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Friday, March 31, 2017

Not-Quite Solas

You may have heard of the "5 solas". "Sola" is "alone" in Latin, so the Reformers had these five "alones": sola fide, sola gratia, solus Christus, sola scriptura, and soli Deo gloria. Okay, in English, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. We are ruled by Scripture alone and all glory goes to God alone. All well and good. Except they aren't true. Well, not true in the sense of "alone". And this, I think, is the cause of some confusion with some people.

The easy one first -- soli Deo gloria. Is it not true that God gets all the glory. Well, mostly. We do know, for instance, that God's plan is to predestine some "to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom 8:29). "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 8:30) So there is certainly a sense in which God's people will be "glorified". In the end, however, God gets the glory for that, so let's let that one go.

One of the most controversial is sola scriptura. What do we mean? Does it mean that the Bible is the sole source for truth? No, it doesn't. Then in what sense is Scripture "sola" -- alone? Well, by the term we mean that as the Word God breathed, Scripture is our sole authority on matters of faith and practice. Not on math, science, or biology. Not on politics, psychology, or economics. But when it comes to the Christian faith and how we ought to practice that faith, Scripture, as God's Word, is our sole authority. (Of course, this may have an impact on math, politics, economics, or the like, but you get what I'm saying, right?)

So, two of these "solas", as it turns out, are not strictly "alone". What we're finding is that they are "alone" in the sense that they exclude something specific. We give all glory to God and no one else. Others are excluded. Scripture is our sole authority in matters and faith and not the Roman Catholic Church, the priesthood, or the enlightened pentecostal down the street. This same idea works out in the other three.

We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Indeed, this is almost word for word from Scripture. Except, of course, the "alones" aren't in there. So we read, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God." (Eph 2:8) This is true. Saved by grace through faith. Notice, however, that it doesn't say "in Christ". That's easily resolved, of course, but it's not in there. And this is significant for this discussion. You see, we are not saved by faith alone. You can see it in the phrase itself. We are saved by grace through faith in Christ. That's three things, not "alone". Scripture says, "The demons believe—and shudder!" (James 2:19) Faith alone saves no one. What, then, do we mean by sola fide? We mean that we are saved through faith apart from works. That's the intent. It is, in fact, critical. "Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness." (Rom 4:4-5) It is the distinctive of Christianity. We are not saved by works; we are saved by faith.

But not faith alone. We are saved by grace, too. How does that work? What is the phrase sola gratia intended to convey? It is intended, again, to exclude something. What? It excludes merit. "But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace." (Rom 11:6) We are saved on the pure kindness of God apart from any value in ourselves.

That leaves us with solus Christus. Clearly we are saved by grace through faith, so "alone" still doesn't quite apply, so what is intended here? As I've said, faith alone saves no one. If it did, "I believe I'll have another beer" would be a saving faith. Trust me; it's not. No, in order for us to be saved, there must be grace from someone and there must be faith in someone and that someone must be the right someone. Thus, solus Christus means we are saved by faith in Christ and in no other. It is a reference to the exclusivity of the Christian faith. As Peter told the crowds, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

That about rounds it up. While these solas are not actually alone, it is true that we are to live our lives to God's glory alone. It is true that Scripture is our sole authority in matters of faith and practice. It is true that we are saved through faith apart from works by grace apart from merit in Christ and no other. And when you think it all through, you find that these are quite comprehensive. I, for one, am glad for the five not-quite solas.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Make America Great Again

There is a famous quote, falsely attributed to Alexis de Toqueville, that is, despite its lack of a sure source, true.
Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.1
"That's quite a claim, Stan. How can you say that it's true?" Well, think about it. Is it not always true? Consider. In order for any government to be good, it requires that government to be good. That is, you might have a monarchy where the monarch is good and it will be good or a dictator where the dictator is good and you will have a benevolent dictatorship. If the governing body is good, the government will be good. Pretty simple. When you then substitute the "better" government of either a democracy or our republican-style government "of the people, by the people, and for the people", what has to be good in order for us to have a good government? The people. Simple. So in order for a republic to have a good government and, therefore, a good country, the people have to be good. And we're right back at that quote.

Here's the problem. While the standard default for most people is "People are basically good", the truth is that they are not ... and now we have a problem. (If you don't believe the Bible's version, simply look at the daily news version.) It is a problem the Founding Fathers understood. They understood that a self-governed people could only have a great nation as long as they were self-governed themselves -- as long as they were moral. The more unruly the people, the more government would be required to step in. Freedom would be diminished because a democracy of unruly, immoral people produces an unruly, immoral government. So when we see "big government" at work, you can be pretty sure it's not because government is evil, but because people are evil.

This last election cycle our now-president ran on a "Make America Great Again" slogan. In this idea, originally the Reagan slogan, is a misconception -- America can be great without being good. That is, "The answer is in a better government." Truth is no president, no Congress, no judiciary has the capability to "Make America Great Again". It is not within their power. And trusting in any form of government to provide that greatness is pure foolishness.

This is when Scripture is handy to have around. Jesus said, "No one is good except God alone." (Mark 10:18) David wrote, "There is no one who does good, not even one." (Psa 14:3) Isaiah said that the best we can do is like filthy garments (Isa 64:6). From God's perspective, if America's greatness lies in having good people, "Make America Great Again" looks bleak. But there is another side -- good news, if you will. Paul's prayer was that he would "be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith." (Phil 3:9) He wrote, "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2 Cor 5:21) That is, while humans by nature are not good, there is a righteousness available -- the righteousness found in Christ. If we want to "Make America Great Again", it is not going to happen by beating the Left into submission, hiring the right judges, or getting rid of or embracing (depending on you persuasion) President Trump's views. It is found in the Good News that we can be saved by grace through faith in Christ. It is not in better government; it is in better people. And, as it happens, we know the One who can make better people. So, in the Internet vernacular, SHARE.
________
1 The best source I can find for the quote is from two English Congregational ministers who traveled in the United States in 1834. They wrote a book, A Narrative of the Visit to the American Churches by the Deputation from the Congregational Union of England and Wales (London, 1836), in which they wrote, "Universal suffrage, whatever may be its abstract merits or demerits, is neither desirable nor possible, except the people are the subjects of universal education and universal piety. America will be great if America is good. If not, her greatness will vanish away like a morning cloud." Not the same thing, but close.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Pick and Choose

If you've been around much at all, you've heard the accusation. "You Christians pick and choose which verses you're going to obey." Pretty common. Why do they say it? Well, at the bottom, of course, it's because they figure if they can cast aspersions on us, they can use that as a reason to ignore God. Fine. But what is the more surface reason? Well, it's largely based on the fact that we don't follow the Jewish laws of dress and food and animal sacrifice but do aim to follow the moral law, not for salvation, but to obey the God we claim to follow. Because of the fact that the surface reason is not the actual reason for the accusation, the truth is that no matter how much we say about how Christ fulfilled the ceremonial laws or about how we are not under the Old Testament civil laws, they will retain the accusation. The real aim is to avoid responding to God. It's called a red herring.

There is still, however, a problem. The reality is that any honest, genuine, Bible-believing Christian would have to admit that we do indeed pick and choose what commands we will obey. And not on the basis of Christ's fulfillment of the sacrifices required or us not being part of Israel's civil laws. It's because of our refusal to obey. To our shame.

Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15) Notice the form; it is indicative, not prescriptive. It says what will happen if you love Him, not what you must do to love Him. John wrote, "By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, 'I have come to know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him." (1 John 2:3-5) This is not to suggest that perfection is required to know Him. It does suggest that a persistent failure to follow Him is a reason to question your relationship with Him. (Remember, 1 John 2:3-5 is preceded by 1 John 2:1-2 in which John tells us of the Advocate we have in Christ when we sin. Perfection is not in view here; rampant refusal to obey His commands is.)

Sure, we all sin in many ways (James 3:2). He might, in a moment of weakness, find himself looking at porn and repent. She might, without thinking, opt to refuse to submit to her husband and regret it. Oh, and there is the ever present "pride monster", a roaring lion of its own waiting to attack us. We all do it. I'm not talking about sinning -- about the normal sin-repent cycle we all experience. I'm talking about refusal to obey. Obedience is important, and I'm suggesting that we seem to have a systemic disobedience in many of the commands we've been given. What kinds of commands am I referring to? Well, we all know the command sequence Paul gave the Thessalonians.
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5:16-18)
How well would you say you do that? Any of it? Rejoice, pray, give thanks? Notice the superlatives: "always", "without ceasing", "in everything". A bit much, right? But Paul says that "this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus", so it would seem to be important. Do you? Do you at least make an effort? We often wonder, "What is God's will for my life?" and we have something here in print in God's inspired Word and we seem to largely ignore it. Doesn't that seem problematic?

We live in America, the home of the brave ... and exceedingly rich by the world's standards. So I would argue that most of us struggle with covetousness and greed. We find excuses for not being satisfied and think up ways why it would be good and right to be greedy ... which Scriptures calls "idolatry" (Col 3:5). I'm not talking about the "slip and fall" type. I'm talking about the sustained "No, I don't have to obey that command" type. That seems like an issue for American Christians.

Which of us has never heard of the Great Commission? It is, after all, part of the grand scheme of God in which believers are to take part.
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt 28:19-20)
We are ostensibly followers of Christ. That's what "Christian" means. He gave this Great Commission to His followers. "Make disciples." Do we? Sure, it's big. It includes going and spreading the gospel. It includes baptism. It includes teaching them "all that I commanded you." It should be done as Jesus did (since we are, after all, followers of Christ). Do we do anything like this on the whole? Do you know a church that teaches and practices discipleship? Is your Christian experience one of being discipled and discipling others? Here we have a straightforward command from our Lord based on His ultimate authority (Matt 28:18) and yet we calmly and coolly mostly skip out on it. We don't even do the watered down version much -- "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." (Mark 16:15) "It's okay," we tell ourselves. "There are missionary types who will do this for us. We can keep safe here in our shell as long as we give out some dollars to support them, can't we?" This is a prime command from our Lord Jesus Christ not given to Old Testament Israel but to the Church that we largely choose to ignore in our personal lives.

Just a few examples. Not small ones, big ones. We don't even need to go with the top two: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and body, and love your neighbor as yourself. How hard do we work at those two? Not hard enough, I'd guess. I think if you looked at Scripture you'd find a tendency in yourself to pick and choose what commands you'll obey and what you'll ignore. So while we fend off the false accusation of the skeptics in theory, we end up affirming it in practice. Mind you, I'm not pointing fingers at you here. I'm looking in a mirror. I suspect, however, that other genuine, Bible-believing Christians might find that they might see a similar reflection in their own mirrors. I know it has been fairly common in my long Christian experience. So maybe you might want to "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!" (2 Cor 13:5) You know, "Be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you." (2 Peter 1:10) We who wish to follow Christ ought to be following Christ, oughtn't we? Not picking and choosing.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

You Deserve It

A recent Princeton study says that there is a disturbing trend on the rise. Apparently "death rates for white Americans without a college degree are on the rise, largely driven by increased rates of drug overdose, suicide, and alcohol use." While death rates are dropping in almost all categories and even nations, white, uneducated Americans are dying off faster than ever before. That's the numbers. What's the reason?

They're calling them "deaths of despair." It's not an income issue, they say. Mortality rates among others of the same income are dropping. It's not a global trend, as death rates among whites in other countries are falling. One wise fellow suggested it's likely because other countries provide universal health coverage. Um, okay. The authors of the study offered a preliminary guess that a "cumulative disadvantage over life, in the labor market, in marriage and child outcomes, and in health, is triggered by progressively worsening labor market opportunities at the time of entry for whites with low levels of education." That is, they aren't satisfied with the job market and can't get the jobs that others can so they're despondent and, thus, self-destructive. They suggest that current obesity rates are also part of this mindset.

I would have to disagree with the "wise fellow" from the Washington Post that suggested it's despondence over the lack of universal health coverage. I wouldn't disagree with the notion that it's a problem of despair, but I'm not sure it's because they're blue collar workers. I would suggest it's because our culture has worked so hard in the last 20 years to endorse and urge covetousness. "What?" you ask. Think about it. We had that whole "1%" thing where large numbers were protesting the fact that people were rich ... and they weren't. There has been this sharp rise in "socialism in America" where we more and more believe that we are owed stuff ... better stuff. Healthcare. Education. A living wage. And we will have it now! More young people no longer believe in a meritocracy where you earn what you get and get what you earn, but think they ought to just have it. Credit card debt is through the roof as we're all trying to get what we want rather than what we can afford. We are engulfed in covetousness. "You deserve" is our motto, and what goes after that is so widely variable as to be unbelievable. You deserve a break. You deserve a good cup of coffee. You deserve being happy. You deserve peace and love. You deserve to do what you want. You deserve success. It goes on and on. And it's not true. But we want it and others have it, so we covet it and when it looks like we can't get it, it's not pretty.

I am not here to fix the problems of society. I'm not here to correct the immoral covetousness of today anymore than anyone could fix the covetousness of yesteryear. We've long had this issue of "keeping up with the Joneses" and today's version is just that version on steroids where we covet as a virtue. What the world needs now is not better income equity and universal health coverage. What the world needs now is Christ. And what we -- we Christians -- need to be diligent to do is to learn to be content with what we have (Phil 4:11). Jesus told us, "Do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matt 6:31-33) We need to avoid societal covetousness and seek the Lord first. (And a little hint: Don't ever demand from God what you deserve. I don't think you'd actually want that.)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Indoctrination

I recently heard of a Facebook complaint (I only heard of it because someone else told me; I don't do Facebook.) that a Christian school was just an indoctrination center where kids are taught Christian propaganda and brainwashed. Really? Is that so? How awful!

Indoctrination is defined as "the act of indoctrinating". Not helpful. Not helpful at all. At its core is clearly the word, "doctrine", and, therefore, at its core is the concept of teaching a doctrine, especially of a particular point of view. But, of course, we don't use it that way much anymore. No. "Indoctrination" is a bad word. Most people understand it to carry a more sinister meaning. You will find such synonyms as "brainwash" and "propaganda" connected to it. One source includes "the process of teaching a person or group to accept a set of beliefs uncritically." And that gets more to the point, doesn't it? The idea is that it is doctrine without question. Brainwashing. See?

The idea of "indoctrination" produces some questions. Is it present as often as we say it is? Who is doing it? Is it bad?

When a preacher preaches the Word, they call it "indoctrination". He presents it from one perspective -- his own -- and doesn't actually ask for analysis. The congregation has little opportunity for feedback or correction. Indoctrination? Is it indoctrination if it is the truth? Jesus gave little room for disagreement or critique. "The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works." (John 14:10) That is, "Believe Me or not, but if not, you're disbelieving the Father." Indoctrination? And if it is the truth, is it bad? Is it wrong to present the truth without criticism?

Over against this is the question, often it seems, of a double standard. "Propaganda" is information of biased nature used to promote or publicize a particular cause or point of view and is linked to "indoctrination" ... both of which are words we use to get people to side with us on our biased position about which we do not want them to think. They're catchphrases, so to speak, intended to cause an emotional response without analysis of the question at hand. Like "homophobe", "bigot", and "hater", they cause you to feel before you ever think. So the people that typically throw out the words "propaganda" and "indoctrination" are using them as propaganda and indoctrination. Beyond this, if "indoctrination" is presenting a one-sided view without presenting opposing views in order to cause people to accept the one-sided view, is this not precisely the demand of science education everywhere when considering Evolution (with a capital "E")? "No, we will not present opposing views on this topic." Is that not by definition indoctrination? And how does it differ from the teaching that Christians offer about which they so sorely complain?

There are certain sins in this society that are not merely condoned, but embraced and celebrated. The woman that heroically kills her unborn child or the man that bravely decides he's a woman or the multitudes that wisely cohabitate before marriage are all considered good and admirable. There are certain sins in this society that are not tolerated. First appears to be intolerance, defined as failing to embrace as good the sins that society embraces as good. We will not tolerate that. Another is certainty. Certainty about anything Christian in particular is wrong, wrong, wrong. Of that we're certain. Another is teaching something as true. We call it "indoctrination". Teaching something true as if it is true without question is evil. Except, of course, if the thing you're teaching as if it is true without question is the position that "Teaching something true as if it is true without question is evil." We surely live in a world of convoluted, twisted, and double standards. And they say we're the problem.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Majesty and Humility

David's Psalm 8 begins with the glorious, "O LORD, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!" (Psa 8:1) The verse alone swells praise in the heart. But he goes on.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?
Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
(Psa 8:3-5)
Does that not baffle and amaze you? Is it not astounding that the One who made the nature that surrounds us would have a care about us? When you consider the vastness of the universe and how immeasurably small we are in comparison to the universe, let alone God Himself, why would God take thought of Man or care for him? We in our arrogance would assume that it is our great worth, our supreme importance. That makes no sense at all. Indeed, if you look at all creation, you'd have to wonder how we could think such a thing. But ... we do. Routinely. Insanely.

Given, then, our insane and, in fact, evil self-centeredness, it is all the more amazing that the Creator of the heavens and earth would deign to take notice of us. But, He does. He sent His Son. His Son humbled Himself to be a human and die for us. In this, His majesty is magnified. And I am humbled.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

News Weakly - 3/25/2017

In a World Gone Mad
The Bible argues that what is needed for Christians is "the renewal of your mind" (Rom 12:2) because, apparently, sin rots the brain (Rom 1:28). Apparently the Bible has access to today's news stories. Like the one where a mother and her son have decided to "transition" to a father and daughter. I'm not at all clear how it is possible that the world would miss the fact that "mother" and "son" require particular components and relationships that no amount of surgery or medical science can change to "father" and "daughter". But that appears to be the case, given our acceptance of a "men's gold medalist" who now identifies as "Caitlyn Jenner" and we all nod and use female pronouns and decry those who raise an objection. Or the story about the female pastor who identifies as a male preaching a sermon on how God is transgender. (Psst! Confused preacher! "Transgender" is defined as "denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity does not correspond with the gender assigned to them at birth." What possible way can that definition, whether such a thing exists or not, be applied to God who had no birth?) A world gone mad.

Godwin's Law
Godwin's Law is an Internet rule that says, essentially, that if an argument goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Hitler. You know. "End of discussion, you evil person." So, it appears that Tim Allen has proven the rule. Except it was crazy. Actor and comedian Tim Allen told Jimmy Kimmel that being a conservative in Hollywood is like living in '30's Germany. We get it, right? Except it outraged the Anne Frank Center whose executive director demanded an apology to the Jewish people. Now, mind you, Tim did not say it was like being a Jew in 1930's Germany. And Germany in the 1930's was marked by hatred and restrictions of freedoms and in other ways there are indeed similarities. Nor was there outrage from the executive director when someone compared Trump to Hitler. How odd!

Values Clarification
We here in the "civilized" world can't seem to see that God has placed value in human beings as made in His image, so we've made abortion legal. In other places, they're giving human rights to rivers. Yes, rivers. Well, I suppose it's just as irrational as abortion. We value human life ... except when we value sexual freedom over human life. In India they declare the Ganges and Yamuna rivers as sacred while authorities estimate "1 billion gallons of waste enter the Ganges every day" and the Yamuna is considered dead from too much pollution. Makes as much sense.

The $10 million comma
Now, this is no big story -- no huge ramifications or critical issues -- but it is a story right up my alley. Maine milk-truck drivers won a $10 million suit for unpaid overtime on the basis of a missing comma. The state law exempts overtime for "The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods." The truckers argued that they did not do canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, or packing, so they were not exempt from overtime. They argued that the phrase, "packing for shipment or distribution", lacking the comma between "shipment" and "or", made a complete thought (instead of "packing for shipment" being one thought and "distribution" the other). They further explained the missing conjunction between "storing" and "packing" as an "asyndeton", an omission or absence of a conjunction between parts of a sentence for emphasis. (For instance, "I came, I saw, I conquered.") The State of Maine specifically instructs those who draft legal statutes not to use the comma known as the "Oxford comma" or the "serial comma" and the need for the use of the comma is hotly debated, but the court ruled in their favor in this case.

Thank You Very Much
Princeton Seminary gives out an annual award in Reformed theology and public witness. Who would have guessed? They had announced this year that it would go to Tim Keller, one of America's currently most popular Reformed pastors and authors. Luckily, the Presbyterian Church (USA) (PCUSA) with which Princeton is aligned protested because Keller takes a biblical view of things like women and LGBT pastors and such, so the seminary tossed that idea right out. I mean, that lowdown dirty pastor believes that God made men and women differently, nay, to complement each other (Gen 2:18-24) and supports male church leadership (2 Tim 2:11-15) and holds, worst of all, that "the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God" ... including those who engage in homosexual behavior (1 Cor 6:9-10). The audacity! Besides, he's a Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) pastor, the heretic. Although the seminary boasts such conservative biblical scholars as Bruce Metzger, James Moorehead, Geerhardus Vos, Charles Hodge, B.B. Warfield, and J. Gresham Machen among its graduates, its ongoing dedication to PCUSA theology and denying the award for standing on biblical truth would suggest that a refusal to honor Keller in this way would be a compliment to the man.

"We're sorry; we're not going to honor you because you're too true to Scripture."

"Thank you ... thank you very much."

Just Weird
So, remember all those bomb threats to Jewish community centers of late? Turns out it appears to be the work of an 18-year-old kid with dual citizenship in both the U.S. and Israel. He's Jewish. It seems to be a case of Jewish anti-Semitism. (That's what the Jewish Anti-Defamation League is saying, not me.) The reports says he has some mental problems and the motivation isn't clear, but ... that's just weird.

Friday, March 24, 2017

God Revealed

In his epistle to the Romans Paul writes the wonderful, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Rom 1:16) Good stuff. He says, "For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'" (Rom 1:17) Powerful. But it begs the question, doesn't it? "Salvation ... from what? Why do we need salvation?" And Paul answers that in the very next verse.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Rom 1:18-20)
"Saved from what?" The wrath of God. "Why is God angry?" Because of the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. We violate God (ungodliness) and we violate each other (unrighteousness). "How do we do this?" We suppress the truth. "Oh, really? What truth?" The truth about God. Paul says that we are without excuse in this because God's power and nature have been "clearly perceived". "How?" In the things that have been made.

Now, most of us get that. I mean, David wrote, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork." (Psa 19:1) We get that. I love watching nature shows because they scream design. "Wow," they make me say, "God designed our world like that." You just have to look at nature, the skies, the heavens, and you can see the power of God. But ... what about His "divine nature"? How does the natural world tell us about God's "invisible attributes"? We might be able to come up with some answers there -- good ones -- but I think we're missing some really big ones. And I think that the reason we're missing them is because of the suppression of truth that has been practiced for so long.

Consider. It says that we can know about God "in the things that have been made." So there is nature ... sure. But besides nature, what has been made? One of the earliest things God made was work. "The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it." (Gen 2:15) We know this is significant in terms of the character of God because the principle of the Sabbath is based on it (Exo 20:8-11). So, God works and God designed Adam to work.

What else? How about one of the first things God made after the classic Creation? "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (Gen 2:24) (Side question: Who said this? Many think it was Adam. Jesus says it was God (Matt 19:4-6).) God made marriage. Remember, we can know God "in the things that have been made." So in marriage we can see God's invisible attributes. We can see love (Eph 5:25-26; 1 John 4:7-8). We can see authority (1 Cor 11:3; Matt 28:18) and submission (Eph 5:22-24; John 6:38; 1 Cor 15:28). We can see the Mystical Union (Eph 5:31-32). Complex and invisible attributes clearly indicated in marriage.

It's interesting. In many of the spheres of life -- work, marriage, family, society, government, etc. -- I think you can find many of the invisible attributes of God. I think, if you look at it, you'll also find that the areas that most clearly reflect the nature of God are also the areas under attack from Satan. So areas like work, marriage, submission, authority, and the like are popular targets of the father of lies. Conversely, I think if we're to view these areas from a biblical worldview, we'd need to do so as reflections of the character of God (Rom 11:36; Col 1:16-17). And if this is true, our failure to do so is part of the suppression of the truth that angers God.And we're back to the need for the gospel.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ephesians 5 Marriage and Divorce

Okay, so it's somewhat of a large passage. But it's necessary, so I'll put it down here and then refer to it as we go:
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of His body. 31 "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Eph 5:17-33)
Ephesians 5 is famous for what it says to married couples. Or should I say "infamous"? Truth be told, a lot of people, even Christians, don't much like it. All that "wives submit" stuff and all. Gotta do something different, right? Well, in fact, we don't get that option if we're going to be true to the Word of God. We need to stick with what He says. My point here, however, is not to repeat the very clear commands of God that wives submit to their husbands and husbands love their wives as themselves. I mean, it's abundantly clear, even if you don't like it. You'll have to decide whether you're going to classify your feelings and preferences as right ... or God. My consideration here is the question of divorce in light of the text.

Now, to be sure, divorce is not mentioned here. You won't likely hear a preacher come to this text to talk about it, for or against. It's just not in here. I, however, would like to consider divorce from the perspective of what Ephesians 5 says here on marriage. Note, first, the aim of the text: "Understand what the will of the Lord is." Now, all Christians want that, right? So let's go there.

Paul here gives the famous "do not get drunk with wine ... but be filled with the Spirit" line. This, then, ought to be our starting point. We aren't reveling in our personal passions; we're operating on the Spirit. And what first do we know about the Spirit-filled life? "Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit." (Rom 8:5) "Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh." (Gal 5:16) So, "flesh" and "Spirit" are opposed and those who live by the Spirit aren't fulfilling the sinful desires of the flesh. Got it. That's how we get to the command that we should be "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ."

This brings us to the upsetting text. On one hand we have, "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." Many people (especially of the female persuasion) don't like that one. Somewhere along the way "submit" became a bad word. It is, of course, biblical (e.g., 1 Cor 14:34; 2 Cor 9:13; Heb 13:17; James 4:7; etc.), but that doesn't seem to help. Jesus submitted Himself to the Father, but that's Him, not us. So "submit" is bad and "wives submit to their husbands" is really bad; somewhat sexist, isn't it? "Me? Submit to him? Not likely." The other "offense" doesn't seem to be quite as offensive: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church." "That seems reasonable," most wives will say, even when you point out that Christ loved the church to His own death. At that point, however, most guys balk. "Wait ... that sounds a lot like submitting my own interests to taking care of her over myself." And we're stuck again with an unpleasant idea. So let me point out, regardless of how you feel about it, it's in there. It's biblical. These are the commands of God. Like them or don't, obey them or not, you will be doing so to God.

So, what do we see regarding marriage in this text? We see that wives are to submit to husbands as to the Lord. How does that work? Do we submit to the Lord as long as we like what He says and stop when we don't? Do we submit when it's comfortable and not when it's uncomfortable? Wives are commanded to respect their husbands (which, by the way, includes the same sense of "fear" that the Bible commands all believers to have toward God). Do we respect (fear) God only when He earns our respect and not when He doesn't do what we want? Clearly, no, in all cases. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. How is that? Well, when everyone was in rebellion ("while we were yet sinners") He died for us. That is, it isn't merely doing what's best for us in a friendly situation. Christ died for a Church that was, at the time, hating Him. That is the kind of love husbands are supposed to have for their wives. Paul also describes it as "husbands should love their wives as their own bodies." This isn't a part time or variable. It is without reserve. That is, it is a form of submission on the part of the husband where his personal comfort and preferences are secondary to the needs of his wife.

And how is this related to divorce? When the Jews asked Jesus, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" His reply was not ambiguous. He answered, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." (Matt 19:4-6) Short version: "Is there any reason one can divorce one's wife?" "No." Now, that is a shorthand "no", but when you consider what is commanded of a wife to submit to her husband as to the Lord and what is commanded of a husband to love his wife as Christ loved the Church, on what possible basis can you come up with a "yes" answer to their question? How would divorce fit into that submission of wife to the Lord and that love of husband as Christ loved the Church? When don't we submit to the Lord? When does Christ stop loving the Church? When, then, do we get to give up our marriage?

Now, sure, there are situations, instances, events, things that might make for exceptions. I'm not writing here about exceptions. I'm writing here about the rule of thumb. I'm writing here about the vast majority of Christians who are married. Given the relationship commanded by God in this passage of wives to husbands and husbands to wives, surely you can agree that divorce among Christians ought to be a rarity rather than a common occurrence. If this is true and our experience does not bear this out, where is the problem? It is not in the marriage. It is in our failure to obey Christ. And that's not something we should tolerate in ourselves.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What's Wrong?

If you have any close relationship with anyone, I'm fairly certain you've encountered this kind of interaction. You see evidence of a "disturbance in the force", so to speak. They seem upset, maybe uncomfortable, something. So, caring as you do, you ask, "What's wrong?" They reply, sometimes irritably, "Nothing." And we have what appears to be the "theme song" of our society.

"What's wrong?" "Nothing." Nothing is wrong. Can a mother kill her baby in the womb? Absolutely, if she wants to. She is actually applauded for her choice. Is it wrong to release secrets about our government to the public? Not at all. Those who do it are heroes. Is it wrong to violate the law ... say, speed limits or crosswalk rules or the like? Certainly not. If you can get away with it, it's great. If not, complain. "What's wrong?" "Nothing."

To be fair, our society does still consider some things wrong. There is the obvious "intolerance" which is defined as "not agreeing with me on what I consider good" and "hate" which is defined as "not agreeing with me on what I consider good." Someone who fears for the eternal well-being of a person who is described in 1 Cor 6:9-10 is functioning in hate, not love. That's bad -- wrong. Believing the Bible over current popular opinion is wrong ... clearly wrong. Do you question the theory of Evolution? Yeah, likely bad -- wrong. So there are things that are wrong. It's just that they're variable and without any solid basis. Nothing objectively wrong.

Atheists worth their salt admit it. Richard Dawkins argues, "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference." Oscar Wilde said, "Nothing is good or bad, only charming or dull." Bertrand Russell wrote, "Outside human desires there is no moral standard."

"What's wrong?" "Nothing." Seems to me that, to a very large part, our society is embracing that view. Maybe it's just, "Nothing that used to be wrong."

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Have We Trials and Temptations?

I'm currently in Matthew. I just finished the fourth chapter. I was interested to read the first verse of that chapter.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matt 4:1)
Did you catch that? Jesus was led by the Spirit. Good. He was led into the wilderness. Okay, fine. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Oh, wait! The purpose of the Spirit in leading Him into the wilderness was temptation. Is that right?

Well, it's in there, so it must be. Apparently, temptation is not bad. Giving in to it is. So how could it be good for the Spirit to lead Him into the wilderness to be tempted?

In Hebrews we read, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Heb 4:15) Was He actually tempted in every respect as we are? I think so. John describes "all that is in the world" that is "not from the Father, but is from the world" -- "the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life." (1 John 2:16) So we have a list. In His temptations Jesus encountered "the desires of the flesh" when the tempter told Him "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." (Matt 4:3-4) Now, what's so wrong about that? Why not? Jesus wasn't offering a judgment against eating. He was rebuking "the desires of the flesh" because they were offered by the tempter and not God. He encountered the "pride of life" when the devil took Him to the top of the temple and suggested He demonstrate His standing as the Son of God by jumping and having the angels protect Him (Matt 4:5-7). Was He not the Son of God? Did He not wish to demonstrate that He was? Of course He was the Son of God and He did miracles to demonstrate it, but this was a temptation to pride rather than submitting to the Father. He was tempted with the "desires of the eyes" when Satan showed Him the kingdoms of the world "and their glory" and offered them to Him if He would bow to him (Matt 4:8-10). In truth, Christ was to rule the kingdoms of the world, so it wasn't that rulership that was questionable; it was the method.

Christ pushed back in all cases with properly applied Scripture. In the end, "the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him." (Matt 4:11) In the end He was "without sin". But He did indeed endure all the temptations we do. As such, we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. And that is a good thing. So when the Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted, I would say that it was a good thing. And when we are led into trials and temptations, do we conclude the same thing?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Entertainment Outrage

So, Disney's live action Beauty and the Beast is released with its gay agenda. No, not some sneaky "make your kids gay" plan. Just make it feel "normal". And lots of people are up in arms. Russia was thinking about banning it. Disney rescinded the release in Malaysia. Lots of Christians are upset because it's got that whole "gay" thing going on. Like they're surprised.

Me? I'm baffled. Oh, not with Disney; with Christians. What did we expect? Did we think that the world would provide us with wholesome entertainment in their constant drive to feed the lusts of the society they're producing entertainment for? Is it because they've produced so much quality, wholesome entertainment that we might be shocked at this one? Is it because the nation that is producing it is so moral that it's a surprise? Is it that we think that we are owed "wholesome entertainment", at least from the likes of a "Disney"?

Brothers and sisters, we fool ourselves if we expect something different. Hollywood has smuggled smut and sin into your entertainment from the beginning. Oh, sure, early censors tried to catch it and filter it, but not much anymore. And what you deem "normal" today is far from "wholesome". To me, it's a good thing. Wake up, American Christians. Do not expect the world to be your friend, to share your values, to cater to your idea of wholesome ... entertainment or anything else. We have, for far too long, taken our families to see things in direct contradiction to the Word of God and His standards. Way back at Bambi where they declared "Man" the enemy up through the rewrite of history that they called "Pocahontas" and on into their TV shows such as The Fosters, a family drama series where a lesbian couple raises a multi-ethnic blended family, and Baby Daddy about a man in his twenties who is surprised when a one-night stand lands a baby on his doorstep, "wholesome entertainment" has been leaking away from Disney and its "ABC Family" enterprise. And they're just the tip of the iceberg.

Wake up, Christians. We are not called to have "wholesome entertainment". We are called to make disciples. We are not called to complain about the sins of the world. We're called to preach the Good News. We are not called to be friends with the world. We're told the world will hate us. What will it take to wake us up to the fact that "all that is in the world -- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life -- is not from the Father but is from the world" (1 John 2:16)? We are commanded to teach our children, to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). Nowhere have I found the command, "Be sure your kids get wholesome movies." I'm pretty sure that's not in there.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Your Father in Heaven Knows

CHICAGO - An Oak Park father of three was charged with eight counts of child neglect in Cook County Circuit Court after DCFS was called to check on his children. The report was that they were sickly, poorly clothed, poorly fed, poorly monitored and not attending school. The floors were covered with garbage and feces. The toilet was backed up, causing further damage. There was plenty of food in the house, but the children were emaciated.

When questioned by the prosecutor, the father said that he had worked hard to provide them with clothing, food, and education. He had given them warm clothing for the winters and plenty of food at meals. He had told them to go to school and offered to drive them. However, in all cases, the children had refused, preferring instead to wear their worn out clothes and eat junk instead while consistently refusing to attend classes. They made messes and wouldn't clean up no matter what he told them. They stuffed rags in the toilet. "What could I do?" the father asked the judge. "I did all I could, but I had to honor their free will."

The case was thrown out and the father was applauded for offering them all the best while holding their free will in highest esteem. He was commended by the judge and the mayor's office is planning to award a medal for this father's self-sacrifice.
________

Nonsense? Absolutely. "Fake news". Well, more like a parable. Because to hear people talk about how God supposedly treats His children, you'd think it should be the case. God will not intervene in the free will of His creatures, and if He does, He's wrong. We like this notion that God does not violate human free will.

This is why so many Christians protest the claim that "Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps." (Psa 135:6) We know that He can do all things and that no purpose of His can be thwarted (Job 42:2) unless that purpose is to change my choices. Nebuchadnezzar said, "All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'” (Dan 4:35) Nebuchadnezzar was wrong. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as invaluable and He does what He can with our choices so that we can and do often ask "What have You done?" God told Abimelech, "I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against Me. Therefore I did not let you touch her." (Gen 20:6) In fact, the Bible is full of passages claiming that God is not a non-intervention God (e.g., Isa 64:8; Prov 21:1; Prov 16:1,9; Prov 19:21; Jer 10:23; Lam 3:37-38; Rom 9:19; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:26-28; etc.)

Clearly human beings have free will. Clearly God allows us to use it ... a lot. But when we hold that He never alters human choices, how are we not applauding that father who allows his kids to live in filth and despair because he wished to honor their free will? I understand that we're trying to exonerate God for not fixing everything, but it seems to me that we're only causing a bigger problem by exonerating Him against His Word.

There is another issue here to me. It is rather important. I believe that the Bible teaches that those who belong to Christ will continue to belong to Christ until the end. On one hand, this is clearly a function of God's efforts (e.g., Phil 1:6; John 10:28-29; Jude 1:24-25, etc.). On the other hand, we are commanded to "work out your salvation" (Phil 2:12), so there is work on our part as well. So how is it that there can be any assurance of salvation in the end (1 John 5:13)? How can we know that once we are born again we can never again become "unborn"? It is this concept of God intervening in human free will. Scripture tells us that He has placed in us a new heart (Ezek 36:26) with a new nature (Rom 6:2). God says, "I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules." (Ezek 36:27) That is, this "new creation" that we have become (2 Cor 5:17) lacks the capacity to make a continual practice of sin (1 John 3:9) because God is at work in you "both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil 2:13) This is the certainty we have that all who come to Him will surely be His in the end.

Does God remove human free will? No, of course not. Does He ever intervene in human free will? While most of us would like to say He does not actually do that, I don't think it is supportable from Scripture. Nor would we applaud the father who treated his earthly children that way across the board. Sometimes love demands intervention. I, for one, am grateful.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

News Weakly - 3/18/2017

As Expected
So, we stop telling kids that ours is a great country and that they ought to be grateful and to honor our nation. Then we find out that "Millennials are making it difficult for the U.S. intelligence community to keep secrets." Huh. Who would have thought? General Hayden told the BBC, "This group of millennials and related groups simply have different understandings of the words loyalty, secrecy and transparency." Wait ... you mean to suggest that relativism in language, morality, and perception of reality has produced problems? How can that be? To which any thinking person would respond, "How could it not be?" In the vernacular of my day, "You gets what you pays for."

Just ... Odd
Republicans in Congress are working on a replacement for Obamacare that the CBO says will cause 24 million Americans to lose their health insurance. So how can that be if there are only "a total of 12.2 million Americans" enrolled in the plan? Obamacare forced people to be insured. Will this new plan force them not to be? It just seems odd.

Equal Opportunity
When "our guy" is blamed for events that occur, "we" will often say, "It's not his fault; it was the former administration" or something like it. When "their guy" gets credit for events that occur, "they" will often say, "That wasn't him; that was 'our guy'." So after an unexpectedly large increase in jobs in February, Trumps first month in office, will it be "our guy" did it or "their guy" did it? Will this be applied evenly? Or will it just turn out that no matter what happens good on Trump's watch, it will be bad. (Ironic, I think, that on the page where CNN Money had this article about improved job market and "Trump is on pace to fulfill that promise" to create 25 million jobs was a side story about how economic data is meaningless in the Trump era.)

WikiLeaks
WikiLeaks is keeping us up to date, releasing big secrets telling us how we can't trust our government and all that because ... well, you know, they have the goods on us and WikiLeaks is reliable. That's the same WikiLeaks of Julian Assange who promised to turn himself in to the U.S. government if Obama released Chelsea Manning. Obama did; Assange has not. Reliable as the day is long. And, yet, Americans are all abuzz about what we can learn from self-identified liars.

Unbanned Again
Trump's second travel ban (and if you're going to call it a "Muslim ban", you're going to have to do it against the fact that it included only some Muslim countries, making it the most bizarre "Muslim ban" of all time since it, you know, didn't ban Muslims, only some Muslims) has fallen flat again. I am neither surprised nor particularly concerned. What was a little surprising was that "Trump called the ruling an 'unprecedented judicial overreach'." Apparently the president is unaware that the Supreme Court legalized the murder of babies in 1973 and redefined marriage for all Americans in 2015, just a couple of examples of genuine "unprecedented judicial overreach". You'll have to get in line to make that call, Mr. President.

It Must Be True
Archaeologists have discovered a fragment from the book of Acts that has confirmed that during Peter's sermon at Pentecost a guitarist quietly picked a riff while Peter called for belief and repentance. It has to be true; I saw it on the Internet.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Saved for What? Part 2

We have the "why". We are saved by God to show His magnificent character. Now, what is entailed for us?

In the Old Testament God promised a coming day when His fundamental relationship with His people would change.
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules. (Ezek 36:25-27)
This appears to be an excellent description of what occurs in one who repents and believes. Jesus called it "born again" (John 3:3) and said this new birth is "of the Spirit" (John 3:5-6). Considering our old self, this is expected and necessary.

The Bible describes those who receive Christ as "children of God" (John 1:12), specially called to be conformed to the image of Christ "in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers." (Rom 8:28-29) We are part of the family of God.

Paul described believers as a "new creation" (Gal 6:15), something entirely new. "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (2 Cor 5:17) He speaks of "the renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Peter says we become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4).

The largest part of this whole thing is centered on the unique relationship with the Spirit. We are described as the temple of the Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), the place where He lives (Ezek 36:27; John 14:17; 2 Tim 1:14; Rom 8:11). Before this we were described as "in the flesh" and unable to please God (Rom 8:5-8); now we are indwelt by the Spirit (Rom 8:9-11). The Spirit living in the believer has multiple effects. Remember that God told Israel He would "cause you to walk in My statutes and be careful to obey My rules." So we are filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18) wherein He leads us (Gal 5:18) in all truth (John 16:13; 1 Cor 2:12) and produces fruit in us (Eph 5:22-23). We are "caused" to "walk in My statutes" because we have the Spirit indwelling us, "both to will and to work for His good pleasure."

The Bible is quite clear that this "new creation", this "new birth", this "heart of flesh" produced by the indwelling of the Spirit cannot go unnoticed, so to speak. You can't become one with Christ and not change. James says that saving faith always produces works (James 2:14-26). Faith that produces no changed behavior is dead faith. But this new faith and the work of the Holy Spirit produces work. So Paul tells the Philippians, Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil 2:12-13) We work, work hard, work with fear and trembling, because God is at work in us giving us both the will and the power to do what pleases Him. And this work is one of the things for which we were saved. "We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Eph 2:10)

One aspect of this salvation for the saved is assurance. John wrote his entire first epistle with this aim: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life." (1 John 5:13) We can know. It isn't a question. It isn't elusive. Paul told the Philippians, "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." (Phil 1:6) Jesus said, "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. I and the Father are one." (John 10:28-30) There is no ambiguity in this text. "No one" does not include anyone at all. So while we have the Holy Spirit at work in us causing us to work out our salvation from our end, we have the absolute confidence that God "is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy ..." (Jude 1:24-25) Our confidence isn't in us, our faith, or our faithfulness; it is in Him. Consider this sequence of thoughts:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. (1 John 5:1)

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)

"The one who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death." (Rev 2:11)
This leaves no room for error. Born of God -> overcomes -> no second death. No deviation. No question. Similar to Paul's chain. "Those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified." (Rom 8:30) From our perspective, there is work to do. From God's perspective, the answer is complete.

There are lots of benefits to the believer. We are one with God. We have a new heart. We are part of God's family. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We work to obey, but we work to obey because He works in us. We have complete confidence in His ability to carry us through. There is the absolute assurance that the day will come that we will cease from our labors and enter into His rest, united with Him. Saved for what? For His magnificent glory and our great benefit. The good news; the Gospel.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Saved to What? Part 1

I've been writing about the Gospel. What is it? What is required? Why is it even necessary? I've covered the problem of human nature -- sin that deserves God's wrath -- and the remedy of repent (turn away from sin and toward Christ) and believe, placing one's confidence in Christ to the point of a changed way of living. I've covered the aim of God in this process, the union of God and His people, a concept beyond human comprehension but of ultimate worth. And I told all of this in reverse, starting with the good news and working my way backward. Well, I now want to jump back to the other side of "saved". We've been sinners, recognized the problem, repented and believed, and are now counted among "the saved", those who are God's people. What is it all for? Why did God even allow for salvation? And what does it entail now?

We like to think that God has saved us because we're just so ... lovable, valuable, worth it, you know? How could He not? It just isn't so. He told Israel, "It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set His love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that He swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt." (Deut 7:7-8) It was not Israel's worth; it was God's love. When Israel was repenting for asking for a king (1 Sam 12:18-19), Samuel explained something critical to them. "For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name's sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for Himself." (1 Sam 12:22) It was for Himself, for His name's sake. When He was promising Israel that He would lead them out of their captivity, He said, "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD when through you I vindicate My holiness before their eyes." (Ezek 36:22-23) Salvation, then, is for our benefit, indeed, but it is primarily for His name's sake, for His glory, for His vindication. By "name", the language is referring to His entire character, and by "glory" it refers to the magnificence of His entire character. Thus, the ultimate reason behind God's salvation is the fullest revelation of His character. Paul says we are "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." (Titus 2:13-14) We benefit, but it is ultimately for Him.

There are, for us, many benefits in salvation. The first, of course, is this new relationship with God. And that new relationship is predicated on His forgiveness, another excellent benefit. But the answer to the question of why God allowed for salvation at all, of the primary purpose of salvation, is that it is primarily for God's benefit to demonstrate His glory.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What Seems to be the Problem?

In case you haven't noticed, I've been working backwards for the last few days. On Sunday I started with the "Mystical Union", the mystery of Scripture that is the Gospel. A key component of the Gospel is that God intends to be one with His children, a thought beyond my comprehension, but immensely wonderful. On Monday I asked how we get to be one of His children and the first answer was "repent". On Tuesday I pointed out that included in that first answer, "repent", was the second component, "believe". So over the last few days I've explained what the good news is -- a glorious union with God -- and how it is obtained -- repent and believe -- and just what those things are. Of course, working backwards like this, it seems to beg the question. "Repent from what? Saved from what? Why doesn't God just carry out this grand plan of union without all this 'repent and believe' stuff?" In short, "What seems to be the problem?"

To answer that question, we need to take some time to examine what God's Word says about humans. All humans. Even you and me. What is the biblical perspective on the nature and condition of Man?

We know that in the beginning God created Man in His image (Gen 1:27) "and it was very good." (Gen 1:31) Then it went downhill rapidly. Man chose to sin in the only known way (Gen 3:1-6) and, as Paul puts it, "just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned." (Rom 5:12) So, since that time, how does God in His Word describe Man?

Most of us are clear on the basics. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Rom 3:23) I don't even think unbelievers would completely disagree. After all, don't we have an axiom, "To err is human"? So Christians know that all humans are sinners and most people aren't too disturbed by the claim. Unfortunately, when we examine what the Bible actually says about humans, it gets much, much worse.

The problem was visible early on. At the beginning of the story of Noah we read, "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Gen 6:5) What follows is a flood that kills all but 8 humans, but it clearly did not eliminate the problem because at the end of that story we read God's evaluation.
"I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done." (Gen 8:21)
Biblically, it starts early in life. Here it is "from his youth" which simply refers to childhood. Elsewhere we read, "The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth." (Psa 58:3) The concept of the "innocent child" is quite a human concept, but not a biblical one (Psa 51:5). Childhood innocence is only relative to adulthood decadence.

Since it starts "from the womb", it would only be reasonable to agree with the rest of the claims of Scripture. The psalmist wrote and Paul repeated,
None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (Rom 3:10-12)
And it's not just an unwillingness; it's a condition. It goes as far as an inability.
For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Rom 8:5-8)
Jesus said it a couple of times.
"No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:44)

"No one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father." (John 6:65)
Natural Man is spiritually disabled. He is "dead in sin and trespasses ... by nature" a child of wrath (Eph 2:1-3). He is the possessor of a deceitful and desperately sick heart (Jer 17:9), not accepting the things of the Spirit of God "for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." (1 Cor 2:14) He is blinded by the god of this world so that he cannot "see the light of the gospel". (2 Cor 4:4)

Of the church at Laodicea Christ says,
"Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. (Rev 3:17-18)
Wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked; that's His description. And "you do not know" it. Our best acts are described as "filthy rags" (Isa 64:6). It is in our nature.
"Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then you also can do good who are accustomed to doing evil." (Jer 13:23)
Jesus said, "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders." (Matt 15:19) Paul wrote,
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21)
Scripture speaks of humans as "darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness." (Eph 4:18-19) It speaks of "the futility of their minds." (Eph 4:17)

"Now, look," some might protest, "we're not all that bad, right?" We like to think of "big sins" and "little sins", but James says, "Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." (James 2:10) All sin has the same outcome -- "For the wages of sin is death ..." (Rom 6:23).

When you boil it all down, it does not look good for humans ... at all. We are violators of the glory of God, sinners from birth. We lack the ability to obey, to please God, to even understand. We suffer from a sick heart and a futile mind. We are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked ... and we don't even know it. Instead of seeking help from the One possible source of help, we are hostile to God, incapable of turning, and unwilling to change. As such, we stand rightly condemned and without hope. So when the good news of the Gospel comes along that the Godhood intends to be one with His people as He is one with Himself, it is astoundingly good news. Clearly, under these conditions, repentance is an absolute necessity and faith is our only means of appropriating that salvation because there is absolutely nothing in ourselves that would bring about that union other than His grace and mercy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Faith

So, now we have the Gospel, the mystery of the union of God with His people, which is truly good news. And we have the requirement that in order to be part of God's people we need to repent. Included in that "repent" message from the lips of Jesus was "Repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15) It is abundantly clear in God's Word that faith is another necessary prerequisite to being part of salvation and the subsequent union with God. It would seem to be a really good idea, then, to figure out just what this "faith" thing is, because not everyone is clear on it. What do we learn about faith from the pages of Scripture?

Well, we know that "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him." (Heb 11:6) Faith, then, is absolutely necessary. But Hebrews 11 tells us more. We know quite clearly that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Heb 11:1)

Faith defined

First, there is the word "faith". It means "to be convinced (by evidence or argument)." Faith in God, then, would entail being convinced that God is and that He is reliable, faithful, truthful. Faith in God is simply agreeing with Him about who He is. Note that this isn't in contradiction to reason or evidence; it is in agreement with both. And let's not miss out on those two factors in the text -- assurance and conviction. The word for the first, "assurance", is that which supports, the essence of something. The word for the second is conviction, evidence, or proof. Genuine, biblical faith is faith that agrees with God regarding His existence and who He is. It is assurance that He will do what He promises ("rewards those who seek Him") and the proof of things we don't yet see. It is premised on God, so it is not "credulity", the blind belief in something without evidence or reason. It simply takes the evidence and reasoning to its clear conclusion. God exists and is who He says He is, so He will surely do as He has said He will.

This presupposes something. It assumes that God exists and that we know what He has promised. Not all, necessarily, but there must be some known truth claims and promises. That is, genuine biblical faith requires first and foremost that we believe the truth. It is not biblical faith to believe that which is not true.

In John's Gospel he often uses the phrase "believe in" or "believe on". Most literally John is using a phrase that is most accurately translated to "believe into". That is, biblical faith is an investment. It is a "leaning on", so to speak, that which is believed. Habakkuk wrote, "The righteous shall live by his faith." (Hab 2:4) This is, apparently, a really important concept because Paul repeated it in Rom 1:17 and in Gal 3:11 and the author of Hebrews also included it in Heb 10:38. Notice, then, the key component here. Faith is lived. That puts it beyond mere "mental acquiescence." It is a principle of living. James informed his readers that faith without works was dead (James 2:17). Indeed, "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder!" (James 2:19) Mere mental agreement with facts is not saving biblical faith. That only rises to the level of demons and is classified as dead. Living, saving faith produces changes in behavior because living, saving faith is a placing of confidence in that which is believed. We will always act on genuine faith. Real faith is visible (Matt 9:1). Like repentance, genuine faith produces corresponding action. (Not vice versa. Our actions do not produce faith.)

In his argument that we are saved by faith apart from works, Paul uses Abraham as his "proof text" (Romans 4). He starts with the claim that "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." (Rom 4:3) That is biblical, saving faith. Notice that Abraham's faith was "counted to him as righteousness." That is, Abraham's righteousness was attributed to him on the basis of his faith (not his works).

Where does faith come from?

We already saw that repentance was granted by God (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim 2:25). The Bible tells us that faith is also a gift. Paul wrote that all believers have a "measure of faith that God has assigned." (Rom 12:3) He told the Philippians that they were "granted, on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also on behalf of Him to suffer." (Phil 1:29) Jesus explained to His disciples that the reason people don't believe was because "no one can come to Me unless it is granted him by the Father." (John 6:64-65) So faith is a gift, a "grant", from God that we, then, exercise. And it isn't necessarily stagnant. Faith can grow (2 Thess 1:3). It can be increased by hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17). It can be increased by prayer (Mark 9:24; Luke 17:5).

Conclusion

Faith is essential to salvation. We must believe in Christ for salvation. That is, we must agree that He is our Savior and trust Him to save us. In the process, we must repent (turn from sin) and believe (turn toward Him and place our confidence in Him). This faith is more than mere belief -- intellectual assent. It is an investment of confidence in the existence and nature of God that will necessarily produce a change in the behavior of the believer. It is a lifestyle. "The righteous shall live by his faith." Without it, no one can please God. On the other hand, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." (Acts 16:31)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Repent

Yesterday I wrote about the Mystical Union, the mystery of Scripture that is the Gospel which leads to the union of God and His children. That is, indeed, truly good news. There is none better. So, how do we get there? How do we get to the point of being His children, being in that Mystical Union? In view of that Good News, we ought to examine this question.

Repentance is an unfriendly word. It's odd, too, because it is so ... biblical. But we prefer to go a "kinder and gentler" way. Tell them that Jesus loves them. Tell them that they can be saved by faith. Tell them it will be okay. If you're really far enough out there, tell them that Jesus will give them health and wealth, too. Why not? It's surely a much friendlier concept than "Repent!" I mean, that's that old "fire and brimstone" stuff and we don't want to go back to that, right?

As it turns out, "repent" is a continuous, ongoing message in Scripture. It's in the Old Testament. It's in the New. It was John the Baptist's message when he came out of the desert.
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matt 3:2)
Right on his heels was Jesus preaching the same first message:
"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt 4:17)

"Repent and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15)
"Yeah, yeah, sure, but is it important? I mean, can't we just go with the easier, friendlier message?"

Jesus wasn't ambiguous.
"Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:3,5)
Got that? If there is no repentance, there is no salvation. Paul said, "I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 20:21) Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 18:3) No repentance, no salvation. Simple as that.

"So ... what is repentance? I mean, we live in a world that redefines things. Can't we redefine this to our liking?" Yeah, sure ... as long as you keep the biblical components. For instance, biblical repentance includes grief for sin.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Cor 7:10)
Be careful, though. Grief is essential but not sufficient (Matt 27:3).

What else? Well, the term means to turn from. Scripture bears this idea out.
Repent and turn from all your transgressions (Eze 18:30)

"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon." (Isa 55:7)

"Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt 18:3)
So there is grief over sin and there is the need to turn away from sin. There is another factor repeated in Scripture.
"Bear fruit in keeping with repentance." (Matt 3:8; Luke 3:8)

"I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance." (Act 26:19-20)
Genuine, biblical repentance requires grief, turning from sin, and turning toward new behavior. "Fruit." Repentance without corresponding change in behavior is not repentance.

What else do we know about repentance? Well, interestingly enough, the Bible says that it is a gift from God. On one hand, the fact that we are allowed to repent is a product of His kindness (Rom 2:4). But Scripture is quite clear that we don't acquire repentance or drum it up somehow. It is granted.
To the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life. (Acts 11:18)

God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim 2:25)
That may not have been one of the pieces you were aware of.

So, how does biblical repentance work?
1. God grants it (2 Tim 2:25).
2. We recognize sin (Psa 51:3-4).
3. We experience remorse for sin (Luke 18:13).
4. We turn from and to (2 Kings 17:13; 2 Chron 7:14; Acts 14:15; Acts 26:18). We turn from sin and to God, from sin and to works reflecting that turn.

Repentance is not an option. There is no salvation without repentance. Nor is it merely feeling bad about your sin. It is a gift that produces genuine recognition of sin, actual remorse for it, and a turn away from it toward God and corresponding good works. Do that ... repeatedly (1 John 1:8-10). A lot. Our "kinder and gentler" Christianity these days prefers not to go there. We do so in the face of our Savior who started with that message and in opposition to the repeated command throughout Scripture. And if we get to it, we often stop at one time and done. Brothers and sisters, repent!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mystical Union

The Bible talks about several mysteries, but there is one that recurs more than the rest. Paul wrote about the mystery of the union of man and wife.
"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the Church. (Eph 5:31-32)
He calls it a mystery. He calls it profound. And the mystery is that biblical marriage (as opposed to the stuff today so frivolously referred to as "marriage") refers to Christ and the Church. Mystery! A mystical union.

As it turns out, this is precisely a recurring mystery that pervades other texts. In Ephesians Paul speaks of how God was "making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth." (Eph 1:9-10) He refers in Rom 16:25 to the mystery that is the Gospel. Also in Eph 3:3-6, Eph 6:19, and Col 1:26. How is this last one -- the Gospel -- the same thing? Well, Paul explains more in the next verse
To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)
Are you starting to see what this mystery is?

Paul refers to marriage as the mystery that actually refers to Christ and the Church. He says that the mystery was set forth in Christ as a plan ... to unite all things in Him. He says that the Gospel is a mystery in that those who learn it have "the riches of the glory of this mystery", which is ...? "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

Think of it. God's plan from the beginning was to make a people for Himself out of His creation. He wasn't planning to merely make us. He wasn't planning to simply save us. His plan was union with us. What union? The union that the mystery of marriage portrays -- "the two shall become one." The union of the Eternal God and fallen-and-redeemed humans. The union of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit -- the mind of Christ -- in His people. That union. That mystery.

I don't, frankly, understand it. This union is beyond my comprehension. But Scripture is clear what kinds of effect we should expect from it. Jesus prayed,
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that you have sent Me. The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved Me. (John 17:20-23)
Our union with Christ, as reflected in marriage and as a reflection of the Son's union with the Father, makes us one. "Perfectly one." As a reflection of His love for us. As a message to the world that Christ was sent by the Father. A union with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit that so invades our lives that as we allow that union to influence our lives we become one and God is glorified.

Big. Really big. I don't comprehend it, but I want in on it. And, apparently, anyone who belongs to Christ is in on it. A place to live -- one with Him and with each other. A union beyond human comprehension.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

News Weakly - 3/11/2017*

Court Rules Against Christ
We've already been told that we don't have the right to act on the belief that God defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Now the courts in Great Britain have taken the next logical step. "Two street preachers have been convicted of a public order offence after a public prosecutor claimed that publicly quoting parts of the King James Bible in modern Britain should 'be considered to be abusive and is a criminal matter.'" (Emphasis in the original.) That's right. Even though Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man comes to the Father but by Me", it is deemed a crime to agree with Him. Prosecutor Jackson argued, "To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they are saying that the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth." Thank you, Magistrates. It is illegal and deemed hate speech to agree with Scripture on these things.

Our Supreme Court was happy to rule against God on the subject of marriage. Our federal court system was pleased to rule against the free exercise of religion. I don't see the ruling from the UK as far away from coming soon to a United States court near you.

Who'd Have Thought?
March 8 was deemed "International Women's Day". In conjunction (and ironically) it was also A Day Without a Woman in which we are asked to consider, "What would happen in a world where women didn't exist?" Seriously? What would happen? Nothing. Nothing at all. No people. Nowhere. End of story.

The protest was coordinated by the same people that brought us the "Women's March" in January. You know ... the one that refused to include women who agreed with them on every issue except abortion. As it turns out, fundamental to women's rights is the right to murder your unborn child. (It's classified as a "Unity Principle".) As always, all women are created equal; it's just that some are more equal than others.

Oh No, Not Again
I'm sure you've heard the news. Here, let me just lay down the headline from the New York Times. "Trump, Offering No Evidence, Says Obama Tapped His Phones." I'm sure you've heard all about that. And more sniggering, guffawing, or outright righteous indignation pours forth from anti-Trump forces because he's a loon and everyone knows it. Never happened, Mr. President. Get a grip.

So why is it that everyone including the New York Times is offering this "lack of evidence" story forgetting entirely that news outlets including the New York Times said precisely that the government had been intercepting communications between Trump and Russia? This seems to be going something like this. The New York Times claims, "The government has been listening in on Trump's communications." Trump says, "I've just learned that the government has been listening in on my communications!" The New York Times says, "Don't be ridiculous; there's no evidence of that." Or ... is Trump right ... again?

Did the Apple Land Near the Tree?
First, there was this "March 4 Trump" where citizens who, you know, like Trump expressed their support. It did not end well. The rally turned violent in a clash with Trump-haters. (Is it right to classify their view of Trump as "hate"?) Well, as it turns out, one of those arrested for starting the fight was Linwood Kaine, son of Senator Tim Kaine, the former Democratic candidate for Vice President. Now, any parent can have a "kid gone wrong" event and we need to be sensitive to that ... except that the senator's response was, "We love that our three children have their own views and concerns about current political issues. They fully understand the responsibility to express those concerns peacefully." Um ... apparently not.

Who is Right and Whose Rights?
Apparently a group of openly homosexual veterans have not been included in Boston's St. Patrick's Day Parade. (Note: St. Patrick's Day Parade, as in "Roman Catholic event".) Apparently including them "would conflict with the parade organizers' Roman Catholic heritage." On the other hand, they are "reigniting a fight over cultural inclusion." Because "homosexual behavior" has transformed into "gay" as a state of being (which cannot actually be defined as such because apparently people go in and out of it all the time) and now into "a culture". The mayor is outraged. "I will not tolerate discrimination in our city of any form. We are one Boston, which means we are a fully inclusive city." That's the "fully inclusive city" that banned Chick-Fil-A from opening stores there because the owner believed homosexual behavior was a sin. Not actually fully inclusive. Just absolutely inclusive of a not-culture of not-gays who wish to be there in the face of the Roman Catholics about whom the event is centered.