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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Pray

If we are commanded to pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17), when do we stop?

If prayer is our communication with God, how important is that to us?

If God answers prayer, what is there we wouldn't want to pray about?

If Jesus taught that we "ought always to pray and not lose heart" (Luke 18:1), how much should we pray? 

H.B. Charles Jr. wrote, "Prayer is arguably the most objective measurement of our dependence upon God. The things you pray about are the things you trust God to handle. The things you neglect to pray about are the things you trust you can handle on your own."

I'm starting to think I don't pray nearly enough or big enough.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

News Weakly - 10/19/19

Ban Hand Guns!
A Kansas 13-year-old female middle school student has been charged with felony criminal threat when she answered a classmate's question in a discussion, "If you could kill five people in the room, who would they be?" with a "finger gun" pointing at four students and herself. Another student "felt threatened" and reported the "criminal threat" on the school's online anti-bullying app. In other news, a 6-year-old was held for psychiatric evaluation of possible suicide when a fellow classmate saw him picking his nose and believed the finger configuration felt like a "gun in the face" image, suggesting possible suicidal tendencies. And a 14-year-old boy reported the girl he tried to ask to the homecoming dance and turned him down because it made him uncomfortable and he felt threatened. Okay, the last two were made up ... but why not?

The New Violence
During that lovely CNN LGBT town hall with the Democratic presidential candidates recently, CNN's Nia-Malika Henderson got herself in trouble. She was handed a card that said something like "Shea Diamond would like to ask a question," and she introduced Shea ... as "Shay," like 99% of us would if all we had was that written name. Of course, "Shia" was offended. "It's violence to misgender or to alter a name of a trans person ..." Now, I'm not entirely clear at this point. Obviously the person introducing her didn't do this intentionally, so "alter a name" doesn't have to be on purpose to be violence. Beyond that, is it only violence if it is a "trans person," or does that apply to everyone? We are reaching new depths when "I'm sorry; I didn't know how you wanted that apparently ordinary name pronounced in a totally unusual fashion" is "violence." I would guess that the "violence" of "misgendering" (using the "wrong" pronoun, essentially) is also in view over at Air Canada because they will no longer address passengers with "ladies and gentlemen" since there are clearly people crazy enough to think that there is something else out there.

The Other New Violence
Maybe not so new, but, according to economists at UC, Berkeley, the effective tax rate for billionaires under Bernie Sander's plan would be 97.5%. Seems reasonable ... you know, if theft is "reasonable."

Turning Nasty
Of course, they always do. These campaigns always turn nasty, even between "allies." So it's no surprise that Sanders thoroughly insulted Elizabeth Warren by declaring that she is a capitalist. The scum.

Like We Said
Dr. Steve Jacobs has reported that 96% of the 5,577 biologists he asked affirm that a human life begins at fertilization. Like we've been saying. And, of course, the notion is not well received. Like we've seen so far. It was interesting that 96% of biologists said life begins at fertilization and 80% of the public said they trust biologists most to determine when human life begins, but this kind of thing won't significantly change minds ... because it has never been about "life" or facts.

Makes Sense to Me
So, last July the UN Human Rights Council presented a report that blamed the government of Venezuela for allowing disease and using public food aid for political purposes. The report gave evidence of human rights violations including torture and killings. So, as you might expect, Venezuela won a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. Wait ... what? Oh, that's okay. The council also has Libya and Sudan on it, two other nations accused of human rights violations. I suppose it's not as pithy, but I think we can think about this as a replacement of the old "having the fox guard the hen house" idiom. Hey, I think we could save money if we hired violent prisoners to guard the prisons, too. Makes sense to me.

I Knew It
"Research suggests the ingredients in a chocolate chip cookie triggers the same addictive response in the brain as cocaine and marijuana." I knew it! Who can resist those delicious chocolate chip cookies? Turns out grandmas around the country were pushers. "How about a nice chocolate chip cookie, little boy?" A sample and you're hooked. Insidious.

Why K-Mart Is Declining
A recent study suggested that being exposed to artificial light -- specifically blue light -- can reduce longevity and cause damage to eyes, brains, and mobility. Says so right here. Take that K-Mart.

Further Down the Rabbit Hole
Wait ... what?? So, the story is that a black security guard at a Wisconsin high school was fired for using the N-word. "Wait," you might be asking yourself, "a black guy was fired for using the word?" Sorry, not that simple. He was fired for using the word because he asked a student to stop calling him that. "West High Principal Karen Boran informed parents by email that 'regardless of context or circumstance, racial slurs are not acceptable in our schools.'" Unless, of course, you're the student using the word. Apparently the student faced no consequences. (The cartoon accompanying the story has the school district firing him saying, "Because we are a welcoming school district which celebrates diversity and tolerance, you're fired!)

Breaking News
Congress passed an emergency measure to protect Syria's border, but works hard to eliminate protections at the U.S. border.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Why is There Sin?

Have you ever wondered about that? I can tell you the skeptics have. It's the problem we call "theodicy." If there is a God, why is there evil?

I heard in church the clear answer to the question. If God is omniscient and omnipotent and loving and all that, why didn't He make Adam and Eve incapable of sin? Why not avoid the whole "evil" thing altogether? Well, it's clear. God wanted humans to love Him of their own free will. Now, I get it. This is a popular answer. It is, for most, the answer. But I have some problems here.

The suggestion on one hand is that this is an adequate answer. "So, God wanted people to love Him freely, so He made them capable of eternal damnation?" On the other hand, the suggestion is that we can actually exercise our free will and choose God. The Bible says otherwise (1 Cor 2:14; John 6:64-65; Eph 2:1-3; Rom 8:7; etc.). As a pure function of human free will it just can't happen. It only happens by a work of God. There is, of course, another problem with that answer. It's not biblical. It might ring true to us humans, but it isn't found in Scripture.

Does the Bible, in fact, offer an answer to the question? Does God's Word answer the question of why an omniscient, omnipotent, loving God would allow humans to sin? As a matter of fact, it does. In Paul's epistle to the Romans he writes, "What if God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory?" (Rom 9:22-23). The text there says that it was God's will -- God's desire -- to show His wrath and to make known His power in order to make known the riches of His glory.

"That's an answer?"

Indeed it is. Consider. There are lots of things that we cannot know without a frame of reference. Quite often that frame of reference is the opposite. We know light because we know darkness. We know cold because we know hot. We know pain because we know comfort. In this case God wanted to display His glory more thoroughly. The only way we could know justice is to have a lack of righteousness. The only way we could know grace is to lack merit. The only way we could know mercy is to deserve something else. So much of who God is can only be known by our shortcomings. And remember, the one who is forgiven much loves much (Luke 7:47).

This, in fact, is an answer. First, it is biblical. Second, it is correctly aimed -- it starts with God first. And, of course, it properly informs us. Even where it contradicts the "free will" answer. "Wait, you mean I couldn't choose to come to Christ all on my own? Wow! That means His grace and mercy and power are huge!" But, of course, I'm pretty sure a lot of Christians will disagree here. And that's fine. I can see the draw. It certainly elevates the human being. It does call into question all those contrary Scriptures. Sure, there is some form of free will. ("Some form" because some people make demands for a definition that is not biblical or even rational.) Yes, we choose Him. Yes, He wants -- commands -- us to love Him. I just think that He enables that choice that we make because, well, that's what I see in my Bible. And I find that answer satisfying and biblical.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

What Are You Thinking?

When I was growing up my stay-at-home mom did most of the discipline because she was right there. I remember, though, on those few occasions when my transgressions were sufficient to be elevated to my dad, he seemed to always ask the same question. "What were you thinking?" Now, truth be told, the honest answer might have been something like, "What makes you think I was thinking?" It seemed like adults thought that we kids thought these things through and then, for whatever fine reasons we could come up with, carried out our hijinks. Not really. We did what we felt like.

I think it's generally the case. I don't think we think as much as feel, react, just do. We operate largely according to our nature, not our thinking. I was talking to someone the other day about their teen and some new, sinful actions and attitudes they were seeing. "I think it's the kids they're hanging around with." I don't. I think that we align ourselves with certain people because they strike a chord in us that we like. Maybe we weren't aware that we liked it before. Maybe that chord hadn't been struck before. But when they strike it, we find we like it. It resonates with us. It is us. Further, I think we know this, too. After all, aren't there people with whom we "have nothing in common"? They do not align with our values, our likes or dislikes, the things we really associate with. So when our associations cause us to go off in a wrong direction, it's not the fault of the associates; it is our own. They simply bring out in us that aspect of our sin nature that we like. We don't think it through. We don't examine it, evaluate it, consider all the pros and cons, and conclude, "Yes, I think this one makes more sense than the previous." So you'll hear young people (for instance) offering lame excuses like, "I don't think I'm convinced anymore that this whole 'Christianity and God' thing is true." What they mean is "I want to do what I want to do and will ignore those things that get in the way." Not thinking; feeling.

This runs counter to much of parenting and counseling. "Let's talk it through. Let's try to convince them. Let's give them our best arguments." Because we think that they're thinking about the things they're doing. They're not! So we offer sage advice and sound reasoning and they ignore us and we just can't figure out why. "What are you thinking?" What makes you think they're thinking?

Paul was clear. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood" (Eph 6:12). It's not. It's not a struggle against bad thinking, although bad thinking is part of the problem. It's not against political foes or philosophical opponents or a poor education. Our struggle is against "the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph 6:12). The people of this world aren't merely misguided. They walk "according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience" (Eph 2:2). Like the dangerous demons of Matthew 17, "This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting" (Matt 17:21). We are damaged -- all of us. We need to have our minds renewed (Rom 12:2). We need to be aware that our hearts are deceived (Jer 17:9). We need to understand that everyone, us included, suffers from "the law of sin that dwells in my members" (Rom 7:23). As we engage our world, we need to be aware that the power we need to deal with those around us isn't a better-tuned argument or a well-placed verse. Those might be good, but only in the power of Christ in you. That's what we need.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Outward

We live in an "inward" world. The "important" part starts with "me" and works outward from there. Generally, the farther out it gets, the less important it is. It's normal. It's what we do. It's exactly the opposite of God's design.

God's demand is that we begin with Him. That's more difficult than we originally imagine. He is not holy. He is not holier. He is holiest. He is the ultimate holy. He is "holy, holy, holy" (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8). The concept is that repeating it emphasizes it and the concept of "holy" is "apart, separate, other." So we have this "separate" emphasized to the ultimate. That's as far out as it gets. And God says, "Start there." "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" (Matt 22:37). Start there. Then, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Go there next.

Lest you think I'm overstating it, Paul writes this: "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Php 2:3-4). "Count others more significant than yourselves." That's quite a task. That's what we're supposed to do. No ... more carefully, that's what we're designed to do. "Love God, love others, I'm #3."

I think the notion of "outward" rather than "inward" is actually jolting to most humans. I suspect this malfunction is at the core of our sin nature. In Romans we find that a critical component of our sin problem is that we "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things." We substituted us and the rest of creation for the Creator. What would it look like if we actually started with God first and others second? I try to imagine a world predicated on that "outward" perspective and I find it almost impenetrable, but quite pleasant. Certainly revolutionary from our world's current point of view.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Joker

The latest entry from the DC Comics is the new movie, Joker. I haven't seen it. A friend wanted to know why I wasn't interested. Our conversation made me wonder and I'm sure you'll be able to help me figure this out.

The movie's website describes it as a movie about Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) who is struggling to find his way in Gotham's fractured society. "Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study." The idea appears to be the sad, sad story of a mistreated guy who only wants a little attention -- he dreamed of being a comedian -- and becomes a supervillain for it. It appears that the reason Joker is such a bad guy is because he has inner demons, and the people of Gotham can be a cruel group of people. So we have a motive for the mayhem and perhaps -- just maybe -- we should feel a little better about this poor tortured soul with his pseudobulbar affect (an actual medical condition that causes uncontrollable outbursts of laughter) who just becomes as bad as people make him. I wasn't interested.

My friend didn't understand why. "Will it change your life? Will it change your views? Will it change your values?" And this gets to the question I'm pursuing. Most of us like to think that we are not shaped by the entertainment we indulge. We poo-poo those people that claim "Violent video games and cartoons make violent kids" and the like. On the other hand, we also know that's not entirely true. For instance, pornography, like an insidious drug, gets into your head and twists your perspectives without you even knowing it. It is indeed a dangerous thing to even dabble in.

So we do recognize that some entertainment is uplifting -- positive influence -- and some is dangerous -- negative influence. But what about the rest -- the stuff in between? What part of it is actually influencing us and what is just deflecting -- simple entertainment? Does that even exist? Or does everything influence our thinking one way or another whether or not we're aware of it? I prefer to think that it's not a given that all that we observe has some influence. I don't think I believe that.

Biblically, we know that David wrote, "I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless" (Psa 101:3). Note that it's not "evil"; it's worthless. That sounds neither positive nor negative -- and he was going to avoid it. We know that Paul wrote, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Php 4:8). So it would seem that God (through Paul) does have an opinion on what we think about. That would surely place severe limits on the movies and music we imbibe (since so much is not in those categories).

What do you think? Not so much about the movie; I don't much care about that. I mean about the idea, about the danger of watching and listening to "harmless" stuff that could actually harm or, dare I say it, might even be sin? Can it be dangerous? Can it be wrong? What do you think?

Monday, October 14, 2019

What do you mean?

Now, this is interesting (at least to me). Apparently, without conferring with me, there is an argument going on amongst Christians as to whether David committed adultery with Bathsheba or rape. Alexander Abasili has written a paper on it to demonstrate that the definition of "rape" in the Bible is not the same as the definition of "rape" today. According to Abasili, biblical rape only occurs when a man uses physical force. In our modern version, rape occurs when consent is not given. Thus, what David did with Bathsheba may have included the force of his office, but in biblical terms it wouldn't have been classified as rape. (I'm not here to solve the question; I'm just reporting the argument.)

It was interesting to me because when I started pursuing the question from the direction of defining rape, I found out that we've redefined it. According to the Justice Department, in 2012 the government redefined rape as "The penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim." The original definition was "the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will." You can see in the original definition only a woman could be raped and in the new definition it is "the victim." In the original version it was "forcibly and against her will" and in the new one it is "without consent." (There is an interesting discussion of the evolution of the term in U.S. rape laws here.)

I don't know if you recognize the difficulty here. It is the same difficulty those debating the issue of David and Bathsheba face. In the original definition here in America, force was required to commit rape, just as it was in the biblical definition. Today, we no longer limit rape to that definition. Well, actually, we've redefined "force" to include any sort of coercion at all. In the original version it was "against her will" and in the new it is "without consent," which is actually not the same thing. The former is a negative and the latter is a positive. The "against her will" requires a "no" answer and "without consent" requires a "yes" answer. (Part of the reason for that is that some are incapable of giving consent. For instance, people below legal age of consent cannot give consent no matter how many times they say, "Yes.") The new definition specifies, "Physical resistance is not required on the part of the victim to demonstrate lack of consent."

Mind you, I'm not saying the new definition is wrong, bad, or unwarranted. Not at all. I'm simply pointing out, as I appear to do too often, that our words change their meaning. It is not fair to change the meaning of a word from "then" to "now" and then reapply our new definition to "then." As the Justice Department document points out, "Because the new definition is more inclusive, reported crimes of rape are likely to increase." And the unavoidable conclusion is sure to be, "Rape is on the increase." Or "David raped Bathsheba." I use this just as an appropriate illustration of an ongoing problem for us these days. Two people use a word together, one changes the meaning and reapplies that meaning to the other, and we have a major disagreement. Over a word. I'm not saying it won't or even shouldn't. I'm saying be aware of it. "What do you mean?" is a really good question even if it is rarely asked.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Individually

In our current society the key component is "me." It is the individual. That's the basic part that can then be used to configure the other parts -- couples, parents, families, communities, and so on. Makes sense. Or so it seems. So we also assume that's the basic component of Christianity: "me". Because of this notion, we will find plenty of worship love songs that sound a lot like "Jesus is my boyfriend." Because of this idea, we will hear believers saying apparently biblical things like, "Jesus is my Bridegroom." Because of this idea, you find genuine believers who feel no compulsion to be part of a local body of believers. "You and me, Lord. You and me." And I would suggest it's somewhat in error.

In the Old Testament, God chose Abraham to be the father of His chosen people. In a sense, that was the end of the individual (Gen 12:1-3). After that they were "the children of Abraham." A group. Israel was the nation that housed "God's chosen people." a group. The group (obviously) was made up of individuals and God interacted with individuals -- I'm not saying that individuals are not in view -- but it was almost always with a group view. In his epistle to the church at Corinth, Paul writes about believers as being "God's field, God's building" (1 Cor 3:9). When he says, "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" (1 Cor 3:16), he is not speaking of "you" as individuals, but "you" plural. The "temple of God" is the community of Christians. We are called the "body of Christ" (1 Cor 12:12, 27), not as individuals but as a group. He says "we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another" (Rom 12:5). Yes, individuals, but not for individuals -- for the body of Christ, the Church. In Ephesians Paul speaks of the elimination of the divide between Jew and Gentile.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in Himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Eph 2:13-16)
"One new man." That's his phrase. That's what Christ has done. Elsewhere in Ephesians he compares marriage to the relationship between Christ and the Church (Eph 5:31-32). Not individuals. Jesus is the Bridegroom to the Bride, but the Bride is the body of believers, not individuals.

Christianity doesn't ignore individuals. We are gifted by the Spirit individually, but as parts of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:12-27), those gifts are for the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:7; Eph 4:15-16). We are each responsible to follow Christ, but the aim is the building up of the body. We are individual components of the temple of God. We are individuals that, as a cohesive group, make up the Bride of Christ. So individuals are not unimportant, but we are not the focus. Christ is. His body is. His Bride is. To the extent that the individual believer is contributing to Christ, to the body, to the Bride is the basic measure of whether or not he or she is following God's plan. As such, "Jesus is my boyfriend," "I am the Bride of Christ," and "Just You and me, Lord" don't make much sense in a biblical worldview (Eph 5:21; Mark 10:35-45; John 13:35). In the human body, individual cells that are simply pursuing their own path have a designation. They are called "cancer." So if you aren't part of a local group of believers today, why aren't you?

Saturday, October 12, 2019

News Weakly - 10/12/19

You Will Know Them By Their Fruit
So, here's the primary story. "The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is asking the U.S. district court in Arizona — a border state where many of the migrants were initially detained and separated — to award damages to thousands of migrant families who have been separated by the U.S. government since 2017."

I find it odd. I find it odd that the American Civil Liberties Union is suing on behalf of non-Americans. I find it odd that they're suing for those "since 2017" when it has been the practice of the U.S. government to separate families since long before Trump took office. I find it odd that no one would think, "What does this have to do with American civil liberties and why is it only the current administration in the crosshairs?" But, then, I guess it's not that odd. The motivation is clear; it is neither "American civil liberties" nor "family separations."

Detransitioning
(That we would even have such a word seems bizarre.) Detransitioning refers to the process of changing back from transitioning from gender A to gender B so they can be gender A again. A woman who did it says there are "hundreds" of young trans people seeking help to detransition. You won't likely hear that news in many places because it goes against the current societal narrative and if you hear about it it will be outrage, not support for the same reason. There have been those who have sued their parents for having them circumcised at birth. I'm just wondering if we'll be seeing lawsuits from young adults whose parents helped them transition at a young age and then decided they didn't want to be that way.

You've Come a Long Way, Baby
Times, they are a'changin'. Bob Dylan was right about that. We have generations (plural) now who have been raised on television and technology and the Internet and it's really making a difference. Apartmentlist.com says that 50 years ago (1969) 3 of 4 26-year-olds were married and living with their spouse. That number has dropped to 1 in 4. In 2018 there were 300,000 more 26-year-olds living with their parents than with their spouses. Oh, yeah, that's progress.

Ruling on the Bible
Dr. David Mackereth was a disability assessor for the UK's Department for Work and Pensions until last year when he was fired. Why? He wouldn't use the "preferred pronouns." If a woman is a woman, Mackereth would use "she" or "her" even if the poor woman believed she was a he. Mackereth took it to an employment tribunal where they tossed his case out like yesterday's trash. Citing his belief in the truth of the Bible -- specifically the truth of Genesis 1:27 -- and his lack of belief in transgenderism, they ruled that his views are "incompatible with human dignity and conflicts with the fundamental rights of others." Oddly, they all agreed that "Christianity is a protected characteristic." Where he went wrong was thinking that Christian beliefs are a protected characteristic. (Seriously, that's what they said.) When the Bible dares to disagree with the current morality, it becomes "incompatible with human dignity" and no longer deserves to be held or allowed. Yeah ... you go with that.

Doesn't Have Your Back
Trump goes toe to toe with Democratic foes, stands his ground against China, and gives no quarter to North Korea, but pulls out troops protecting Kurds because ... what ... Turkey asked him to? Barely has it been accomplished when Turkey moves to cut off Kurdish forces. Meantime Trump promises to "totally destroy" Turkey's economy if they don't play nice. It's not very often you see this many GOP members outraged with their own president.

For you Trump supporters, remember this when you are tempted to think that Trump has your back. Trump has his own back and don't count on anything more.

As Expected
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke declared in a CNN town hall event that he "would strip churches and other organizations of their tax-exempt status if they refused to support the LGBT cause by opposing same-sex marriage." As expected (John 15:18-21). (Mind you, I'm not a big fan of "tax exemption" for churches as a means of controlling what they say, nor has, historically, the government had to secure the rights of churches to not be taxed. But, hey, it's the world we live in.)

Breaking News
Have you read about this one? Apparently Russia is launching an investigation to determine if any Democrats have ties to the United States. "'We feel very good about our agents that have secured all leadership positions in the Democratic Party,' Kremlin Director Boris Yeltsin said."

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Passive Thinking

"Whatcha thinkin' about?" "Oh, nuthin'." I'm sure you've heard it. I'm sure you've done it. The truth is we are never thinking about nothing at all. What we might do is "passive thinking." The separation here is "active thinking" versus "passive thinking" (as opposed to some sort of bizarre "zen" notion of idling in the mind in order to discover the "Light of the Intelligence" or some such). In active thinking you're pursuing something. You're analyzing something. You're planning something. You're engaging your mind for a purpose. In active thinking you're trying to solve a problem, whether it's inquiry or curiosity or direct problem-solving. In passive thinking you're ... not. Whatever rolls through your mind rolls through your mind. You may or may not pick any of it up to examine (switching to active) but you're just cruising along in mental autopilot without analysis or examination.

Studies have suggested that your brain is more active when you are asleep than when you are watching TV. Television is generally what we call "amusement." Fittingly, "amusement" comes from the French "amuser", a two part word with "muse" at the end -- "to think" -- and "a" at the beginning -- "not to" -- thus, "not to think" or "not thinking." That is the point of amusement -- passive thinking.

The problem is that in passive thinking we are not analyzing what is going through our heads. In this state it is possible to feed stuff to your subconscious without your permission, so to speak. You didn't examine it. You didn't approve it. You just ... dumped it there. So when your favorite talking head makes truth claims, you are far less likely to analyze them than you might be, say, in an actual conversation. When TV detectives solve a case in a day because their DNA analysis gave them an answer in minutes, we nod and say, "Yeah, that's the way it works." Except, it doesn't. At all. (Trust me; I know.) But we dumped it in there without any effort, so it's now a fact. And we dump a lot of garbage into our brains without thinking about it just by means of this "passive thinking" that we thoroughly enjoy in our living rooms in front of our screens.

I don't think we think about (yes, playing on the same concept) the stuff that we are subjecting ourselves to. Or our children. It's TV, right? It's entertainment; that's all. What's the big deal? So we buy in on the news stories and assume that kidnappings and rapes and airplane crashes and -- whatever the news these days is covering -- are at an all-time high because we saw it on the news. Cops are mad killers, especially of black people. We know that because we've seen the news. That's why people are uncomfortable around police officers. Of course, it's not true, but we've shoved this stuff into our brains without analysis and then assumed it to be true because "It's in there."

We do this far too much, and not just in front of our televisions. We do it on the Internet. We do it listening to music. We do it in conversations. We consume stuff without evaluation, not realizing that we're consuming lies. Lies about morality, lies about reality, lies about society, lies about us and others. We do it sitting in church. "Wait ... what??" Yes. Remember the noble Bereans? They listened with minds in gear so that they could examine the Scriptures "daily to see if these things were so" (Acts 17:11). They took it in, but they took it in actively with a verifiable truth source as a guide ("the Scriptures"). As a result, "Many of them therefore believed" (Acts 17:12). Not passive; active.

When they were teaching me to drive, they told me, "Don't look at the parked cars; look where you're going." "Why?" I asked. "Because you'll always go where you're looking." So we sit there and calmly imbibe of society's kool-aid -- television, movies, music, Internet and other sources -- passively injecting poison into our brains and wonder why Scripture can seem so foreign to us at times or why there is such differences of opinion even among believers. No wonder we are called to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12:2). We've certainly done enough damage to them. And we keep it up because we've been told that it's just harmless entertainment. (In a hypnotized monotone: "Yes, master, it's just harmless entertainment.")

Thursday, October 10, 2019

A Cautionary Tale

Those who knew me in my youth -- high school and into my early 20's -- often consider me a "cautionary tale." "Yeah, that Stan, he really made mistakes. Don't do what he did." With all the news recently of well-known Christians who come out and say, "I figured it out! This Christianity stuff is bunk and I'm leaving!", you have to wonder what to make of it. What kind of cautionary tale are these? Back in the 16th century a guy named John Bradford, observing some criminals being led to the scaffold, said, "There but for the grace of God goes John Bradford." You have to ask, "Could it happen to me?"

Since I believe in the Perseverance of the Saints -- that those that truly belong to Christ ultimately end up in His presence -- you'd think I'd have to answer, "No! Can't happen." I think, perhaps, my answer might surprise you. Do I think that I could commit the apostasy of Hebrews 6:4-6 and go to hell? Yes, I do. That seems contradictory, I know, and that's why I thought I'd explain.

I think Scripture is clear.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. (John 10:27-29)

And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. (John 6:39)

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Php 1:6)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified. (Rom 8:28-30)
Just a sample. Of those whom are His, He loses not one. No one (including me) can take them out of His hand. All will be raised on the last day. He will complete it. Those whom He predestined He justifies and glorifies -- no breaks in that chain. Those who belong to Christ will ultimately end up in His presence. And, yet, I hold that I could commit sufficient sin to end up in hell. How?

A basic premise of Christianity -- true Christianity -- is that we are saved by grace apart from works (Eph 2:8-9). We get that. But a goodly number of Christians -- genuine Christians -- believe it in one hand and discard it in the other. Sure, we're saved by grace apart from works, but we do produce the faith required to do it. Most of them will argue, "That's not a work." Given the biblical position that natural man is dead in sin, following the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:1-3), hostile to God (Rom 8:7), blinded by Satan (2 Cor 4:4), not even capable of understanding the things of God (1 Cor 2:14), and so on, it would seem like a significant work for a dead, angry, sin-ruled, blind, uncomprehending person to be able to produce faith. I don't believe we do.

You see, I believe in the Sovereignty of God. I believe that God chooses who will be saved "from before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4) and predestines them for adoption (Eph 1:5) and accomplishes this apart from what we will or do (John 1:12-13; Rom 9:16). My salvation is not my doing; it's His. His alone. I believe that faith is a gift from God (e.g., John 6:64-65; Rom 12:3; Php 1:29; 2 Peter 1:4) that we exercise when God enables us to (John 3:3; 2 Tim 2:25; John 10:26; 1 John 5:1). I believe that we are saved for good works that He prepares (Eph 2:10) and we maintain our salvation by His work (Php 2:13) and we cannot make a practice of sin because of His work in us (1 John 3:9). I believe, then, from Scriptures like these and so many more that while I on my own am thoroughly capable of messing up my own salvation, it is not my capabilities that are in view. It is God's. Every passage that points to assurance that we cannot be lost if we are once saved points to God's work, not our own (e.g., 1 Thess 5:24; 1 Cor 1:8; Jude 1:24-25).

The reason that I can know that I have eternal life (1 John 5:13) is not that I am confident that I can't sin myself to hell; it's that I have confidence in the Sovereignty of the God who saves. It's not that I am sure of my ability to maintain my salvation (e.g., Heb 10:36; Matt 10:22; Matt 24:13; Rom 2:7; 2 Peter 2:20; Php 2:12). In purely human terms I don't have that ability. It is God who holds me. From beginning to end it is God who calls, saves, maintains, and brings me home. Truly, then, when one who we all see as a Christian walks away (1 John 2:19), I can say, "There, but for the grace of God, go I." My eternal security is in Christ.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Consistency

I've seen the mantra: "Love is love." At first it's a "duh" statement ... until you see the rainbow behind it. Oh, that is what you're talking about. So, let's see; "love is love." Is that what you're claiming? I love pizza and you love your dog and we both love our mothers. Is love love? "No, no, we're just talking about who you can have sex with and who you can marry." Perhaps. It doesn't look like it from here. Because I love pizza and you love your dog and we both love our mothers and there is nothing in there about sex or marriage. "No, no, we're just talking about the LGBTQ folk who you want to restrict." Perhaps. It doesn't look like it from here. Because the "B" of your acronym is for the bisexuals who are attracted to both genders, but you won't allow polygamy (more than one husband or wife) or polyandry (a woman with more than one husband) or polyamory (marriage (or otherwise) of multiple partners regardless of gender) -- only two. Because "love is love" only in those circumstances that you allow and not in the circumstances that run counter to my beliefs. "Love is love" is inconsistent.

"Do you people even know your own Bible? Jesus said, 'Judge not that you be not judged.'" "Yes, He did. What's your point?" "Well, you guys are wrong for judging others and wrong for claiming to speak for God and wrong for using the Bible as your litmus test for truth and wrong, nay, evil for suggesting that the Bible says these things are sins and those things are deserving hell and all that." "Sounds very judgmental to me." "That's what we said!" "No, it sounds very judgmental of you to tell us all the ways in which we are wrong and even evil. How is that not judgmental?" Non-judgmental people are inconsistent.

"Dan Cathy is the CEO of Chick-fil-A. He has donated to anti-LGBT causes and openly stated his opposition to gay marriage. He is clearly a bigot and a hater and a homophobe. Not like us. We don't want his restaurants in our town. We are inclusive and he is not. We are tolerant and he is not. We will not include him in our inclusiveness or tolerate him in our tolerance. Never mind that nothing that goes on in his restaurants reflects any negative attitudes towards anyone at all. We will not be inclusive or tolerant in the name of being inclusive and tolerant!" Inconsistent.

"You tell us the Bible says X. You tell us it means X. You claim to be speaking for God. We know better. The Bible appears to say X but clearly means W and not at all what you think it means. You misread and misapply and misuse it while we, for the most part, don't read, apply, or use it at all. You're wrong, wrong, wrong for telling us that we're wrong. You should be more gracious like we are." Inconsistent.

I believe in love but believe it has definition and when it is outside of that definition it is not love. So to say "This is love and that is not" is not inconsistent. I believe the Bible, so when Jesus says, "Judge not," I pay particular attention. When He says, "Take the log our of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye" (Matt 7:6) in the context of "Judge not," I don't assume He means it in an absolute sense, so when I rightly take care of the "log" in my own eye before concerning myself with yours, it isn't inconsistent. I believe in being tolerant of good and intolerant of evil, so being intolerant in some cases is the right thing to do. Consistent. I believe the Bible is God's Word and, so, if it says it and clearly means it, I have no problem arguing that "God says what His Word says He says." It is not inconsistent with the premise. I strive for consistency -- internal and external. I think a lot of people don't see their own inconsistency. But, then, I'm not sure how many people see consistency as a virtue, based on a lot of what I see out there today. Wait ... what do we call that when people put on masks of "love" and "acceptance" and "inclusiveness" and "tolerance" and such but don't actually possess them? I've been calling it inconsistency. I think Jesus called it hypocrisy.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Do Justice

The Bible is clear. God loves justice. "What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8) Abraham knew it. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" (Gen 18:25) And, look, it is abundantly clear that God doesn't merely love; He is love (1 John 4:7). Paul says that the love of Christ is so big that it cannot be known (Eph 3:19). We know these things.

So the Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) among us will strike up the band and cheer us on to love justice and to love our neighbors. And, in principle, we had better agree. It isn't their idea; it's God's idea.

You noted, I'm sure, my hesitation. "In principle," I said. Suggesting, "Not necessarily in practice." Yes, that's what I meant. Because, you see, as soon as this parade heads down the street it takes a sudden turn in a different direction. As I've written about on more than one occasion, they take "justice" and "love" and redefine them and then reapply this new meaning on our parade and expect us to follow.

"You love justice, right? It is unjust that anyone should have less than others, isn't it? It is unjust for a company to pay less than a living wage, right? It is unjust that a woman would be denied the right to choose her method of preventing reproduction, surely! We're all in agreement, aren't we? Patriarchy is unjust. Equal pay for women is just. Justice requires that anyone who wants to come into this country must be allowed to and supported in it. Justice demands gender and sexual orientation diversity." And so it goes. Investopedia defines "Social Justice" as "a political and philosophical concept which holds that all people should have equal access to wealth, health, well-being, justice, and opportunity." It's about the "poor and marginalized," but, again, the terms remain undefined or ill-defined.

So some of us begin to lag in the parade. "Um, hang on a minute, when did we sign up for your version of the term?"

"Well," they tell us, "you are certainly in favor of love!" "Yes, yes we are ... but, again, your version? Not so sure." Because their version is schizophrenic. It includes sexual relations, then makes those sexual relations inappropriate when they feel they should be. "Yes, if a man loves a man he should enjoy sex with that man and even marry him. If a man loves his mother, he shouldn't. If a man loves two women he might be allowed to enjoy sex with them, but never marry them. Yes, you might love pizza, but don't think about sex or marriage there, because while we assure you that love is love, that doesn't mean that love is love as you think about it; only as we think about it."

That, of course, is the problem. Justice is defined as they want to. Love is defined as they want to. But if we're talking about justice that God loves and love that God demands, shouldn't we be talking about justice and love as God defines it?

Justice is -- should be -- easy to define. Biblically it is what is right. Simple, right? Except that we like to take the next step and fill in "what is right" without regard for what God says is right. So biblically we find that is wrong to favor the rich over the poor (James 2:1-7), but it's not right by definition that no one should be poor (e.g., John 12:8; 2 Thess 3:10). It is biblically right that we should take care of the needy (e.g., James 1:27; Gal 6:10; Prov 21:13; 1 John 3:17-18), but not without limits (e.g, 1 Tim 5:3-16).

Biblically, love is self-sacrifice, not self-indulgence. It is commanded, so while it might have an emotional component, that would be a result, not a definition of love. (You can't command feelings.) Biblical love comes from God (1 John 4:7-8). We have a list of characteristics in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13. Love pursues the best for the one who is loved, sometimes painfully -- painful to the one who loves and/or painful to the one who is loved. Love is not embracing sin (e.g., 1 Cor 5:1-5; 1 Cor 5:9-11; 2 John 1:10-11; Titus 3:10).

What can be termed "social justice" is indeed found in the Bible. Just not the whole of what today's SJWs preach. Much of what SJWs claim as social justice isn't biblical, yet they try to tell us we need to do it. Conversely, without a doubt you and I are not doing enough of what the Bible refers to as social justice. We err on both sides -- not doing enough good for others and not doing enough of the hard task of calling others to repentance when they are wrong. We must love -- love God and love others -- and we must love justice. We're not doing these nearly well enough. We must recognize when voices tell us we need to "care for the poor and marginalized" as matters of justice and love when they are not speaking of the biblical poor and marginalized in terms of biblical justice and love. But that error on their part doesn't relieve us of our error in not doing it biblically.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Monday

Just taking a day off. First time in ... I can't remember when. Back tomorrow.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

A Powerful Prayer

In the third chapter of Paul's epistle to the church at Ephesus, he offers a prayer for the church. It's a big one ... much bigger than it first appears.
I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith -- that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:14-21)
Now, to be fair, Paul is not very good at writing in English. I mean, this is a huge run-on thought. Notice that he starts in verse 14 with "I bow my knees before the Father" and does not end that sentence (because he doesn't end the thought) until "... filled with all the fullness of God." One thought. And one big thought.

What is his prayer for the church at Ephesus? He prays that God would grant them strength. And not just any strength. Strength according to the riches of His glory. Strength through His Spirit. Not natural strength. For what? What does he want to accomplish that requires all this strength? "So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." Okay, so he's asking that God would grant them supernatural, Holy-Spirit strength for the purpose of having Christ dwell in them. Apparently that requires a lot of strength. But why does Paul want Christ to dwell in them (To take up residence in them. I mean, that's really big on its own.)? So that they might know the love of Christ.

Yes, that's an actual summary, but it doesn't do it justice. Paul asks for the Spirit's empowerment so that Christ may dwell in them so that they might comprehend (grasp, hold, take as their own) "what is the breadth and length and height and depth" of His love. All aspects. Every direction. How big it is. He says that to grasp this they must first be "rooted and grounded in love." Because love is the defining characteristic of the saints (John 13:35). Love for God and love for others. Rooted and grounded in that love.

So ... how big is it? How big is the love of Christ? Paul makes a bizarre statement here. He wants them to "know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge." Well, now, that's odd. Oh, I know ... Paul is using two different words for "know" here. One is head knowledge and the other is experiential, right? No. The "know" he speaks of here is knowledge and the "knowledge" he speaks of is the root word for the word, "know," that he used. So he really does want us ("With all the saints," remember?) to know what cannot be known. The sense here, then, is that we would have flashes of knowledge, moments of clarity, that we would know personally when the occasion arises some component of that which, ultimately, exceeds complete knowledge. That's difficult, but he says that this limited knowledge of Christ's ultimately unknowable love will cause us to be filled with all the fullness of God.

What follows is, perhaps, one of the grandest "amens" of all time. Paul has just asked God for the clearly impossible. He asked for God to give us the strength of the Spirit to have Christ in us so we can have knowledge of His love that exceeds knowing. So, how can we say "Amen"? From whence comes any possibility of "let it be so"?

Paul re-addresses his prayer. "To Him who is able ..." And then he strings together such a string of superlatives that both he and our English translations have a hard time expressing it. He is able ("has the power for") to do ("to actually execute") "hyper hyperekperissou" all things. You will notice that the prefix of that second word is the same as the prior word -- "hyper" -- from which we get our word "hyper" (go figure). Same idea. "Beyond." Think, "Wow, that kid is really hyper." Paul is speaking here of something that is hyper hyper. And he's not done. That tail end -- perissou -- might mean "abundantly," but it doesn't. It actually means superabundantly. In itself it is a superlative. So Paul says that God is able to do "superabundantly beyond beyond" something. Way past a simple "more than." Beyond what? What you can ask. Hmm, okay, we get it. God is certainly able to exceed our requests. Or think. Wait, that's much more. We can ask a lot, but I'm pretty sure we can imagine much, much beyond that. And He has the ability to actually accomplish "superabundantly beyond beyond" what you can even imagine. How? Wait for it. "According to the power at work within us." He accomplishes all that using power that He already has invested in us, working in us -- already present and in use ... in us.

Paul breaks out into a doxology here, and if you've been paying attention, you would, too. "To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever." All that Paul prays is to God's glory. All that he prays is according to God's glory. All that Paul says he wants for believers and that God can do in believers is to God's glory. Throughout all generations. Forever and ever. A thoroughly grand "Amen" at the end of a massive "amen."

So I'm wondering. If you believed that -- that God was capable of vastly exceeding your wildest dreams and that the power to do so is it already at work in you -- how would that change your prayers? If you believed that the basis of the Christian life was love -- the love of God and love for others -- how would that change your actions and attitudes? You see? A really huge prayer.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

News Weakly - 10/5/19

Directed Discrimination
New York City has issued new rules about hate speech. You cannot threaten to call ICE or refer to someone as an "illegal alien" (because "illegal alien" is a thoroughly accurate but "derogatory" term). There will be no discrimination in New York City (except, of course, for those who think that ICE might serve a good purpose or that people who come into the country illegally are "illegal" -- those can be discriminated against). Each offense is punishable with up to a $250,000 fine. We'll see if that passes a "free speech" challenge.

Follow the Money
According to CNN's story, Bernie Sanders has a new tax plan ... targeting income inequality. The stated goal is to "penalize companies who have large disparities in compensation between their highest paid officials and median workers." Because the function of government today is to literally take from the rich and give to ... well, the government, I guess. Note that this is on top of his plan to tax the wealthy to pay for "Medicare for All." Now, it's interesting to me that folks like Bernie are wealthy by my standards, but they're careful not to include themselves in these "income inequality" issues. And I would imagine that those (like Bernie) pushing a new America (read "socialist") wouldn't much care about trifles like the Constitution. Mind you, I'm not defending the greed of the wealthy. I just don't have any reason to trust the greed of the government either.

Dilemma
Former Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has urged Republicans not to support Trump's reelection. "My fellow Republicans, it is time to risk your careers in favor of your principles," he wrote. Now I have a dilemma. (Okay, I had it before and it hasn't gone away.) I am a registered Republican who could not support Trump for president in 2016. I'm facing a second presidential election with Trump as the Republican offering again. I actually agree with Flake that we shouldn't be supporting Trump for reelection. I am not being listened to. (Surprise, surprise!) So what's a Christian to do? People tell me that to not vote for Trump is to vote for the Democrats' candidate (which, from what I can see, is a vote for Socialism). Christians tell me that to fail to support Trump for president is to fail to support the party of the faith, so to speak. "If you're not for Republicans, you're for baby-killing, God-hating, sin-loving Democrats." (That line of reasoning, by the way, is one of the reasons I so seriously opposed Trump in 2016. I believed supporting a man of his moral character and childish behavior would redefine what "Republican" and "conservative" and even "Christian" meant in this country. I believe I am being proved correct.) So I have a choice of being called a traitor to the party, a traitor to the nation, a traitor to the faith, and a supporter of everything I abhor from the Left or I can toss all my principles and vote for a man I consider to be the worst thing to happen to the party, the country, and the church in my lifetime. Nice dilemma, eh? It's a shame that Christians in America today have begun to associate a political party with Christianity when Scripture itself won't do it.

#MeFirst
As expected, a federal judge blocked Georgia from putting their child protection bill into effect. "This is a victory for Georgia and the people," Planned Parenthood spokesperson, Barbara Luttrell said, ignoring the millions of dead babies for whom it is not a victory. Nancy Pelosi argued that saving the lives of the most vulnerable Americans is ignoring basic morality despite the fact that she classifies herself as a "devout practicing Catholic." I will never understand the pro-abortion version of morality. Apparently it's "whatever I want to do ... Oh, no, not you." We've had the #MeToo thing going on; it should be #MeFirst as the definition of American morality.

Powerful
This week Amber Guyer was found guilty of murdering a young black man named Botham Jean. She was an off-duty police officer who claimed to have walked into the wrong apartment by mistake, mistook him for a burglar, and shot him to death. She was sentenced to 10 years in prison. One particular aspect of the story was Brandt Jean's victim-impact statement. Brandt is Botham's brother. Quite a message. When the judge hugged the convicted killer after the sentencing and gave her one of her own Bibles, people objected. "This judge choosing to hug this woman is unacceptable," wrote former ESPN anchor Jemele Hill. The private gift of a Bible from judge to convicted felon will not go unchallenged, of course. And there is apparently no forgiveness for some ... and not in a good way (Matt 6:14-15).

Politics as Usual
In California (of course) a charity event to honor a fallen officer was indefinitely postponed because the Thousand Oaks chief of police objected that Republicans were invited. Thousands of dollars had already been raised for families of fallen officers, but they're returning the money to the donors because Chief Tim Hagel argued, "This is not Trump country ... We don't want Republicans here." "We're not bringing the honor guard. We're not coming. We're not going to be there, not supporting it." I'm not clear about what level of hate for Trump and Republicans is needed to produce this kind of assault on fallen officers and their families, but it isn't coming from the Right here. It is often the Left complaining "Those on the Right are doing nothing but politics." It's clearly not the Right this time.

Truth in Reporting
Last week a 12-year-old girl from the same Christian achool where Karen Pence (Mike Pence's wife) works reported that three white boys cornered her on the playground, held her down, insulted her, and cut off sections of her dreadlocks. People were (rightly) outraged. The school was (rightly) appalled. An investigation was (rightly) begun. This week the girl admitted she made the story up. The event didn't happen. The story was false. Her grandparents (who are her legal guardians) apologized to the school, the families, and the boys involved.

I am glad that everyone took it so seriously and glad that the grandparents made no effort to deflect and glad that the truth came out. Unfortunately, much of the media has gone out of its way to avoid "the rest of the story" and many who have pointed to this story as proof of Christian racism have failed to admit that the story was false. The story includes liars and people with integrity. Most of the media outlets don't suffer from excessive integrity.

More White Supremacists Revealed
After the Anti-Defamation League last week declared the "OK" hand symbol a hate symbol for white supremacists, new images have surfaced revealing Obama and the Clintons as white supremacists.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, October 04, 2019

Where the Biblical Rubber Meets the Road

This is a serious question. I'm not trying to sneak a lesson in with a fake question. I want to know how this works.

I know of a situation in a church where a couple of deacons offended a member by apparently promising to do something and then not carrying through. They denied any such promise and ignored his protests. He attempted to go through the Matthew 18:15-20 steps, but it all got dropped. End of story. He is offended; they are defended. Nothing further.

I was baffled by this. Jesus said, "If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matt 5:23-24). In disputes between Christians, Paul said, instead of pursuing justice, "Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?" (1 Cor 6:7).

I was not privy to the discussion between the deacons and the offended. My point is I don't care. Based on Jesus's words, it would seem to me that "Was I guilty?" would not be a consideration. Jesus didn't talk about "If you've done something wrong." He talked about a brother having something against you. With this kind of thinking, I would think that followers of Christ would not turn first to "I didn't do anything wrong!" and aim instead for "How can we repair our relationship?" Based on Paul's comment, I would think that a follower of Christ would think, "Whether or not I was at fault is not the issue. If I was not at fault, I'd still rather suffer wrong than to harm my brother or the church or the name of Christ." But that's not the approach. The approach is, "I don't think I did anything wrong, so there is nothing to confess and repent of -- nothing to make right."

How is this supposed to work? We live in a "No justice, no peace" culture. We do and should embrace justice. But it looks like Jesus and Paul were talking about something else, something beyond justice. Sometimes, it seems, we have to "turn the other cheek." Oh, nice phrase. Wonder where that came from? But seriously, I'm trying to figure out the balance of "justice" and making it right with someone when you didn't do anything wrong. You can't go and ask forgiveness for something you didn't do. So what would that look like? If the person who believes they were wronged demands restitution or repentance and you didn't actually do it, how does that happen? And is it actually true that Jesus and Paul are both saying, "There are some things more important than justice"?

Jesus said, "By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). What does that love look like in situations like this? How best does the person who knows someone has something against them handle the situation if that person didn't actually do an offense? Mind you, I understand that the offended has some work to do, too. Forgiveness is a command. I get that. But I'm trying to figure out what the "offender" is supposed to do in the case of innocence. I really don't have a clear handle on this situation.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

Fixing the Problem

A little research. What, according to the climate change science, is causing global climate change? You have to ask this in order to find solutions. What do they say?

The European Commission on Energy, Climate change, and Environment lists greenhouse gases caused by burning fossil fuels, cutting down rainforests, and farming livestock. NASA's Global Climate Change site admits that the Sun could contribute perhaps 10% of the warming, but the real problem is water vapor, CO2, methane, N2O (nitrous oxide), and chlorofluorocarbons. To be clear, these two aren't in disagreement. These are "greenhouse gases" (GHGs). GHGs are produced in a variety of ways, but primarily by means of combustion. Cars, power plants, factories, buildings, lots of things combust things. Methane comes from livestock, landfills, natural gas, and petroleum industries. N2O is from fertilizers, refrigeration, and industrial processes. And, of course, there is the CO2 because we continue to exhale and the life forms (primary plants) designed to process that into oxygen are being depleted.

Okay, so the problem is defined. Now we can pursue solutions. We can find a way forward. We can save the world. Should be simple. Cut GHGs. So ...

One solution many have pushed is with an eye to "net zero emissions" with a system known as "emission trading." The Kyoto Protocol set emissions limits for various countries or entities. The idea is that a polluter with excess emissions can pay a country or entity with fewer emissions for their right to emit and count that toward the "net" of their emissions. Their gross emissions remain the same, but the overall result is a "decrease" because that other entity wasn't using their allotted emissions anyway. That isn't actually a decrease in emissions, so this seems like nonsense.

According to Scientific American, the solutions will be the most difficult for "richer nations" because we "literally eat, wear, work, play and even sleep on the products made from" fossil fuels. Everything, it seems, is built on oil (fossil fuels), either in their production or in their very existence. But they point out that switching to "carbon neutral biofuels can drive up the price of food and lead to forest destruction." In the U.S. alone, 43% of GHGs comes from buildings with bad roads (because of decreased fuel efficiency) as another major factor. But buildings and roads are made from cement and cement is a major source of GHG emissions. They recommend going vegetarian since livestock is a major problem. Did you know that corn grown in the U.S. requires barrels of oil for the fertilizer to grow it and the fuel to harvest and transport it? Everything is a problem and the solutions being offered are "less."

It isn't that complicated. Gas and Diesel engines emit GHGs. Eliminate them. Industries and power plants produce GHGs. Eliminate them. Livestock produces methane. Eliminate them. Too many people breathing too much produces too much CO2. Eliminate them. Oh, and here we see a parallel path. In order to accomplish the job of saving the planet, eliminating these things in one country isn't enough. It has to be everywhere. So we should accomplish it by force, a "once for all" approach where we use deadly force as required to eliminate all these offenses worldwide. That would automatically decrease the surplus population, terminate large population centers, and keep us on equal footing internationally.

Mission accomplished! Except, of course, no one is recommending any of this, and the best we're getting is "awareness" and "decrease" (without any scientific support for "only decrease this much"). The causes of the problem are clear, but the solutions, short of annihilation, are not. Dr. Richard B. Rood Professor of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering, University of Michigan, says that if we stopped all carbon emissions today, we wouldn't have the effect we're seeking. "After maybe 40 more years, scientists hypothesize the climate will stabilize at a temperature higher than what was normal for previous generations." Since the limit is 1.5°C and we've already surpassed the 1°C point, terminating CO2 emissions tomorrow won't solve the problem. He says to expect a 4 - 6°C rise before it's all said and done.

And you can't rule out my silly "eliminate the population" solution. In 2012, Paul Ehrlich, professor of population studies at Stanford, suggested a radical reduction in humans on the planet -- from 7 billion to 1.5 - 2 billion -- to save the planet. He's not alone in this thought.
"A total world population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal." Ted Turner

"In order to stabilize world population, we must eliminate 350,000 people per day. It is a horrible thing to say, but it is just as bad not to say it." Jacques Cousteau, 1991 explorer and UNESCO courier

"We must speak more clearly about sexuality, contraception, about abortion, about values that control population, because the ecological crisis, in short, is the population crisis. Cut the population by 90% and there aren't enough people left to do a great deal of ecological damage." Mikhail Gorbachev

"Childbearing should be a punishable crime against society, unless the parents hold a government license. All potential parents should be required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing." David Brower, first Executive Director of the Sierra Club
There are no small numbers of people and organizations that think that decreasing (or eliminating) humans is the best answer. There are no easy answers at all. Lots of people today (especially teens, it seems) believe the solution is simple. Cut emissions a bit and everything will be fine. Current climate science says otherwise. We should stop playing these silly "Do something!" games and figure out just what is important to us. I would hope that murdering 95% of the world's population wouldn't appear to be a viable solution for most of us. Then ... what?

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

Well Played, Satan

I don't know. Maybe I'm just getting old. Maybe I'm becoming one of those "You kids get off my lawn" types of curmudgeons. Maybe. I don't really think so. It's just that it's getting so hard to have a dialog with people these days. It's this war on words that we see today that makes it nearly impossible to talk to people today rather than past them.

Walk through an example. We start with two terms: "white" as in the race and "racist." We can agree that "some whites are racist" because we understand that "white" refers to people of Caucasian persuasion and "racist" refers to prejudice or discrimination directed against someone on the basis of their racial or ethnic group. In fact, given that definition, it would certainly be true that if these "races" of which we speak (as opposed to the human race) are human, there will be "racists" in all of them. But we don't go there. So "Some white people are racist" is fine ... right up until you start to shift the meaning. You move "white people" closer in meaning to "racist" and "racist" closer in meaning to "white people" until we end up with today's Critical Race Theory (CRT) that argues that all white people are racist and only white people can be racist. Wait ... what? We were discussing the problem of racism and how some white people can be racist and suddenly we've defined "white people" as "racist" and "racism" as "white people." How did we get here from there? And how can we discuss this when we no longer have a distinction and no longer have a term for "prejudice or discrimination directed against someone on the basis of their racial or ethnic group" that does not include white people?

We have this going on everywhere. It's like a bait-and-switch thing. "Here, we'll both use this word. You agree? I agree? Good! Now I'm going to change the meaning, reapply my definition for that word to your use of it, and now I have you on record saying some horrendous things." So we'll get these conversations where "I'm concerned about the poor" and "So am I" but then we discover that the first person is concerned about those without basic subsistence and the second is referring to those below the "basic standard of living" and they're not talking about the same thing. You'll see, "I am concerned about the marginalized" and "So am I" and discover that one thinks of the "marginalized" as those on the fringes of society in need attention and the other thinks of "marginalized" as "all gay people and transgendered and minorities" and they're not talking about the same thing. "But, you just said you were concerned about the marginalized and now you're saying you're not." Because Person B applied their own meaning for the term to Person A's use of it Just examples. They're everywhere.

Are you understanding my problem here? I want to talk with people. I want to think things through, discuss them, dialog with folks, identify problems and solutions, all that really important and good stuff. But I can't. Because I say "Christian" and they hear "bigot" and I say "good news" and they hear "better living conditions" and ... well, you get the idea. Right? Oops! "Right" means more than one thing, doesn't it. Sigh.

In biblical history it was God who confused the languages. I'm pretty sure it's not Him this time. I'm pretty sure it's someone else who wants strife rather than peace, hate rather than love, fights rather than dialog. Well played, Satan; well played.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

On Poverty

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is at it again. She has unveiled her Social Justice Warrior (SJW) legislative package, six bills, in the hopes of ensuring "a path forward to economic freedom for everyone." One would require the Census Bureau to generate poverty guidelines in order to recognize poverty. (Frankly, I don't think we do that at all these days -- recognizing poverty. This isn't a horrible idea even if the implementation is doomed to fail.) She has a bill to cap rent increases nationwide to help with the housing crisis and a bill to provide federal benefits for people convicted of a criminal offense and a bill to guarantee access to federal benefits regardless of immigration status. Another would require the Department of Labor to create a "worker-friendly score" for federal contractors, and a resolution would require the Senate (When did the House of Representatives get to require something of the Senate?) to ratify the U.N. Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. (Does she know that the covenant includes the "right to work," which would directly contravene labor unions?) And, of course, the covenant includes, as a fundamental right, the requirement that employers pay a living wage, a term that screams for but has not yet found a viable definition.

Now, despite the beliefs of my detractors, I am not heartless. Nor am I greedy. But I am curious. I ask questions. I try to figure out what's being said. So I started to examine this concept of a "living wage" and "poverty." I want to know what's what in order to do the most good. It turns out I'm not the only one unclear on the concepts.

A living wage calculation for Arizona is suitably vague. A "living wage" for 1 adult alone would be $11.68/hr. That's not $15/hr. A poverty level wage would be half that -- $5.84/hr. Arizona's minimum wage is (currently) $10.50/hr. So it is above the poverty wage but not quite to the "living wage" level. And I'm confused. What is between "living wage" and "poverty"? Well, move along, because from here it gets worse. For 1 adult with 1 child the living wage would be $24.56/hr. For 2 adults (1 working) and 1 child it would be $23.09/hr. For 2 working adults and one child it would be $13.51/hr. So a family of three (2 adults with 1 child) with two adults working requires less than $15/hr while a that same family with only 1 working adult requires substantially more than $15/hr. So what "minimum wage for a living wage" do we shoot for? "Well, you can't require that there be two parents or that the two parents both work, so ..." Oh, okay, so in order to provide a living wage to that family of three, it will be necessary to make $23/hr the minimum wage in the state of Arizona ... for now. And I am lost.

I don't know what a "living wage" is. The default definition is "a wage high enough to maintain a normal standard of living." Surely you can see my immediate confusion. What is a "normal standard of living"? Normal to whom? Where? Because the "normal standard of living" in Beverly Hills is not the same as in, say, Bakersfield. Or Tucumcari, NM, or Arkansas. A "living wage" in San Francisco County, CA, is nearly double that of a living wage for the state of Arizona. What level of "living wage" do we need to demand of the nation? (Think "federal minimum wage".) The range of "living wage" is huge in this country alone and that's without even a clear definition of "living wage."

One website says that a living wage is the amount of money a full-time worker must have to "live above the federal poverty level." The federal government puts out poverty guidelines and thresholds. According to the government the national poverty threshold for a family of one (in 2018) is $12,490. For that family of three it would be $21,330. Above that you are not "in poverty" ... officially. According to the Center for Poverty Research at UC Davis, currently (2017 estimates) the poverty rate in America is 12.3%. Poverty for the U.S. Census Bureau is measured in terms of meeting basic needs. USLegal.com defines "basic needs" as those things necessary to sustain life including "adequate food, shelter, and clothing plus some household equipment and furniture." Because without furniture you cannot live. Okay, that was snarky, but you have to understand my confusion. One article I read said that there is a large group of Americans living in "deep poverty" (defined below 50% of the federal poverty threshold). But if the poverty threshold is the level "necessary to sustain life," how can there be people living below the level to sustain life? And who is telling us the truth? One article tells us that "As of 2012, poverty rates in America had reached the highest rate in half a century" while another holds (as does the U.S. Census Bureau) that poverty has declined over recent years.

"Dirty, rotten, white supremacist," I can already hear. "All you care about is your own money." (The correlation of "white" and "white supremacist" and "your own money" is very vague to me, but it's what I hear from folks.) The characterization, at least in my case, isn't accurate. It's not that I don't care about these people. It's that I do. It's not that I'm unwilling to help. It's that I am. I'm simply pointing out that we're quite vague on "poor" and "poverty," on "living wage" and its definition(s), and all of our thinking about this stuff. I want to help. I just need to know where and how. And the current information isn't clear enough to offer an opinion. When the homeless guy panhandling at the corner is making an effective income of better than $15/hr tax free and I'm being asked to vote for a "living wage" (that apparently well exceeds "poverty levels"), I'm unclear on how to vote. Largely because I still don't understand what is meant by "living wage" or "poverty" and because no one seems to be taking into account that a vote for a "living wage" minimum wage increase will absolutely increase the cost of living. That is, I don't know where to go to get some actual, coherent thought on the topic in order to do the most good. I am pretty sure it's not AOC.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Biblical Government

If we consult our "manual" on matters of faith and practice, what can we find about what government God endorses? Maybe it's monarchy or anarchy, communism or socialism, democracy or federal, ecclesiastical or a dictatorship. All sorts of options (and more than I've listed). Which does the Bible prefer?

When God put together the family group of Abraham's grandson, Jacob, called "Israel," out of Egypt, He formed a theocracy. Their government was God. He laid out the laws. He laid out the penalties for violating those laws. He ruled Israel as their government. So, a theocracy is a good idea, right? Well, sure.

After awhile, the people jettisoned their Governor (with a capital "G") and demanded a new form of government. They wanted a king. And God answered their prayer. He gave them Saul. Of course, when the prophet, Samuel, took the request to God, He told him, "They have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them" (1 Sam 8:7). So, a monarchy was okayed but not thoroughly endorsed by God. It might work ... or it might not (1 Sam 8:9-18). Another good idea? Maybe.

Some have argued that the Bible supports communism or, at least, socialism. Communism is a government where all property and production is publicly owned and people are paid according to their need. Socialism is primarily the economic principles of communism. But are they biblical? Acts 2 describes the community of the first believers as holding all things in common (Acts 2:44-45). See? Communism. But the text goes on to clearly deny that this was mandatory (Acts 5:4) and presents it as a completely voluntary thing. Paul said that we shouldn't be giving under compulsion (2 Cor 9:7). Further, he warned, "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat" (2 Thess 3:10) in direct opposition to "according to their need" of communism or socialism. A place where everyone shares with everyone is certainly a good idea; it just isn't a good idea as a mandatory thing.

As any good modern person knows, the best government is a democracy. Okay, maybe not practical, but at least a republic -- a federal government where the leadership is selected somehow by the people. Clearly the best. Except there isn't any mention of that sort of thing in the Bible. Scripture, it appears, doesn't seem to endorse any particular type. Israel started as a theocracy and the government of heaven will be a theocracy, so that would appear to be the optimum. It's just not expected here.

Scripture does support human government (e.g., Rom 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-15; 1 Tim 2:1-2). A good government here opposes evil and promotes good. Oddly, it doesn't seem to provide goods and services. Peter says that government is "sent by Him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right" (1 Peter 2:14). Taxation is clearly allowed by Scripture (Matt 22:20-22; Rom 13:6-7). And an oppressive government is considered ... oppressive (Acts 4:19; Acts 5:29). For believers, God is the ultimate government. You know, the "King of kings and Lord of lords."

So the Bible favors a government. It limits its reach and argues against mandatory socialism. It does not endorse capitalism (an economic system) or a democracy or republic. It does not oppose monarchies or dictators on the face of them, but opposes oppressive governments. Looks like we can't look to the Bible to determine which government we should have. Guess we'll just have to rely on God.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Good News

We know that "Gospel" means "good news." And we know what the "good news" is ... right? Actually, sometimes I wonder. I wonder because there is so much clutter, so much noise, so many other things going on. And, hey, I'm not pointing fingers. I'm part of it. For instance, on me, I will point out that I think it is key -- fundamental -- to point out the bad news. I mean, if you don't know how bad things are, how can you know how good the news is? But sometimes things like this get in the way of the plain, simple presentation of the good news. Just what is it?

Some people will point to "pie in the sky by and by" kinds of things. "Someday we'll get to heaven." "Someday we'll lbe finally and completely happy." Well, sure, but that's not it. That's some, but absolutely not all ... or even most of it. So what is the "good news"?

Mark set out to write about "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mark 1:1). In person, the good news is Jesus Christ. Paul explains more.
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. (1 Cor 15:1-8)
So the overarching "good news" is "Jesus Christ, the Son of God," and the framework is Christ crucified for our sins, buried, and raised again ... with witnesses. That is the basic good news. But it is surely lacking in detail. I mean, it would be easy to say, "Um, yeah, okay ... but what's so good about that?" Or, "So what?" And that's the right question.

The good news is that because Christ came to seek and to save, we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Col 1:14). Not someday. Now. We know that Romans 3:23 states the problem -- "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" -- but that's in the middle of a thought that continues on. We are "justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3:24). Christ is described as "a propitiation" -- removing the animosity of a righteous God (Rom 3:22) toward sinners (Rom 3:23). That's big. And it's not "by and by." We have been blessed by the Father with "every spiritual blessing" in Christ (Eph 1:3) (and a list follows that reference). We have a personal relationship with Christ, filled by the Spirit and enabled and empowered by God. He has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." "So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" (Heb 13:5-6). We have specific spiritual gifts, special roles and abilities given by the Spirit for use now (1 Cor 12:4-7). We are "more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Rom 8:37). God supplies needs (Php 4:19). We sing of "amazing grace" and "unending love." They're ours. We speak of mercy -- God's righteous anger withheld. It's ours. Victory, power, joy now. Paul wrote, "He Himself is our peace" (Eph 2:14). The One who will never leave us is our peace. No one else has peace like that. And while we are assured that there will also be suffering, even our suffering is designed to benefit and bring joy (James 1:2-4).

We have indeed gone astray. We've defied God, shook our fists in His face. There is, indeed, "bad news." But that only makes the Gospel -- the good news -- that much bigger. All our sins are washed away. Now (1 John 1:9). We are part of a new, eternal family (John 1:12; Eph 1:5-6). The God of the Universe has (already ... now) reconciled us to Himself (Rom 5:10; 2 Cor 5:18) in order to present us holy and blameless (Col 1:22). We enjoy what Paul refers to as the "incalculable riches of Christ" (Eph 3:8). Ours today and forevermore. Sin is erased and righteousness applied (2 Cor 5:21). Is the good news "someday"? Well, sure, but it is now, too. For all who believe. For everyday existence -- love, joy peace, etc. -- and more. For now and forever.

Don't miss out on the good news.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

News Weakly - 9/28/19

The End of the World as We Know It
Greta Thunberg really gave it to them this time. "How dare you!" She told the UN to get right on that end-of-the-world climate change problem. (I could almost hear, "Don't make me come back here.")

My problem is not with Thunberg or climate change or the UN. I do question the wisdom of taking direction from children. But my real problem is with the continuing question, "What do you want?" They say things like "100% clean energy by 2050," but what is that? It isn't what what they seem to think it is. The same science that warns of the impending doom of climate change also says that if all human activity ceased tomorrow, the temperatures would continue to rise for 2 more decades. Science tells us that the current conditions are due not merely to fossil fuels, but to the entire Industrial Age. If we are to fix this problem (and some scientists say it's too late), the solution appears to be a return to an agrarian society without modern technology because everything we do with modern technology produces climate impact. (If you think I'm exaggerating, consider Bernie Sanders who suggested it would be wise to kill babies in 3rd world nations to improve climate conditions.) What do you want us to do? Seems like it's either the end of the world as we know it (eliminate all modern technology world wide and most humans) or the end of the world as we know it (everyone dies anyway).

And Now for Something Completely Different
It shouldn't really be a surprise. In a world where reality is decided by how I feel about it, it stands to reason that eventually a man can become a mother. The courts in the UK have ruled that "An individual who is born female but later becomes male and gives birth to a child should be legally regarded as a mother." Now, that seems thoroughly reasonable to you and me, because he is actually a she. But she's not. They ruled that the man is classified as a mother. Fred (the name the biological woman assumed) wanted to be called the father. No one can convince him that "father" is a person who provides the sperm and "mother" the egg for this transaction. But, hey, in a world where "literally" can be used to communicate "not literally" and you can feel like a different gender and that's real but you can't feel like a different race and have it be real, why would we expect otherwise? (If the court was to rule with what we like to call "science," they would have ruled that the woman who gave birth was the mother, regardless of how that woman felt about her gender.)

Inconsistency
Mattel is coming out with a new line of dolls in contrast to Barbie, the epitome of femininity. These will be "gender-neutral dolls." Because children "don't want their toys dictated by gender norms." Of course, no one is paying attention to the fact that when John decides to be Judy he takes on as many "Barbie" features as he can. Because gender is not what we think it is ... unless it is. That is, this isn't a move to not be dictated to; it is a move to eradicate differences we cannot avoid being aware of.

Divide and Conquer
So apparently, unbeknownst to me, someone somewhere in some hate group has used the "OK" hand symbol -- yeah, that one with thumb and index finger forming an "O" and the other three fingers up to kind of make it look like a "K". Bam! Now it's a hate symbol. You signal to someone that it's "OK" and you're a hater. And heaven help you if you do it while wearing a "bowl style" haircut. Hate!! So says the Anti-Defamation League. The standard for declaring a symbol as hate appears to be that it is used a lot by people that hate. Given the vast array of people who hate and the large numbers of symbols they use, shouldn't be long before anything at all qualifies. ("Hey, did I just see that white supremacist smile? I've seen a bunch of them do that. We'll call a smile a hate symbol.")

The Solution of "Awareness"
Greta Thunberg, et.al, want us, as one of the solutions to the horror of climate change, to be more aware of the climate change problem. AOC, as one of the solutions to poverty, wants us to be more aware of the poverty problem. Parents of 13-year-old "Diego" of Moreno Valley wanted the school district to be more aware of the problem of bullying in their schools. They knew; Diego died anyway. Maybe "awareness" isn't the solution it's cracked up to be. "We're beyond 'thoughts and prayers' -- 'awareness' is a better answer." Not so much.

Van Ban
Alek Minassian, a 26-year-old Toronto man, is what they call an "incel" -- an "involuntary celibate." These folks are over the top. The military has warned of possible violence at screenings of the new movie, Joker, from this group. Minassian is reported to have run down 10 people in Toronto last year with a van in frustration over never having had a girlfriend.

Lawmakers are working hard to ban vans and to make sure incels have girls in order to save lives. No?

Not the Babylon Bee
Climate change is insidious. NASA is saying that Venu was habitable "for up to 2 billion years." What happened? A sudden climate change made it "a hellish world." They know this because they ran their climate change modeling software on Venus and proved it. (No one appears to be asking, "Um, is it possible that your climate modeling software is not right?") If it wasn't a NASA site, I would have chalked the story up to satire.

Loving Their Kid
In Portland, OR, parents of a 6-year-old boy are beginning their son's transition to being a teenage mutant ninja turtle after he expressed his wishes to be one. "It's important for parents to listen to their kids' every desire and immediately affirm that desire," his dad said. "Imagine how much harm you would do to your kids if you impressed your beliefs on them instead of listening to their subjective opinion of reality."

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.