders has released his own plan. His idea is that the United States will be on all renewable energy by 2050. Oh, and the good news! It'll only cost $16 trillion! That should be easy ... except that our current national debt is over $22 trillion (which we can't pay -- our current GDP is around $20 trillion) and he is already hoping to institute a "Medicare for all" plan at the cost of $40 trillion. I think that ought to drain our wallets. (What is the old adage? "A fool and his money are soon parted." I guess we can guess what Bernie thinks of Americans.)

That's Embarrassing
This can't be pleasant in a politically-correct world. Cornell University created an AI program that would detect racial bias in hate speech and abusive language. They tested in on Twitter. It worked! Except the results weren't what they expected. They warned,
While these datasets are still valuable for academic research, we caution against using them in the field to detect and particularly to take enforcement action against different types of abusive language. If they are used in this way we expect that they will systematically penalize African-Americans more than whites, resulting in racial discrimination.
Why? Because, as it turns out, their system detected more racially motivated hate speech from African-Americans than from white people. So if you tried to use their system, it would have a bigger impact ("racial discrimination") on blacks than whites. Awkward!

In Other News
In the midst of all the ongoing democracy protests in Hong Kong, Bernie Sanders made a visit to tell them how much better they have it under communism.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Context, Context, Context - Matt 18:20

Even if you don't know the address, you know Matthew 18:20. It's a beautiful verse.
"Where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I among them." (Matt 18:20)
So we are warmed to think that when we get together with other believers, Christ is there. But ... is that what it means?

Logically there is a problem. The suggestion is, "If you're alone, I'm not there." And, apparently, if it's four or more He's not there either? No. The logical problem is that there can be no place where an omnipresent being is not. That is, if this verse is saying what we think it is saying, it isn't particularly significant. Whether it is two or three or one or more, He is there. So what's the point? Perhaps we should examine the context to see exactly what Christ was saying so as not to miss it.

Verse 20, strangely enough, follows verses 15-19. (I know my math.) What is going on that will give us some context?
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven." (Matt 18:15-19)
The context of this beloved text is actually in regard to a brother who sins against you. Now, I know ... this is not one of our favorite passages. It's about how to address those who have sinned against you. We figure, "Don't worry, God, I've got this." And we take them to task for it or bring it up in "a prayer request" (read "gossip") or just complain to a confederate or two. If necessary, we'll go tell the pastor because we need to get this resolved. Except none of this is what Jesus said to do. There is a process. 1) Bring it to them so they can repent. If they do, end of story. If they don't, 2) come with a couple other believers so they can repent. If they do, again, it's over. If not, 3) take it to the church leadership and have them deal with it. How rarely is this carried out?

That's the context. And the fact that this is so harsh (Matt 18:17) on one hand and so difficult for us on the other, Jesus thought it was necessary that we should be reminded that when we do this, He is there. Yes, He's there all the time, but we are supposed to be reminded that even now -- especially now -- He's there among us. We need to remember that we are not "Lone Rangers," operating on our own, that we are to be working with other believers ("two or three") to restore other believers. He intended to apply support to those who find it difficult to address the sin of others ("You're not alone; I am there") and to apply restraint to those who are eager to do it ("Watch how you handle this; I am there").

We should be careful not to take this out of context. The context is dealing with sin. The statement is, "When you do, I am there." The encouragement is that we're not alone when we work toward restoring a fellow believer. The caution is that Christ is there when we work toward restoring a fellow believer. The guideline is that we should work together, pray together, and agree together as we seek to restore believers because Christ is there. His power, His guidance, His ownership, His Body ... all of these are in play when we interact with each other. The idea, then, is "I'm always there. Keep that in mind especially in these situations." That ought to guide our hearts and minds in our interactions.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Why Jesus Came

If you read through the Gospels you'll see where Jesus says multiple times in multiple ways, "For this reason I came ..." You can (and should) hunt those down to see what our Savior's intent was when He came to earth. Another explanation (not an alternate explanation; an additional one) is given in Titus.
[Christ] gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:14)
That, as it turns out, is a pretty comprehensive (and surprising) answer.

We learn here that His giving of Himself was intentional -- with a purpose. That purpose was to redeem us. "Redeem" is literally "to ransom." Redemption is the act of buying something back or paying a price for something. We were in debt; He paid the price. So we read that our "certificate of debt" with its legal demands was canceled at the cross (Col 2:13-14). Paid in full.

Beyond redemption, He redeemed us with a purpose. He bought us out of lawlessness and bought us to "purify for Himself a people." Not just a debt paid, but a purification accomplished. That purification was for a purpose. It was "to purify for Himself a people for His own possession." Now that's a bit of a surprise. He didn't want friends, pals, "buds." He didn't simply want to set us free. He wanted a possession. He wanted to reassert His ownership.

What does that ownership look like? Those who are redeemed and, consequently, purified for His ownership are "zealous for good works." Now that is interesting. There are those who argue that works have nothing to do with it, and they don't ... as a cause; they do as an effect. If Christ's will -- His intent, His purpose, His aim -- is to be fulfilled in the people He redeemed, we will be zealous for good works. We won't be lackadaisical. We won't be careless. We will certainly trip up and fall short, but we will certainly aim for good works on an ongoing, ever-increasing way.

Jesus came for lots of reasons. He came to call sinners to repentance (Mark 2:17), to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), to give Himself as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28). He came to do the Father's will (John 6:38), to give us abundant life (John 10:10), and even for judgment (John 9:39). He came for lots of reasons. One of them is here. He redeemed us to purify us and make us His own possession, zealous for good works. I really want to do my part in His mission.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Lamb's Book of Life

Two times in the book of Revelation there is this comment on those whose names have not been written in the Book of Life. There are, of course, more references to this book, but these two references include an interesting phrase.
All who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. (Rev 13:8)

The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to rise from the bottomless pit and go to destruction. And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come. (Rev 17:8)
When? From the foundation of the world?

The Book of Life appears multiple times. Paul wrote about those "whose names are in the book of life" (Php 4:3). There are other books (e.g., Dan 7:10; Rev 20:12), but this one is specifically for the elect (Rev 13:7-8).

This is the book that "gets you in," so to speak (Rev 20:15). If your name is in this book, you will avoid the second death (Rev 20:14; 21:8). This book is for the elect and, therefore, the saved. This is why it's so amazing when your name gets written in that book -- "from the foundation of the world." You don't get penciled in when you believe. It's in there.

Can you be erased? Is it possible that all names are in there and He just erases those who end up not believing? That seems like a possibility. In Jesus's letter to Sardis (Rev 3:1-6) He says, "The one who overcomes will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life" (Rev 3:5). But we need to consider who overcomes. John (the same guy who wrote Revelation) wrote, "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him" (1 John 5:1). Three verses later he says, "For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5) Apparently, then, "the one who overcomes" is the one who believes, the one who is born of God. "But, what about perseverance?" someone might ask. Yes, perseverance is necessary. It is also certain, because "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God" (1 John 3:9). So those who are born of God overcome and will persevere, and their names will not be erased from the book.

The Lamb's Book of Life is one of several books that God keeps. It is, for us, the most critical. In it are all the names of all the saved for all time. This book was written from the foundation of the world. If your name is in that book, you will avoid eternal torment. Is your name written in that book? Those born of God can answer, "Yes." So I would urge you to "be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election" (2 Peter 1:5-12).

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

What Would You Pray for Your Church?

Now, I understand that the biblical languages of Greek and Hebrew didn't follow English rules for punctuation and such, but even without them these four verses appear to be one thought.
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Col 1:9-12)
One sentence? Well, in this translation it is. But, it's a huge thought.

Paul is following up ("And so") on what he just wrote about hearing of the faith of the Colossian church. He is telling them his prayer for them. This is especially significant because we don't actually know when Colossae got the Gospel. It's very possible that it was Epaphras (Col 1:7). There is, however, no record of Paul ever going there. So Paul is writing of his joy of hearing of their faith and his prayer for this group of believers that he may have never met. What did Paul pray for this fledgling church? Paul prays for three things: knowledge, fruit, and strength.

The Knowledge of His Will
He prays first that they would be filled with the knowledge of His will. Now, this isn't "Should I take this job or that?" or the like. It's the will that God has revealed. It's God's Word, clearly presented and readily available. His prayer isn't that they'd be acquainted with this knowledge, but filled -- abound, inundated, filled to the top. His prayer is that they would be saturated with God's Word, providing all spiritual wisdom and understanding.

Bearing Fruit
The result of this Bible-steeped experience we be that they would "walk in a manner worthy of the Lord." Well, of course, how could you expect to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord if you didn't know His will? How would you know how to please Him if you didn't know what He wanted? Being filled with the knowledge of His will, they would be "bearing fruit in every good work." And they would grow in their comprehension of God.

Strengthened With Power
All of this requires power. Paul's prayer is that they would be "strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might." This isn't casual power. This isn't "pull myself up by my bootstraps." It's not "bear down and get to it." This is God-power. It is His glorious power supplied to the believer. This kind of power provides endurance and patience with joy. It provides the ability to remain in the game under duress and to do so with joy.

For this, Paul gives thanks and understands that they will give thanks. After all, God has "qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints." This is Paul's prayer for that young church.

Makes sense, doesn't it? A group of believers with intense knowledge of God's revealed will found in His Word would be spiritually wise and understanding. They would seek to please God by being worthy of Him. They would operate in His power, not merely their own. This church would be marked by endurance, patience, joy, and gratitude. Now that is the church I want to be part of! That's my prayer for my church. Amen, Paul.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Abandoned Faith

We've heard a lot about this. Yes, lately, but not just lately. They've been complaining for years that our college-age kids are leaving the faith. Pastors -- even big-named pastors -- leave the faith. Christian authors and musicians and "front men" are leaving the faith. They're doing it in droves. They do it loudly or they do it quietly. Some declare their departure explicitly and others show it in suddenly heretical teaching or dreadful and obvious, unrepented sin. Worse, this stuff gets broadcast widely. We don't hear much in the news about "This guy turned his life over to Christ" or "This prominent singer discovered Jesus and her life is radically changed." No, that's not news. What's really news is that someone you Christians thought was on your side turns out to be your enemy.

When the Bible talks about abandoned faith, it talks about it in permanent terms. "For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt" (Heb 6:4-6). The biblical description is that it is actually "impossible" to restore someone like this to repentance. That's bad. On the other hand, John wrote, "No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God" (1 John 3:9). The language here is "cannot" and is attributed to God in him. The option of abandoning the faith appears itself to be impossible. Further, John said, "They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us" (1 John 2:19). No ambiguous language there. "If they had been of us, the would have continued with us." Not "might have." The reason they "left the faith," then, was so that "it might become plain that they all are not of us."

So, if they were not of us -- just tares among the wheat, so to speak, looking for all the world just like wheat but actually not -- and if they do make a practice of sinning, what's going on here? Why do people abandon faith? What is that?

I believe that people abandon their faith. But if Scripture is to be believed, they do not abandon the faith. Given 1 John 3:9, that's out of the question. Given 1 John 2:19, that just doesn't happen. So what do I mean by "the faith" versus "their faith"? I think people profess faith in Christ for all sorts of reasons. James says even the demons believe (James 2:19). But, as James indicates, there is faith and there is saving faith. What they find, though, is that Christ isn't available for the taking. He comes on His own terms. And when they don't get what they hoped for, they jettison what they hoped for. They hoped for happiness and prosperity and peace and they get suffering and disillusionment because that's not what was intended. They intend to get what they want, but the purpose was to glorify God. When they don't get what they want, they leave. They leave what they believed in (faith) even though it was not the faith -- the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). It was not the corpus that is Christian doctrine, not the purpose of Christianity which is God's glory above all. It was the desire to be coddled by God rather than conformed to the image of Christ.

It is abundantly clear both from Scripture and from experience that people can stray a long way from the faith. But if Scripture is to be believed, those who are of us will remain with us. That is, while a few ... no, most ... will stray and sometimes stray badly, if they are born of God they cannot remain in that condition. Their appearance of abandonment of the faith would be temporary. They would be restored. We can hope and pray for this when someone we know, care about, or just hear about goes through the motions of abandoning the faith. It is possible to restore such a one. And it is certain that those who have been born of God cannot remain in that condition. So I wouldn't venture to name names of who is not of the faith because I don't know the final outcome. Meanwhile, we who remain ought to be making our calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:3-11).

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Pastors and Elders

I am part of a denomination that holds that "pastors" and "elders" are essentially one and the same. They don't actually recognize "elders" as a category without them also being "pastors." If you ask, "Does your church have elders?" they would answer, "Yes!" and point to the pastors at the church. It makes me ask, "Is there a distinction between 'elder' and 'pastor'?"

Biblically, the Scriptures offer three basic terms. (Throw in the King James and you get a fourth, but let's not get confused here.) One is episkopēs, Greek for "supervisor" or "overseer." (Also the source of the word "episcopalian.") In Paul's discussion of qualifications of overseers (the King James translates it "bishops," that elusive fourth term) in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, he uses episkopēs. Another term is presbuteros, Greek for "older, senior, elder." (That's the source for our word, "presbyterian.") Interestingly, when Paul wrote to Titus that he was in Crete to appoint elders (Titus 1:5-9) and gives a parallel set of qualifications for the job, he uses this word instead of episkopēs ... except in verse 7. There he used episkopēs. Finally we have the best-known (in English) term -- pastor. Every church has a pastor. We know that; we're not fools. But, as it turns out, there is only one place in Scripture that this term is used (Eph 4:11). In that one, in fact, some scholars say that if it was written in English today, it would have been hyphenated or slashed or something: "pastor-teacher" or "pastor/teacher." The two linguistically are hung together, not separated. The Greek word behind it, however, is used in multiple places. The Greek poimēn is more at "shepherd" and occurs 18 times. Peter tells the presbuteros -- elders -- to "poimēn the flock of God" (1 Peter 5:1-2). Let me give you that whole thing.
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. (1 Peter 5:1-4).
In this version you can see a reference to the elders (presbuteros) shepherding (poimēn) the flock of God, taking oversight (episkopēs) over the flock and ultimately receiving a crown for it from the Chief Shepherd (archipoimēn). Peter has managed to tie them all together in one bag. Certain elders (older people) are tasked with overseeing the local flock as shepherds. All three. It appears, then, that all three terms -- overseer/elder/pastor -- are interchangeable. In Acts 20, Luke writes about Paul talking to the leadership of Ephesus (Acts 20:17-28). Here Luke uses all three as well, from elders (v 17) to overseers (v 28) and even the poimēn term in verse 28 where he says to "care for" the church. All three concepts tied together. The answer to my question at the outset appears to be, "No, there is no distinction."

I would have to pause there, though, because I don't think that word means what we think it means. We have made "pastor" into something else. The dictionary defines pastor as "a minister or priest in charge of a church." This pastor is not "us" -- he is "clergy." He's "something else," something more. Maybe special schooling -- Bible school or seminary. Probably paid (although bi-vocational pastors are becoming a thing). You can see "shepherd" in that dictionary definition, but not explicitly. As such, I would argue that there is a distinction between our use of the word "pastor" and the biblical term(s). I would argue that biblically overseers/elders/pastors are called to meet the same character requirements found in both 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 and are called to perform the same role of overseeing and shepherding the flock. The distinction I would see, then, would be in that unique position we now think of as "pastor" as a trained minister/clergy in a distinct role in the church. I'm not at all sure our version of "pastor" and the biblical version are the same thing. That is, a person can be an overseer and an elder and a shepherd without being clergy.

Biblically, elders are the spiritual leaders of the church. Overseers are the spiritual leaders of the church. Pastors are the spiritual leaders of the church. They have exacting requirements, but one of them is not "Bible school or seminary" and our modern version of "clergy" is not in view in the biblical version. Biblically churches are supposed to have elders (plural) and churches today that have a single pastor -- educated or not -- are in violation of this principle. And I think that our tendency to think of pastors as "something else," something elevated, something higher has not served us well. Creating these classes of people -- "clergy" and "laity" -- and assuming the clergy is super-spiritual and probably very capable of running a church all on his own has short-circuited the biblical concept of a group of men as the shepherds of the church keeping each other in line and paying close attention to humbly shepherding their people. In the end it has allowed churches to miss the point ("To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes" (Eph 4:12-14).) of church and pursue all sorts of other purposes that dilute God's work.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

News Weakly - 8/17/19

No Kill
Delaware has become the first state to ban killing animals in shelters. Planned Parenthood isn't protesting. The ACLU isn't up in arms. They're still busy protecting the right of mothers to kill their babies. But unwanted pets are safe in Delaware.

LGBT: 1 First Amendment: 0
Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the law that requires all schools in the state to include "the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the history of this country and this State" in their curriculum. This includes public and private schools. The goal, State Senator Heather Steans who sponsored the bill said, is to "promote acceptance of the LGBTQ community." Oh, you're a Christian school and don't wish to push that agenda? Too bad. This is America and we don't tolerate intolerance ... or your right to freedom of religion.

Who's Leading Your Worship?
You may not know the name, Marty Sampson, but you may have heard some of his songs. He's best known for a song called Oceans from Hillsong United, a popular praise song in modern circles. Well, Marty has joined Josh Harris in bailing on Christianity entirely. Let me restate that. That popular worship song was performed by someone who rejects Christ. His dismissal of the faith is tragic and horribly misinformed, but you have to ask yourself, who is leading your worship? Why do we tend to give the musically-gifted the task rather than the theologically-sound?

(I really enjoyed this little tongue-in-cheek version of Marty Sampson's exit from the faith written from the perspective of Demas and Paul on Instagram.)

Unclear on the Concept
Five Democrats in the Senate and the city of New York have filed a brief against the Supreme Court warning that it needs to be healed or it will be restructured. Senators threatening the Supreme Court ... how does that fit with the Separation of Powers concept? Note that reconstituting the Supreme Court as they envision will require a rewriting of the Constitution. Some Democrats have some ambitious plans for us. But, they're not alone. Medical experts are recommending that every adult be tested for illegal drug use ... without a warrant ... or due process ... or, you know, anything legal at all. So I guess it's not just some Democrats.

Inflammatory Rhetoric
Shots were fired at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in San Antonio, Texas. Officials blamed "political rhetoric." Since the typical blame boy, Trump, is in favor of ICE, I would guess that the rhetoric in view here is the vitriolic verbal assaults against ICE from the Left -- politicians, media, activists, etc. I'm sure their admission of guilt and deep, heartfelt apology is at hand.

No Surprise Here
They will tell you that sexual orientation is from birth. They will tell you that having homosexuals as parents will not make any difference in that regard. Now they tell us that "adult offspring from planned lesbian families may be more likely than their peers to demonstrate diversity in sexual attraction, identity, and expression." Wait ... the government is telling us that gay couples do influence their kids toward gay expression? No surprise here.

Filed Under "Fake News"
Two illegal immigrants are accused of raping an 11-year-old girl in Maryland although, clearly, Trump was wrong for suggesting that some of the illegal immigrants have criminal intents, so I guess this just didn't happen. Fake news out of Maryland.

We Don't Need No Stinkin' First Amendment
The media is reporting, "The Department of Labor released a proposal Wednesday that would protect 'religion-exercising organizations' holding federal contracts if they are accused of having a hiring bias." Now, the quoted phrase there -- "religion-exercising organizations" -- clearly comes straight out of the First Amendment -- "the free exercise thereof." The ACLU and other advocacy groups are upset ... because we are no longer interested in the First Amendment.

A Curriculum to Beat All
The California Department of Education has drafted a new curriculum for students K-12 so they can learn about "interlocking systems of oppression and privilege that impact all people of color." Included in this new plan is teaching hxrstory (I didn't stutter), cisheteropatriarchy, womanism, and "the Four I's of Oppression." Okay, to clear some of that up, they want to teach your kids hxstory -- history written from a more gender inclusive perspective -- and cisheteropatriarchy -- a system of male, straight, conforming-to-assigned sex system of power -- and womanism -- feminism that emphasizes women's natural contribution to society (distinct from white women) -- and the Four I's of Oppression -- ideological oppression, institutional oppression, interpersonal oppression, and internalized oppression. Oh, don't worry. There are lots more brand new made up anti-white, anti-male, and anti-capitalism words in there. The clear message? Men are sexist, whites are racist, heterosexuals are domineering, and capitalism is racist. Do you really want to send your kids to this kind of public schooling?

Friday, August 16, 2019

Consider the Source

(Note to my readers who are concerned about grammar, punctuation, etc. I am quoting another's writings here. I've copied and pasted them with his own emphases, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, etc. Please be gracious.)

Skillet is an American Christian rock band of the variety, I'm pretty sure, my parents wouldn't approve. Not soft rock. Not easy listening. Rock. So it might come as a surprise to read what the lead singer, John Cooper, wrote recently on the topic of well-known singers and leaders leaving the faith. Before I proceed, then, understand that I'm saying (for some) "Don't consider the source." Just look at what he wrote. "What is happening in Christianity?" he asked. "Outspoken leaders or influencers who were once 'faces' of the faith are falling away." He comments that it's strange that when they do they seem to do it loudly so they can influence others to do the same. And he specifies that he's speaking to Christians. "When it comes to people within my faith, there must be a measure of loyalty and friendship and accountability to each other and the Word of God." I'm heartened that a Christian rock singer would declare loyalty to "the Word of God."

He goes on to his basic concern. "We must STOP making worship leaders and thought leaders or influencers or cool people or “relevant” people the most influential people in Christendom." (Emphasis his.) "We are in a dangerous place when the church is looking to 20 year old worship singers as our source of truth." Speaking of singers, he says, "We create a moment and a vehicle for God to speak. However, singers are not always the best people to write solid bible truth and doctrine. Sometimes we are too young, too ignorant of scripture, too unaware, or too unconcerned about the purity of scripture and the holiness of the God we are singing to."

He wonders why those who leave often do so with statements that basically come from Jesus.
They’ll say “I’m disavowing my faith but remember, love people, be generous, forgive others”. Ummm, why? That is actually not human nature. No child is ever born and says “I just want to love others before loving myself. I want to turn the other cheek. I want to give my money away to others in need”. Those are bible principles taught by a prophet/Priest/king of kings who wants us to live by a higher standard which is not an earthly standard, but rather the ‘Kingdom of God’ standard.
In today's world his conclusions are simply stunning.
It is time for the church to rediscover the preeminence of the Word. And to value the teaching of the Word. We need to value truth over feeling. Truth over emotion.
"Preeminence of the Word"?? Can I just say, "Amen"?!!

In closing he writes,
Is it any wonder that some of our disavowed Christian leaders are letting go of the absolute truth of the Bible and subsequently their lives are falling apart? Further and further they are sinking in the sea all the while shouting “now I’ve found the truth! Follow me!!” Brothers and sisters in the faith all around the world, pastors, teachers, worship leaders, influencers…I implore you, please please in your search for relevancy for the gospel, let us NOT find creative ways to shape Gods word into the image of our culture by stifling inconvenient truths. But rather let us hold on even tighter to the anchor of the living Word of God. For He changes NOT. “The grass withers and the flowers fade away, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8)
This is some good stuff. This is a firm grasp on the Word and a call for biblical Christianity rather than popular, cultural, or secular Christianity. He is speaking the truth.

Back, then, to considering the source, I am heartened that one in the Christian music industry and even ... dare I say it? ... rock music can be standing on such an important truth calling God's people to God and His Word. In this case considering the source only warms my heart.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Secular Orthodoxy

"Orthdoxy." We know that word, right? Well, maybe. English is a tough language. So, let's take a look at it. Because I use the word and you might use the word and we should be clear on what we're meaning by it.

Orthodoxy is defined as "the quality or state of being orthodox." (Thanks, dictionary. Always helpful.) Okay, so "orthodox" is generally aimed at religion, so "orthodox" would be defined as "conforming to established doctrine especially in religion." Even without religion, though, you get the idea. "Conforming to established doctrine." So if a swimmer was said to swim "in an unorthodox way," we would understand that there was a normal, established way to swim and this swimmer was doing something else. No religion required.

Here, maybe the word origin will make it clearer. The term comes from a combination of words from the Greek. "Ortho" refers to "straight" or "right" and "dóx" means "belief" or "thinking." There! All clear. "Orthodoxy" then is simply "right thinking." We can debate what "right thinking" actually is, but that's the concept behind the word.

So here we are in 21st century America debating "orthodoxy" -- right thinking. For the Christian the standard of orthodoxy comes from God because the Christian believes that humans are morally fallen (Rom 3:23) with deceitful hearts (Jer 17:9) and deceived minds (2 Tim 3:13). So we decide what right thinking is based on God's Word. Not so the rest of the world, and, hey, I get it. They don't believe that and won't believe that (1 Cor 2:14) and I'm not surprised. On the other hand, what they do classify as "right thinking" becomes rather strange because it is so relative.

We are told now that we need to straighten up and fly right. We believe that marriage has a definition and our society says that we're wrong and that's not correct. We believe that sex is reserved for marriage and, if "marriage" is not what we've always said it is, clearly we're wrong on what sex is for. We believe that God made male and female and the culture angrily warns us we'll have to toss that out because it's wrong thinking. We're confident that Jesus is the answer to our sin problem and the world tells us to back off and be quiet. We're confused and need to shut up. What we have are competing orthodoxies and the world is insistent that we surrender ours. The schools will teach their version of orthodoxy in gender and sexual orientation and ours will not be allowed. In some countries ours is actually illegal. In some places in our own country some of our orthodoxy is illegal. How long before the government mandates that Christian schools and churches like Christian-owned businesses conform to secular orthodoxy in matters of marriage, sexual orientation, and gender (just three examples)?

In all human interaction -- within and without religion, as long as there are two humans discussing -- there will be competing orthodoxies. No two people think alike, and everyone thinks that what they think is right thinking, so we will always disagree on something. Today, one side of this discussion is working harder and harder to eliminate opposing thought by whatever means possible -- law, media, entertainment, social media, whatever -- rather than simply disagreeing. Today, secular orthodoxy is not only regarded as right -- it is regarded as the only possible option. How long before we eliminate the First Amendment? (Might as well; we're trying to eliminate the second, right?) Typically a Christian worldview encourages those that don't share it to change their minds and join us. Today's secular orthodoxy wants to force the Christian orthodoxy to change. Things could get ugly.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Pharisee

On more than one occasion I've been called a pharisee. And not in a good way. It is typically an epithet, a term of abuse. No one means it as a compliment. But ... what do we know about the Pharisees?

The Pharisees were part of the Jewish religious elite. They are generally believed to have come about in the intertestamental time between Malachi and Matthew during Israel's 400 years of silence from God. They were devout and started with very good intentions. They wanted to make God's Word applicable to everyday life. "Sure," they might have said, "we're not supposed to do any work on the Sabbath, but just what does that mean?" And they'd try to make it plain. So they used their Scriptures to make rules like how many steps you could take on the Sabbath and so on. By the time Jesus started His ministry, they were at the top of their game. With the Sadducees, they were the religious rulers of Israel. Jesus had good things to say about them. "Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 5:20). "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me" (John 5:39). "You tithe mint and dill and cummin" (Matt 23:23). They were more righteous than most, more diligent with Scripture than most, more earnest in their obedience than most. So how did they get such a bad reputation? Jesus also had some of His harshest words set aside for them. His primary complaint, of course, was their hypocrisy. They claimed to be holy while being sinners, "white-washed tombs" (Matt 23:23-35). They loaded people with requirements they weren't willing to meet (Matt 23:4). They were self-righteous (Luke 18:10-14). Bad things.

So, let's see how this goes. I am, they tell me, a pharisee. I'm just guessing here, but I'm pretty sure they're not saying I'm devout. They're not suggesting I'm serious about Scripture. They're not complaining that I try to make God's Word plain. They are not thinking that I am more righteous than most or that I'm serious about following God. I'm sure that's not what they mean. So, what, then?

I'm a pharisee because I believe Scripture teaches X and we ought to do it. They don't think we ought to do it, so I'm the pharisee. I'm a pharisee because I take Scripture seriously and they don't. I'm the pharisee because when God speaks, I intend to listen. They're not because when they speak, they listen intently. I'm the pharisee because they perceive an hypocrisy that isn't actually real. I don't deny that I fail to live up to God's standards and I fall completely into the hands of the Only One who can remedy that. They're not the pharisees because they're not hypocrites. They don't favor inclusion by being exclusive, don't counter perceived intolerance with intolerance, don't rail about being judgmental by being judgmental. Oh ... wait ... they do, don't they? I'm a pharisee because the only righteousness I possess is that provided by the Savior while theirs is secure and self-produced.

I get the biblical Pharisees. They claimed a godliness they didn't profess. They laid burdens on people's shoulders while they were unwilling to take them up themselves. They had the appearance of religion but denied the power of it. They served the Lord in lip service only. Their appearance of godliness was commendable; their failure to make it deeper than surface appearance was their downfall. But it seems to me that the people that are pointing fingers at me on this point ought to first examine themselves because it looks as if they more closely resemble that sad group of men than I do.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A Crazy World

It seems as if this world is spinning further and further into craziness. Think about it.

We used to be a patriotic people. We'd rather be dead than red. We loved capitalism and democracy and we knew -- we absolutely knew -- that we were the best country on the planet and those communists and socialists and such were, well, not as good. (That would be putting it mildly.) No longer. We're electing a slew of folks anxious to switch off the capitalism lamp -- "The capitalism lamp is off. Please extinguish your enthusiasm." They hope to terminate the American dream and bring the industrial America to its knees. Paid for, of course, by capitalists and democrats. The double standard is lost on them.

In our patriotic fervor, we celebrated our military, those who risked and even gave their lives to defend our country and way of life. Not anymore. They're the bad guys. Google recognizes birthdays of obscure people and normal holidays with the exception of anything military. Veterans day? Not a chance. Memorial day? No way.

Like the military, those who guarded our borders were our second line of defense. We trusted ICE to keep out bad things and let in good things. They were the homeland defense. No longer. Government folks are calling for their disbanding. "But," I wonder, "who will keep watch when they're gone?" The answer, of course, is no one. That's the goal. Quite a change. Not quite sane.

When I was a boy, my dad took me aside, pointed to a policeman, and told me, "If you ever get into any trouble, just find one of those guys and they can help you." How the mighty have fallen. We have over a half a million police officers in this country. A few have proven to be a problem. But it doesn't matter that they're the ones we hope to catch that speeder that blew by us or stop the guy trying to get into our windows at night. They're the ones that are banned from coffee places because they make people feel uncomfortable. Like ... what ... they're going to shoot up a random barista place? No, it's not rational. But don't bother us with facts; we'll go with feelings.

We used to hold men in high regard. Fathers were honored, husbands respected, brothers counted on. Now? Not a chance. In today's world anything male is by definition questionable at best. Probably ought to be removed. Well, I suppose if they can get in touch with their feminine side, they're not all bad. But a male feminist? No, thanks. They're sexist and patriarchal and we might tolerate them, but we don't hold them in high regard. Watch any Hollywood production and what you'll likely find is dysfunctional father and the horrible ramifications that brings. That this isn't actually a true statistic isn't important; it's just how we see men now.

When I was a young man, I knew some things. For instance, I knew that 2 + 2 was 4. No question. And I knew that there were men and there were women. No question. Not us. We've moved so far beyond that. Now there are lots of genders, defined solely by how we feel, and not even that. It's how we feel at the moment. Because the "gender fluid" might be on an eternally sliding scale. Because that makes perfect sense ... if you're into crazy.

It wasn't that long ago that even unbelievers had respect for Christianity. No, not their cup of tea, I'm sure, but those Christians were generally good people. You couldn't argue with that. Well, you've come a long way, baby. "Christian" is being redefined as the new evil. "Look at what Christians do!" Except all the things you might point to aren't Christian. "That's okay. We are calling it. Christianity is out. Humanism is in. Our new and improved inclusivism will exclude Christians. Our better sense of nonjudgmental tolerance had judged that we won't tolerate them. Oh, just about anything else. Just not them." Just not rational.

The thing is this appears not to be a moment in time; it appears to be a trend. And these aren't isolated examples; these just scrape the surface. Let's terminate human life and call it "women's reproductive rights." Let's arrest parents who try to raise kind, courteous, well-behaved kids in whatever manner we currently find offensive. We will not agree to disagree. We will not allow free speech. We will simply continue in this downward spin, all the while taking potshots at those dirty rotten people who offer microagression and trigger words because if there is any right guaranteed in our Constitution is the the right for me not to be offended. A crazy world.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Salutation

In any give letter there are parts. You know, things like the salutation, the body, the complimentary close ... those kinds of things. The salutation is the "Dear Mom" part. So if we were to write a letter to, say, someone named "Titus," we'd likely start with "Dear Titus." Not Paul.
Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in His word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior; To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (Titus 1:1-4)
That, dear readers, is what we call "the salutation." Where you and I would write, "Dear Titus," Paul wrote a paragraph. Oh, but what a paragraph!

In this salutation we have Paul, a self-proclaimed slave. This translation uses "servant," but the most literal translation is "slave" or "bond-slave." It refers to someone who is not his own. It is what Jesus demonstrated when He washed His disciples' feet (John 13:3-15). Jesus said, "Whoever would be first among you must be slave of all" (Mark 10:44). "Me?" I can already hear, "A slave?? No way!" Well, okay, but it was Jesus's command and Paul's position. He embraced serving the King of kings.

We have the reason that he is servant and apostle. "For the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth." Paul served as slave and God's appointed ambassador (the idea behind "apostle") in order to bring about faith and knowledge. And not just in general; it was for God's elect, God's chosen, God's preplanned people. God chooses whom He will save and that salvation is brought about by faith and knowledge of the truth. This salvation by faith and knowledge of the truth results in godliness. For this, Paul was called to be a slave and apostle.

To what end does Paul's task resulting in faith and knowledge of the elect operate? To eternal life. We are saved with the hope of eternal life. But notice what he says about that eternal life. Paul says that eternal life was promised by God before the ages began. Now, before time there was nothing but God. The angels were created at the beginning of creation and, therefore, the beginning of time. And there were no people before time. Who was this promise made to? It is an inter-trinitarian promise. It is a promise between Father and Son and Holy Spirit. God decided before He made people that He would save some for eternal life. We are not, dear reader, living some sort of "Plan B." His creation, our fall, and His salvation was always Plan A.

Where we would offer "Dear Titus" Paul offered a sermon in a sentence. A long sentence, sure, but a sentence. A sermon on bond-slaves and ambassadors, on the faith of the elect based on the knowledge of truth that produces godliness. A sermon about God's redeeming love from before the beginning of time. Nice one, Paul.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Lord's Supper

We Christians know "the Lord's Supper" -- Communion, whatever you might call it. Most of the world knows about our "sacrament" of the Lord's Supper. (The Roman Catholics have seven sacraments -- Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, Penance, Extreme Unction, Order, and Matrimony. The Protestants typically only see two -- baptism and the Lord's Supper.)

Obviously "the Lord's Supper" was instituted by ... wait for it ... the Lord. (Doesn't take a super genius to figure that one out.) But just what does it mean? For the most part, that's pretty easy, too. First, it represents the Passover, the sacrifice of the Lamb that provides our forgiveness (1 Cor 5:7-8). But there is certainly more.
And He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me." And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood." (Luke 22:19-20)
The symbolism is clear. He broke the bread as a symbol of His body just as His actual body would be broken. In that sense, the bread represented His body broken on our behalf. He gave them wine, a product of crushed grapes -- grapes whose "life blood" were poured out for the wine -- as a symbol of His life blood being poured out for us. This isn't vague or difficult to follow. All of that is connected to the Passover, the first symbol in play, where the lamb was sacrificed (body broken) and the blood was placed on the door frame to save the Israelites from death. This is all pretty clear.

The symbolism, then, is that Christ died for us -- actually, physically died -- so that His blood would atone for our sins (Rom 3:25; Eph 1:7; Col 1:19-20; Heb 9:13; Heb 13:10-12; Rev 7:14 et. al.). Thus, "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53). Absolutely critical.

But, wait. What's this "eat and drink" thing? There are skeptics (quite uninformed, obviously) who argue that Christ taught cannibalism. We discard that out of hand, but what is the symbolism? We get the symbolism of the Passover lamb. We get the symbolism of the broken bread and crushed grape. What's the idea behind eating it?

Well, first there is the sense of "participation." Paul wrote, "The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread" (1 Cor 10:16-17). And that's the basic idea, isn't it? Second, there is the concept of nourishment. We eat and drink for physical nourishment. We eat His "body" and drink His "blood" for complete spiritual nourishment. Of course, in that physical meal there is enjoyment and in this spiritual meal there is enjoyment. Finally, the sharing of this process is exactly like a family meal. We use the word "communion" to express the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings. In this Communion we are sharing with each other this singular relationship with Christ. Like a family, believers that share Christ's body and blood together retains a better interconnection than those that don't.

In the end, this whole "Lord's Supper" thing is a nearly complete picture for us. We have the broken body and shed blood of Christ given freely for us. We have the partaking of that sacrifice made on our behalf. We have nourishment from Him and communion with each other. A complete synopsis of the Christian life. And you thought it was boring.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

News Weakly - 8/10/19

Mass Hysteria
Last weekend we saw not one, but two mass shootings. In Dayton, Ohio, 9 people died. In El Paso, Texas, 22 people were killed. Both had many more injured. Everyone is upset, outraged, saddened. No one thinks this is good. But, as we all know, it's President Trump's fault. At least, the Democrats are sure. So sure are they that when the New York Times portrayed Trump's speech in an unbiased headline, the Left forced them to change it. And then, of course, there are certain facts to ignore.

While the El Paso shooter's manifesto clearly reflected racist and white supremacist thinking, the Ohio shooter is a self-identified leftist. He favors socialism and would happily vote for Elizabeth Warren (but not Kamala Harris because "Harris is a cop"). He favors gun control (while praising guns), is a die-hard Democrat, praises Antifa, loves Bernie Sanders, and hates ICE. Oh, and Satan ... he's a big fan of Satan. (See Snopes for what we call "evidence from a hostile witness.") I doubt, however, that the connection of "liberal Democrat" and "mass shooter" will be very prominent in the media. The Ohio shooter said, "I'm taking feelings over facts any time." They concur.

(I'm curious. If the rhetoric of the Left about Trump as the source of all hate in America gets him assassinated, will they blame themselves for the violence brought about by their rhetoric? Given their silence in the face of attacks against people wearing MAGA hats, I'd have to guess they won't.)

The Solution
It was so simple, I wish we'd thought of it. In the wake of the overbearing gun violence over the last weekend, the nation longs for a solution. Fortunately we have Alejandro Bedoya, a soccer player for the Philadelphia Union. After beating D.C. United 5-1, Bedoya grabbed a microphone and yelled, "Hey Congress, do something now! End gun violence, let’s go!" Thanks, man. That ought to do it.

(To be fair, Bedoya was asking for stricter gun laws. His statement didn't get that across, but later he called for "stricter background checks, red flag laws, making a registry for gun purchases, closing gun show loopholes, and taxing ammunition." The obvious problem, as we all know, is that there aren't enough laws to stop murder and if we can just outlaw it, we can end it. Hmmm, I wonder if Bedoya speeds? Seems like good speeding laws ought to prevent that, shouldn't they? I guess not. There are laws against murder and still people commit murder. I guess a few good gun laws ought to fix that.) (Note: In case my sarcasm is too vague, I'm saying that the problem is sin, not guns.)

Seems Reasonable
The U.S. is talking about withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in a deal with the Taliban. In the meantime, a Taliban suicide bomber killed 14 and injured 145 in Kabul. Yeah, makes sense. Let's do it. I'm sure those Taliban folks are honest and reliable.

Another Mass Killing
This has been a tough week. An angry man killed 4 people in southern California. He showed a gun in a robbery spree, but used "some sort of machete knives" to kill his victims. I'm pretty sure that the media and the Left will blame Trump for the anger, Rep Tim Ryan will be leading a knife control caravan next, and Thomas Marshall will urge a Walmart walkout to stop knife sales.

Stupid Move
In the wake of the horrific mass shooting last weekend in a Walmart in El Paso, an idiot in Missouri walked into a Walmart armed and wearing body armor. Stupid move. Fortunately he was arrested by an armed off-duty firefighter and held until the police showed up without incident. Now, let's see. An armed civilian prevented a potential mass-shooting, so clearly we need to eliminate guns, right? Or would that be a stupid move, too?

Not Eco-Friendly
Michael Moore (of Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 fame) is putting out a new movie. Moore, a well-known leftist and pro-environmentalist, is surprising his own side with a film that examines the whole environmentalist movement toward alternative energy only to discover that it is not a move away from fossil fuels and is, instead, fueled by big corporations and large profit motivations. Turns out these alternative energy propositions don't provide answers to the problem, only more revenue to the rich. I'm not sure his own political allies will be any happier with him as the the conservatives were in the past. Definitely not eco-friendly ... coming with someone deeply concerned about the environment. Another example of "evidence from a hostile witness."

Genuine Slippery Slope
A cathedral in Norwich, UK, has installed a slide inside the cathedral. That is a literal "slippery slope" (and you can decide if there's a figurative one there, too).

Voter Registry
In view of their certainty that all hate in America is Trump's fault, the Dems have proposed a National Trump Voter Registry, "forcing anyone who voted for Trump to register so people around them will be able to be cautious and vigilant while living among such reckless hate."j

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Shades of Intention

I have a blog. (Like I had to tell you, right?) In my blog I tell what I think. It's interesting, though, to see the shades of intentions that pass through these kinds of things. Take the statement, "This is true." Compare it to "I think this is true." Immediately I've introduced a shade, a variation. "I think it's true, but I am leaving room for someone to disagree." Compare that to "I feel this is true." A whole new shade of intention. "I can't necessarily argue for this -- I may not have solid evidence or a logical chain -- but I just have a feeling that it's so." Three statements of one truth claim with three shades of intention.

Consider another set of variations. "This is true" tells you what I think is true in this instance. "I think this is true" tells you that it's my view and you might disagree. A response of "You're wrong" is typically understood to mean "You are wrong." It isn't the same as "That is not true" or "I don't think that's true." See that? It is personal, not factual. Now, it could be that the first speaker could follow that response with, "Oh? Why do you think I'm wrong?" And that might lead to a discussion of ideas instead of a personal attack. Or it might not. Shades of intention.

Take it to the next level. "I think this is true" is often answered with, "You're a hater!" Now that is different again from either "I don't think that's true" or "You're wrong." I would suspect that, even without knowing what is being discussed, you would have a different gut response to "You're a hater!" than you would to "I think you're wrong." In this "hater" version the intention is not to engage the truth statement; it is to engage the speaker. It is a classic ad hominem -- attack the speaker rather than the argument. This is not normally followed with anything resembling, "Look at this fact or this line of reasoning and you'll see why your idea is wrong." That's not the intent. The purpose in this case is to remove the offending truth statement by demonizing the speaker rather than disproving the statement. And it should be noted that logically it is a fallacy, a failed attempt at dismissing the statement. Since it is not the point to bring logic or evidence to bear, that doesn't generally bother those who use this shade of intention, but that's the way it is.

The truth is I actually enjoy discussing ideas. I like discussing them with people with whom I agree. It often leads to a more robust position and expanding ramifications of an idea. I like discussing them with people who disagree with me. It might result in a correction to my thinking or it might result in a correction to their thinking (if they're open to such a possibility). It will certainly assist in clarifying my thinking by either correcting or confirming my argument. So I am deeply disappointed when I present an idea with my evidence and reasons for it and am met with "You're evil!" instead of a reasoned discussion between two reasonable people on points of evidence and logic. I believe my intentions are different than the intentions of those others who simply offer ad hominem arguments. Shades of intention.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

Hope

"I hope they have apple fritters," my wife told me as we went into the donut shop. Hope. It's a good thing. Merriam-Webster says it is "to want something to happen or be true." You might hope for a promotion or hope for a particular gift at Christmas or hope that someone says something nice to you or hope that you do well in the interview or test or whatever. It's a positive thing.

In our language, it's also sometimes a desperate thing. We hope that laws can be passed that will decrease gun violence. We hope that our least favorite candidate for office doesn't get elected. We even have a term: "hope against hope." It is intended to convey a desperate hope, a hope that is highly unlikely to actually be fulfilled.

I was curious where that phrase came from, so I looked it up. Surprise, surprise, it comes from the Bible. Writing about Abraham, Paul said, "In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, 'So shall your offspring be'" (Rom 4:18). Well, now, that's interesting. "Hope against hope" was a description of Abraham. Indeed, it was a description of Abraham's faith.

What does it mean? Abraham was without hope. That is, all reason indicated that this old man could have no offspring. His hope was minimal at best. What could he "want to be true"? Well, that he'd have an heir, of course, but that was a forlorn hope. And yet, against that hope, Abraham hoped. On what did Abraham base that hope? He based it on God's promise. Weighing in one hand "the hope that experience gives" and in the other "the hope of God's promise," Abraham hoped in one -- God's promise -- against the other. Thus, the original "hope against hope" was not a desperation, but a certainty.

Biblical hope, then, is something a bit different than ours. The hope of the "faith, hope, and love" that abide (1 Cor 13:13) is not the normal human hope. Human hope is "I hope (cross my fingers and pray)" and biblical hope is a confident expectation of something not yet present (Rom 8:24-25). An extension of faith. (Remember, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for" (Heb 11:1).) Our hope in the promises of God isn't a "hope against hope" in our usual sense, but a confidence in God's faithfulness and the cheerful anticipation of the fulfillment of that hope. For us, hope is critical ... and entirely rational when placed on the God who provides.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Marriage or Mirage?

I am not opposed to gay marriage.

I know that must be a stunning statement for many, coming from me, but it's true.

Recently I heard of a generally reliable Christian source publishing an opinion on what to do if a gay person is married to another gay person and he or she becomes a Christian. They should not divorce because God hates divorce. Right? How do we get here? How do we arrive at such an answer, even from a generally reliable source? The answer to that is also the answer for the question people asked me back in 2008 when the courts in California were consciously redefining "marriage."

You can see the problem, I'm sure. Scripture speaks about a spouse married to an unbeliever (1 Cor 7:12-16). "Stay with them," Paul exhorts. And when Jesus was asked on what grounds divorce was suitable, He answered, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matt 19:6). This isn't rocket science. It's pretty clear. So the gay guy that comes to Christ should remain married to his gay partner ... right? It's biblical.

What we've done here is taken a term -- in this case "marriage" -- stripped off its original meaning (Matt 19:4-6), invested it with a completely new meaning, and then fed it back into Scripture. Now it's a scriptural issue. Because we don't know what "marriage" means anymore.

Here's the right answer to the question about a person who comes to Christ while they're in that gay mirage. (Perhaps my intentional spelling gives you a hint.) Gay marriage is not a thing. People tell me that you can't find a definition of marriage in the Bible, but no one can deny that no one in biblical times who said or wrote anything regarding marriage had any sense of the union of two people of the same gender. Never. Not once. Our current society may include that concept in their term, "marriage," but neither Jesus nor Paul nor any other writer of the new or old testaments had that concept in mind. So if we are going to properly understand what they intended, it's not fair to redefine their term to something new and then feed back to them what they never meant to say.

How, then, am I not opposed to gay marriage? On the same basis that I'm not opposed to unicorns, pixies, or zombies. They do not exist. "Marriage" is a word symbol intended to convey what the Creator meant when He expressed "A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Gen 2:24; Matt 19:4-6; Eph 5:31). It has a form and a purpose that "same-sex" doesn't fit into. So if someone who identifies as homosexual in some sense opts to leave his family and hold fast to his wife or leave her family and hold fast to her husband, that's a good thing to me and I'm in favor of it. (I'm sorry; this "non-binary gender" stuff is equally incomprehensible in a scriptural perspective. "Husband" is male and "wife" is female by definition.) Oh, and what was the question they asked me in 2008? "What difference does it make to you if they redefine marriage?" Precisely this. They've managed to twist the thinking of a generation -- even Christians -- and in so doing they've managed to twist God's Word and the whole idea of what marriage really is. And that is going to cost us (Eph 5:31-32).

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Abortion, Euthanasia, and Common Courtesy

A lot of people over the last few years have complained that folks aren't as considerate as they once were. Now, you might think it's because old people are crotchety, but I'm even hearing it from younger folk. There was a time that we would open doors or let people in front of us in traffic or "ladies first" or ... well, a host of things -- "Common courtesy." And, they tell me, common courtesy is not really common anymore.

As a nation we've decided that a woman should have the right to terminate life at will as long as it's inside her body at the time. Science assures us that this is a human life. But that's okay. A "women's reproductive rights" are far more important than this human life, and we'll do all we can to insure that she can execute it if she wants. Recently Australian Kerry Robertson, 61, became the first to use the new "assisted dying" laws to allow "the empowered death that she wanted." Assisted suicide is legal on the entire Left coast of our country, Colorado, and a few northeastern states. Coming soon to a state near you, likely.

So what does the decline of common courtesy and the rise of elective murder have to do with each other? I would say they are symptoms of the same problem. Christianity (and Judaism) has long held that humans were made in the image of God. So where Christianity prevails, there is a real value placed on human life. For as long as that kind of thinking has maintained a strong influence, abortion and euthanasia have been illegal. But we've put that to rest, haven't we?

America is no longer a nation heavily influenced by a Judeo-Christian ethic. We've decided that Nothing made everything, that humans are a cosmic accident, and thank Evolution for that. With this revised mindset we get a legislator pushing for increased abortion of humans on one hand and the defense of cankerworms on the other. With this kind of thinking, defending the most vulnerable is no longer important just because they're human. With this new ethic, for what possible reason might we expect "common courtesy"? Why should "he" show preference to "she" or why would you expect someone to show deference to you? Self-interest is all there is.

I think our modern cultural ethic is showing signs of the obvious outcome. Saying that humans are valuable is mere speciesism. It is hubris. Since there is no Creator who endows rights or value, why should we not kill small humans or old ones or show courtesy or ... shoot people en masse? You're going to have to come up with a better answer than "We need better laws" when we have no basis for the value of a human life.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Rightly Handling the Word of Truth

Boz Tchividjian is "a former child abuse chief prosecutor and is the founder and executive director of GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment)." He is a Professor of Law at Liberty University and a grandson of Billy Graham. Given the "godly response" thing and "the Christian environment" thing, it seems odd that someone who should know better would be suing a church. Because, you see, we have absolutely clear instructions regarding Christians and lawsuits -- regarding the godly response in a Christian environment. And it is not the court system (1 Cor 6:5-8).

The fact is there are probably more Christians who would read this and consider me bizarre. They would agree with the lawyer suing the church rather than with me and my puny Scripture. The Bible is absolutely clear on this, and, apparently, absolutely wrong. While that may sound jarring, surely you've seen it ... a lot. We've reworded Paul so that when he says, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man" we read, "It's perfectly okay for a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man." We've stripped out the offensive "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Eph 5:22) and replaced it with "Husband and wife both lead." Scripture clearly states, "I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11:3), but that won't fly in today's church. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6) and we understand Him to say, "It's okay; there are lots of ways to heaven." We've calmly and coolly stripped God's Word of those elements we find offensive or distasteful. Worse, we've even replaced them with "better" options.

I'm not talking about esoteric or obscure stuff. I'm not pointing at the debatable. These things are not hard to read, hard to examine, or hard to figure out. They are straightforward, plain, and easy to understand. And yet ... we're happy to discard and/or redefine God's Word and complain about those who do not. Paul writes, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor 6:9-10). We say, "Clear? Maybe, but he was wrong on that homosexuality thing (at least)."

I know. There are difficult passages of Scripture. Is there a pre-Trib Rapture or not? What does it mean when it says Jesus preached "to the spirits in prison" (1 Peter 3:18-20)? Who were the Nephilim (Gen 6:1-4)? What is baptism for the dead (1 Cor 15:29)? Oh, I could go on. We should be conscious that there is room for disagreement on the less obvious and we should be gracious, gentle, and respectful in our disagreement. But when it's clear -- abundantly, obviously, unerringly clear -- on what possible basis do we equivocate, delete, or revise God's Word? That makes no sense. And in no case is it a godly response in a Christian environment.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Justice, No Peace

We've often heard, "No justice, no peace!" We get it. "Give us the result we demand or we will remove your sense of well-being." Okay, that's not what they intend to convey. But it's generally what comes from it. We can also figure the alternative: "Justice, peace!" The implication of the former is that if we have justice, we will have peace.

You'd think that would be true, but I beg to differ. At least, when it comes to actual justice.

You see, actual justice says, "The soul who sins shall die" (Ezek 18:20). Actual justice requires death (Rom 6:23). If I got my just deserts, I would get eternal torment.

Now, most of us don't really think that way. Most of us think we're pretty good. A slap on the wrist, perhaps, or maybe even some jail time or something, but all in all we're not that bad. If we think in terms of justice for ourselves we likely would consider it more like just desserts -- a pretty good thing -- because we're just not that bad. Scripture begs to differ.

I, for one, don't find peace in that justice. I find peace in God's grace and mercy. I find peace in His forgiveness. I don't really want that justice, thank you very much. Give me mercy any day.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

News Weakly - 8/3/19

Leading by Example
Bernie Sanders has been adamant over the whole $15/hr minimum wage thing. A must! We've got to do it. So it was a surprise when a labor dispute arose among his campaign staff because he wasn't paying them $15/hour. Wait ... what? Sanders (a millionaire) has been lecturing WalMart, McDonald's, and the like that they need to pay their people more; he has been reticent to do the same. So, his solution to fix the problem now that it's out in the open? Well, Bernie will now limit the amount of time his organizers can work in order to pay them the required wage. He calls it "better hours" for his staff. Pay them $15/hour, but give them fewer hours. All fixed! "There’s nothing 'extreme' about raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour," Bernie tweeted. True, as long as you consider decreased work and decreased production with higher cost of labor not "extreme."

Dear Mr. Sanders, please tell me you understand that this will be the requirement of every business in the country if they are to meet the demand. The payroll doesn't magically appear; they will need to cut hours or personnel or service, or they will need to pass the cost on to consumers. In all cases the consumers will pay. In no case will prices decrease or the economy flourish. Tell me you know this.

Heaping It On
Because Mr. Trump didn't want to release his tax returns and because so many abhor Mr. Trump to his very core, California has made it a law that if you want to be on their primary ballot, you will release your taxes. The Constitution doesn't require it. Federal law doesn't require it. But, doggone it, we're going to require it of Mr. Trump just because we can. Hey, while we're at it, we'd also like to know your SSN, your bank account numbers, and your passwords. Because we can. (I wonder if Governor Newsom released his tax returns before becoming governor.) (To be fair, there are other states, too. California just made the news this week.)

Church and State
This was news to me. Apparently there is a "sacred space where America gathers at moments of national significance." The "faith leaders" of that space (the so-called "National Cathedral") are complaining about the president and the American people. I wasn't aware that "faith leaders" were allowed to have a voice in American government or politics. I must have missed something. And isn't it odd that I, the religious guy, disagrees that there is a "sacred space where America gathers"?

Hate Crime on the Rise
Hate crime is bad. We all agree on that. So the recent report that hate crime in 2018 saw a national increase is bad news. I would, however, urge people to keep things in perspective. First, there is the constant redefinition of what constitutes a "hate crime." As an example, racist graffiti used to be racist graffiti; now it's a hate crime. Using the wrong gender pronoun used to be a matter of opinion; now it's a hate crime. I read of one case where someone left bacon in a public park in New York City and it was classified as a hate crime. With more things classified as hate crimes, it is absolutely necessary that hate crimes will increase. Second, the more we stoke the outrage, the more sensitized people become. What was once "That's just them; ignore them and they'll go away" is now a call for a hanging for hate. It increases hate-crime sensitivity. Hate crime is bad, but we shouldn't expect to see a decrease when we increase the numbers of things so classified and we increase the sensitivity to it.

And Why Not?
"Marriage is the union of a man and a woman for life." Traditionally -- historically -- marriage was clear. That is, until the 21st century when a tiny segment of the population set out to redefine it for everyone. Well, perhaps "redefine" isn't accurate. More like "undefine" because, while it doesn't mean what it used to mean, neither is it clear what it does mean. So "same-sex" can now be stuck to "marriage" but polygamy or polyamory cannot. For reasons unknown. "Because we said so!" I guess. But having uprooted "marriage" from its moorings, it only stands to reason that it would continue its slide. (Thus the term, "slippery slope.") As when this British woman married her dog on daytime TV. No, it wasn't real. No, it wasn't even legal. But, why not? On what basis do they disallow "this" and not "that"? "Excuse me. Your solid footing is slipping." This is what we get when there is no firm foundation.

Principled
A South Korean man sat in a car in front of the Japanese embassy and set himself on fire to protest Japan's tightening of export controls for high-tech materials. Actor Mario Lopez in an interview with Candace Owens suggested that 3-year-olds shouldn't be turned transgender because the child says he thinks he's a girl; parents should try parenting instead. And the social media goes wild, altering his Wikipedia page to call him "transphobic" and shouting out threats and insults from the anonymous safety of the Internet. So ... who was really serious about their protest?

That's Just Weird
President Trump is hated by the masses. Everyone knows that. No one doubts it. So why is it that his approval rating reached a new high mark recently after his "racist tweet" urging congresswomen who hate the country to "go back" to their own countries. Why is it that his current approval rating is the same as Barack Obama in his "July of the third year"? I'm not a Trump fan, but I don't get this.

Friday, August 02, 2019

On Harps and Clouds

I'm not ashamed to admit it. I want to go home. No, not the nice place I live in now with my lovely wife. Home. Because, for me, to die is gain.

I was talking about that with a friend some time ago and someone else overheard me. "What's the matter?" she asked. "Is life so horrible here?" So I offered her a parable-kind-of-thing. "You live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, don't you? Are you happy there? Good. So imagine that someone comes to your door and says, 'Congratulations! You're the winners of our Grand Prize.' Turns out that you've won a huge prize. They will build a mansion for you in whatever location you wish to your own specifications. They will buy all the household stuff -- furniture, fixtures, etc. -- according to your own choices. They will provide you and your husband each with the car of your choice and replace it for life. They will provide you with whatever servants you require -- cleaning, cooking, chauffeurs, yard work, whatever -- at no cost to you. For life. So," I conclude, "would you accept it?" "Are you kidding?! Absolutely!" "Why?" I ask. "Is your current house so horrible?"

We hear "heaven" and we think "harps and clouds." We think "everything I always wanted." We think comfort and ease. And sometimes we think, "Yeah? So what?" Some people have told me they had no interest. It would be boring.

Not me. I'm not interested in clouds or harps or comfort and ease. I want to be part of that chorus.
I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, "To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!" (Rev 5:13)
Streets of gold? You can have them. Angels' wings? Not my longing. But I can think of nothing better than to be on my face before my Savior among God's people praising my God. Better than a fine mansion and great car and servants. Better than life. This life is good. For me, to live is Christ ... and to die is gain.
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel." (Heb 12:22-24)
That's where I want to be. I look forward to going home.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

My Sovereign

Recently a dear friend experienced a heart-breaking setback. You don't need the details. We all know how that goes. My friend is a believer, but he is quite confident that God has sovereignly limited His sovereignty to Human Free Will. So I was a bit surprised to hear him say, "It's very difficult, but I'm sure God will use this for good."

It's not that I don't agree. It's absolutely biblical (Rom 8:28). It's absolutely true (Psa 135:6). This particular painful event was human caused, but I know that "none can stay His hand" (Dan 4:35). It is clear statement of fact that God will use this for good.

The part that surprises me is that my friend would be so confident. On what basis? Why would you think that? If God has "stepped back," has tied His own wrists with the bonds of Human Free Will, if this kind of thing happens at the direct will of sinful humans with evil intent and God prevents Himself from doing anything about it, on what would you base your confidence in God's good intentions? Joseph told his brothers, "You intended evil against me, but God intended it for good" (Gen 50:20). But this kind of "limited sovereignty" thinking would require that God didn't intend it at all.

I'm certainly glad that my friend is resting in the hands of the Almighty, confident in His power and goodwill. In times like these it's the only reliably safe place to be. As for me, it is precisely these kinds of circumstances that make it absolutely imperative that the God "who works all things according to the counsel of His will" (Eph 1:11) actually does that. For me, that He is actually Sovereign is the greatest comfort I can find in hard times.

P.S. Some might argue that the Sovereignty of God is not what I am claiming. Some might argue that, sure, God is sovereign, but not nearly as sovereign as I'm saying He is. Some might argue that the kind of Sovereignty I am seeing is barely detectable in the Bible. So, without conversation or description, here's a list of references that I might suggest agree with me. Just some of them. Certainly not all. Feel free to look them over for yourself. But, please, don't ask me to subscribe to a Sovereign who denies His own Sovereignty. That offers me no comfort nor confidence either in Him or in Scripture.

Gen 14:18-20; Gen 14:22; Gen 24:3; Exo 8:22; Exo 9:29; Exo 15:18; Exo 18:11; Num 27:16; Deut 2:19; Deut 4:39; Deut 10:14; Deut 10:17; Exo 19:5; Deut 32:8; Deut 32:39; Deut 32:41-43; Jos 2:11; Jos 3:11; 1 Sam 2:6-8; 2 Kings 19:15; 1 Chron 29:11-12; 2 Chron 20:6; Neh 9:6; Job 9:12; Job 12:9-10; Job 12:16-17; Job 25:2; Job 33:13; Job 34:13; Job 34:24; Job 34:33; Job 36:1-33; Job 41:11; Psa 10:16; Psa 22:28-29; Psa 24:1; Psa 24:10; Psa 29:10; Psa 44:4; Psa 47:2-3; Psa 47:7-8; Psa 50:10-12; Psa 59:13; Psa 65:5; Psa 66:7; Psa 67:4; Psa 74:12; Psa 75:6-7; Psa 76:11-12; Psa 82:1; Psa 82:8; Psa 83:18; Psa 89:11; Psa 89:18; Psa 93:1-2; Psa 95:3-5; Psa 96:10; Psa 97:1-2; Psa 97:5; Psa 97:9; Psa 98:6; Psa 99:1; Psa 103:19; Psa 105:7; Psa 113:4; Psa 115:3; Psa 115:16; Psa 135:5-6; Psa 136:2-3; Psa 145:11-13; Psa 146:10; Prov 16:1-4; Prov 16:9; Prov 21:1; Isa 52:7; Ecc 9:1; Isa 24:23; Isa 33:22; Isa 37:16; Isa 40:22-23; Isa 43:15; Isa 44:6; Isa 45:7; Isa 45:23; Isa 54:5; Jer 10:10; Jer 18:1-23; Jer 27:5-7; Jer 32:27-28; Lam 3:37-38; Lam 5:19; Eze 16:50; Eze 17:24; Eze 18:4; Dan 2:20-21; Dan 2:47; Dan 4:3; Dan 4:17; Dan 4:25; Dan 4:34-35; Dan 4:37; Dan 5:18; Dan 5:26-28; Dan 6:26; Mic 4:7; Mic 4:13; Hag 2:8; Mal 1:14; Matt 6:10; Matt 6:13; Matt 11:25; Luke 10:21; Mat 20:15; Luke 1:53; John 10:29; John 19:11; Act 17:24-26; Rom 9:19; Rom 14:11; 1 Cor 10:26; Eph 4:6; 1 Tim 6:15-16; Heb 1:3; James 4:12; Rev 1:6; Rev 4:11; Rev 11:4; Rev 11:13; Rev 11:17; Rev 19:6.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Two Vessels

In his second epistle to Timothy Paul talks about two vessels. There are honorable (read "valuable") vessels and there are dishonorable vessels (2 Tim 2:20). The question hangs in the air, "Which are you?"

Of course, only momentarily. Paul indicates how to be an "honorable vessel." "If anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work" (2 Tim 2:21). That's good. In a sense, you get to decide. Will you choose to be a valuable vessel or a dishonorable one?

Paul tells Timothy how to do that.
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Tim 2:22)
Run from and run toward. Flee "youthful passions." Run from them. Leave them behind. But don't just run away; go somewhere. Pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace. Chase down what is right, what is just, what is correct. Run toward confidence in Christ. Make unconditional love your trajectory. Run headlong into peace -- peace with God and with others. We would consider these to be "Christian virtues."

But don't stop there. Notice how he ends that thought. Run from youthful passions and pursue what is good "along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." Now, that's interesting, isn't it? We are not lone runners. It isn't supposed to just be, "You and me, Lord; You and me." It's supposed to be a group run. And it makes sense. Before I joined the military I ran very little. I wasn't sure how well I'd handle that mile-and-a-half run that we had to do. But we did it in formation, an entire flight of guys running together. It was a breeze because I wasn't doing it alone. In a similar vein, Jesus said they would know we were His disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35). We're supposed to "bear one another's burdens" (Gal 6:2) We're supposed to be in this together.

Pursuing what is right is hard work (Php 2:12-13). We need to do it, but we need not do it alone. In fact, God's Word recommends against doing it alone. We should all long to be "honorable vessels" for Christ. We must do it by working with others with the same goal.