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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Missed Message

Our society can rant and rave all it wants. It can stand up and assure us that patriarchy is not only dead, but that it's a good thing it's dead. They can assure us that if you claim there is a difference between the sexes you're sexist and evil and hateful. They can even smuggle it into our churches and our pulpits and our dogma. None of this changes the fact that Scripture argues differently. God's Word says that Adam was created first (Gen 2:7, 18; 1 Tim 2:13). God's Word says that Adam, not Eve, was responsible for Man's sinful condition (1 Tim 2:13-14; Rom 5:12). God's Word says "the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11:3). Not popular or acceptable today, perhaps, even among believers, but it's in there, and if we're going to submit to God and His revealed truth, we will have to submit to this.

The problem, of course, is the gut response that arises every time (I don't think I exaggerate that) this comes up. "You're demeaning women!" "You're sexist!" "The genders are of equal value!!" So we spend more time defending God and His Word than examining what it looks like in practice. For instance, no matter how many times it is addressed, "We agree without reservation that both genders are of equal value" doesn't seem to be heard. So we struggle with the basics instead of moving on to the application.

And the message is missed.

What message? The message is not about us; it's about God. It starts with "I'm in charge ... not you." ("The head of Christ is God.") This should be a sublime relief. "Oh, good! We are not alone here. We are not merely on our own." We delight in "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Heb 13:5), but balk when He says, "I'm in charge." That is, "Sure, fine, we're happy to have You here to assist us; just don't get in our way." An ugly thing to say to God. To men He says, "Christ is over you." ("The head of every man is Christ.") Again, we're fine with the help, just not the authority. To women He says, "I've arranged for you to be protected, supported, and cared for by your husband." ("The head of a wife is her husband.") Nowadays, often even among Christians, the response is "Oh, no ... no thanks. We can do this on our own and we don't need any demeaning man around to help, let alone to lead." In these cases, again, we tell God, "No thanks."

The message is not about us; it's about God. But it's also a call to us. The minute we read, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord" (Eph 5:22), a storm begins. It gets dark and cloudy and you can expect a blow. The message, however, is for men to step up. The requirement is for husbands to sacrifice themselves completely to the needs and support of their wives (Eph 5:25-27). When God tells women to "keep silent in the churches" (1 Cor 14:34), He does it with the requirement that husbands be ready to step up to any question she might have (1 Cor 14:35). When He tells wives to be subject to husbands who aren't even obedient to the Word (1 Peter 3:1), He does it with the command for husbands to treat their wives with understanding and deep respect (1 Peter 3:7). These are not commands to women as much as to men. Women are commanded to rest in God's provision; men are commanded to work.

But we don't get it. We're fighting over submission. We're fighting over the meaning of the words. We're trying to avoid "wives, submit" at any level. And guys get off scot-free. No one is noticing that men are called to lay it all on the line for God and for their wives. They can just sit back and listen to the squabbling over "wives, submit." It's not a call to lord it over anyone; it's a call to serve for Christ. Message missed.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Hardest to Reach

We know that we're supposed to go into all the world and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). We're supposed to go and make disciples (Matt 28:19-20). And, if we're obedient, we do. So to whom do we go? We're supposed to go to everyone. That would be family and friends, neighbors and strangers, foreigners and natives, people of all station, belief, position. Everyone. That means that you and I will be taking the gospel to atheists and agnostics and "Nones" and religious people and all. (Note: By and the "religious people" might be those who consider themselves "Christian" even though every indication is that they're not.)

The atheist is dead set against God. Often they are actually anti-theist. They aren't merely "I don't believe there is a God" types, but on to "There is no God and I'm going to change your mind to agree with me." Agnostics are technically "I don't know if there's a God," but for reasons that elude me they generally conclude, "So I will live as if there is not." Practical atheists. "Nones" are that growing class that says, "I'm religious, but I'm not affiliated with any religion." They're not opposed to the idea of God; they're just opposed to yours. The religious are 70% out of the 75% of Americans that claim to believe in God ... but it makes no difference in their lives. They are the "I'm a Christian!" types who, if you watch them for very long, make you think, "Why would you think that?" They're the ones who affirm Christianity while denying major, essential doctrines and truths.

So, which is the biggest challenge?

The atheist would, of course, seem to be the worst. Especially the anti-theist. It would look, in fact, like the farther you go along that spectrum I drew, the easier it would get. I would argue that's not true. I think the hardest group is the last. The ignorant and the unbelieving have plenty of space in which to learn of Christ. The religious are pretty sure they're okay. "You need Jesus," you will be tempted to say to which they will respond, "I already have Him." Where do you go with that? Offering them something they believe they already have won't get you anywhere. And since they've "embraced God's Word" while actually rejecting it, you can't use God's Word because ... they've rejected it. You're left without tools. For atheists you can use reason and evidence and for the "religious-but-just-not-your-religion" Nones you can use clarification and direction. You have no "hooks" for the religious because they sense no need.

If you bought all that, I have good news. It was a trick question. I think all that was true, but it's not complete. Those who are not born of God are dead in sin (Eph 2:1-3), hostile to God (Rom 8:7), unable to understand the things of God (1 Cor 2:14), blinded by Satan (2 Cor 4:4), and more. "You need Jesus" isn't going to do it. A fine defense of the gospel and explanation with reason and evidence of the truth of Christ isn't going to convince them. Not the atheist nor the religious. They suffer from a range of maladies, but they all suffer the same fundamental human condition we call sin. A good Bible sermon isn't the trick that will turn them. What they need is divine. All non-believers need the same thing. We just participate.

Who is the biggest challenge? If we're talking about our efforts, I'd say they're all the same -- impossible. If we're talking about God's work, I'd say they're all the same -- susceptible to His work within. Only He can open hearts (Acts 16:14). Our job on the face of it is impossible on our own but absolutely certain with God. That's not a bad place to be.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Job 37:5

The license plate read "JOB37 5." I, obviously, decided it was a Bible reference.
God thunders wondrously with His voice; He does great things that we cannot comprehend. (Job 37:5)
How appropriate! "He does great things that we cannot comprehend."

It stands to reason, of course. He is God; we are not. He does as He pleases; we don't. His ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isa 55:8-9). If God is infinite and we are finite, it is obvious that we cannot fully grasp God. By definition. So it is only reasonable that God would be doing great things that we cannot comprehend.

Do we actually believe that? I ask because it seems like we often think that if we don't comprehend it He's not doing it. Something unpleasant happens and we tend to cry, "Why, God?" Well, didn't we just agree that "He does great things that we cannot comprehend"? Something painful, something confusing, something strange, something outside our comfort zone comes around and we're not happy about this. Something is wrong! Or ... "He does great things that we cannot comprehend." When Joseph encountered those kinds of things -- evil things, in fact -- his conclusion was, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Gen 50:20). Remember, Joseph was attacked by his brothers, stuck in a well, sold into slavery, falsely accused by his master's wife, jailed for a crime he didn't commit, forgotten in prison ... "unpleasant" doesn't seem to cover it. When do you think it occurred to Joseph what God was doing? Scripture doesn't say, but the point of the Job verse is it doesn't matter. If Joseph didn't figure it out until his brothers asked for forgiveness, God was still doing great things. And we cannot comprehend.

A good question we like to ask is, "What is God doing in your life?" Good question. And sometimes we have answers. Good stuff. But rest assured there will be times that we don't know. We don't grasp. We don't comprehend. We may not even be aware. So know this: God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose" (Rom 8:28). That purpose is sometimes individual and personal, but there is an overarching purpose of which you can be confident. "Those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Rom 8:29). That's really good. The verse says, "He does great things that we cannot comprehend." Trust that. Trust Him. It might be a bumpy ride at times, but it will always be for good things, even when we don't understand.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

News Weakly - 4/27/19

Better Think Twice
Elizabeth Warren has decided it's time for Trump to go. Impeach the guy. Other voices concur.

In an unrelated-but-totally-connected story, Vice President Mike Pence was invited by Taylor University to do the graduation speech. And the crowd goes wild. A petition to block him has been signed by over 6,000 people at the writing of this piece. (I'm pretty sure that Taylor University doesn't have 6,000 students.) The irony, of course, is that Taylor University is a "Christian" university. "For more than 170 years, Taylor University has stayed true to its heritage, challenging each generation of students to integrate faith with learning and follow Christ’s calling." It is " a discipleship community, where 'iron sharpens iron' (Proverbs 27:17) and Christians can learn and grow together," and "100% of TU students, faculty, and staff make a profession of faith before entering the University." But they are horrified, appalled, devastated that someone who espouses biblical principles would be allowed to speak there.

The connection? My dad told me I should vote for Trump. I told him I couldn't. He said, "Yeah, but Pence is a dedicated Christian." "So, Dad," I said, "you want me to vote for Trump in the hopes that someone eliminates him?" The Dems might want to be careful. They may not like the replacement if they succeed in their hatred for Trump.

Persecuted
On Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka over 300 people were killed and more than 500 injured in 6 nearly simultaneous blasts that rocked churches and luxury hotels where tourists might likely be. Other explosions followed. Sri Lanka's government believes adherents of the Religion of Peace are the perpetrators. While hundreds of Christians die around the world on an ongoing basis without notice from the media, this kind of story can't be ignored, apparently.

Judge Not?
Many people don't know this, but the best known Bible verse these days is not John 3:16. It is Matthew 7:1. It is a verse many delight in flinging back in the faces of Christians when they try to point out "God says this is sin and you need Jesus." What is the verse? "Judge not, that you be not judged." And, yet, it is what they love to do when it suits them. The Philadellphia Flyers had a statue of Kate Smith removed after a controversy was sparked over racist songs of the 1930's, this immediately following the Yankees yanking her rendition of God Bless America for their traditional 7th inning stretch for the same reason. Now, no one really believes that because Dean Martin or Barbra Streisand put out a Christmas album they actually believe in Christ. And Kate Smith died in 1986, so we can't ask, "Hey, Kate, were you a racist? Or were you just singing songs? How do you feel about it now?" She can't defend herself. But it doesn't matter. She's out. "Judge not" can only be aimed at Christians, I guess.

Zero Emissions?
While voices get louder for zero emission vehicles -- electric cars -- a report out of Germany is telling us that electric vehicles account for more CO2 emissions than diesel vehicles. Emissions include those produced by battery production and power production to charge them. The Tesla Model 3 battery, for instance, "represents between 11 and 15 tonnes of CO2." That's not "zero emissions" no matter what you call it. Researchers are recommending switching to methane engines with emissions one-third less than those of diesel motors (which are roughly half the emissions of electric cars). As usual, you can expect the standard "Don't bother me with facts; I know I'm right" response from the rest of the "green" folk.

Why Science Should Not Be God
Last week the report was out that people who deeply believe in religion are brain damaged and they might be able to find a cure. This week a study said that "spiritual experiences confer lasting mental health benefits." The news item notes that this is in direct conflict with modern western medicine, but appears to be true. Science can't decide what is and is not reality. Science makes a lousy god.

Sex in the Courts
You have to understand. This is the vindication of what I've been warning about all along. This week the Supreme Court agreed to hear three cases involving discrimination at work on the basis of homosexual and transgender persons. The question? Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 says that it is illegal to "discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." The argument is that "sex" includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Read that again. The question is whether or not we will redefine "sex" to mean something new. (Note, also, that the "sex" that we are redefining includes gender, linking, without intending to, the two concepts.) Now, it is inconceivable that the government that passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 intended "sex" to include either sexual orientation (who you like to have sex with) or gender identity (what gender you think you are), but the courts will decide for us whether or not it's okay to redefine what the framers of the law intended in the light of today's thinking. Because, after all, words only mean what we want them to mean at this moment. They do not represent anything actually objectively true. And reality is how those in charge define it. (Note the dangerous precedent. Government will decide what words mean and then alter your life to align with it.)

I Told You it was a Religion
The Satanic Temple is an organization aimed at non-religion. That is, they are in place to oppose religion. They chose the name to be offensive to religions, not to have Satan as their religion. On their webpage they indicate that they do not believe in Satan, they fight for secularism, and are primarily concerned about civil liberties and litigation to push religion out of the public square. They are mostly an anti-religion, political entity. So it is telling that the IRS has designated them as a church and, therefore, tax exempt. Mind you, I'm not complaining. I don't know why churches do it -- putting restrictions on what they can say in return for government money. I'm just pointing out that the IRS recognizes that atheism, anti-religion, and secularism are religions ... even though "religion" is defined as a belief in supernatural power. In their self-declared lack of faith, thanks to the IRS, they will now be able to compete with churches for faith-based government grants. If there are any churches out there reading this, may I say, "Let them." God doesn't need the government's money, especially with the strings they attach.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Wordsmith

Some who know me have called me a wordsmith, partly because it's a play on my name (Smith) and partly because I appear to have a larger vocabulary than some. Big deal. Some say it simply because I'm so wordy, at least on this blog. Okay. But I've read recently in Scripture to beware of people who wrangle with words. Paul wrote to Timothy to remind his congregation of the truth an to "charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers" (2 Tim 2:14). In parallel to this, Paul tells Timothy about "anyone [who] teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness" (1 Tim 6:3). Paul says, "He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain" (1 Tim 6:4-5). Being one who wants to conform myself to the Word (rather than the more common approach of making the Word conform to me), I wanted to discover if that was me. I don't want to do that.

I do spend a lot of time in this blog dealing with the changing of the language. Many common words have evolved in our language. We know that. There are "dead languages" -- languages from civilizations that no longer exist -- that don't evolve because they're dead. But if humans use words or any other tools, those things will change over time. It's the way it works. So am I quarreling about words?

At first blush it looks like it. But I don't think I am. I concur that words change and I'm generally okay with it. It's the function of the words that concern me. Words are not ... real. They are not substantive. Words are the tool we use to take a concept from my brain and transmit it to yours. You pull out the word "bleevil" and tell me I need to be careful of it and if I don't have a clue what "bleevil" is I cannot heed your warning. Lewis Carroll wrote, "Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe." Well, now, look at that ... words. Huh? It was, of course, nothing but nonsense. And "non-sense" is what I'm talking about. You may read Carroll's sentence and even get a sense of what he said, but it's a mistake because none of those words actually convey any common meaning. And my big concern is meaning.

I'm concerned about the principle of the union of one man and one woman for the purposes of making a family, for mutual support, for procreation, for union. We used to call that "marriage," but the word has been hijacked. Okay, fine. But some of us still use the word to mean that and others use the word to mean the new thing (whatever that is) and when we talk we are not communicating because we've lost the idea, and that is what concerns me. And it's not just those evil gays like some might think I think. It's everyone, me included. We used to have a word intended to refer to those who follow Christ, who reflect Christ, who are followers of "the Way" (Acts 24:24-15). It is "Christian." Now I have no word with which to convey that concept. It's not the loss of the word that disheartens me; it's the loss of the concept. Just two examples there.

As I read my Bible or listen to teachers, I often fall under conviction of sin and error. "What you're doing (or not doing) is wrong" or "What you thinking (or not thinking) is wrong." I don't want to do that. So I seek to correct my own errors of word, deed, and thought. I want to follow Christ without reserve, without protecting my own actions and ideas as sacrosanct. So maybe I need to be more careful here when I appear to quarrel over words. It's not the words. I don't want to be a wordsmith that argues over words; I want to be one who defends the truth. It's the concepts, the principles, the ideas. Because even though words can and do change, these things remain. And words don't need my defense; God's principles do.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Reparations

You know what I'm talking about. It has been asked and seconded that America pay African Americans back for the evil perpetrated by earlier Americans in the form of slavery. Elle magazine published an article on where the Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential election stand. Kamala Harris thinks we need to "give people a lift," which certainly included poorer black families but also anyone who was making less than $100,000 a year. Elizabeth Warren came down in favor but backed off to a "it's time to have a conversation" position. She favors a congressional panel to talk about it. She also wants to include Native Americans in that consideration. Julian Castro favors it. Marianne Williamson supports it and has her own plan. Pete Buttigieg likes the idea but has never seen a workable plan. Cory Booker, of course, has already submitted his own bill to the Senate to have a study on reparations. Sanders balks at the idea. Beto thinks it's a good idea. Kirsten Gillibrand supports the House bill (which is a bill to begin a study on it). Amy Klobuchar thinks we need to "invest in those communities." So, they're all wavering to some degree, from "I don't think writing a check is the best idea" to "I like the idea -- let's study it," but they mostly lean into it.

I do not have a problem agreeing that the slavery of early America was a horrendous evil. Nor do I deny that some of it was perpetrated by people calling themselves Christians and suggesting that they had biblical merit for doing so. It's all wrong. Predicated as it is on the evil of racism, it just stinks and continue to stink. That being said, I have a few difficulties with the idea of reparations.

The idea is that we Americans should pay some sort of repayment for the evil that was slavery to those who are the descendants of those who endured it. Seems straightforward, doesn't it? To me it's not. By "we Americans" do we mean "all Americans"? Because that would entail taking money from those who are the descendants of slaves to pay for reparations to ... those who are descendants of slaves. That doesn't seem fair. There should be a "trap" for that, some sort of "You don't have to pay because you don't owe; you are owed." But how would that come about? It doesn't get easier. Do we assume that all African Americans are descendants of slaves and are owed reparations? That doesn't seem right because they're not. And paying reparations to those who are not owed it seems counter productive. (It's a "Hey, how come he got money? He wasn't part of this problem" kind of problem.) Then there's the question of payment of reparations for slavery by people who have no connection to slavery. Their families weren't here at the time or they weren't slave owners or, worse, they were fighting to free slaves ... and will now need to pay for it. You can see, then, that the mere bookkeeping of this thing would become huge. You'd have to determine if your family was on the "slave owner" side or the "once a slave" side. It's complicated further by the fact that some blacks in the 18th and 19th centuries actually owned black slaves and then further by the fact that some of those blacks that owned slaves were freed slaves. Wow, what a mess that would be! Then, as Elizabeth Warren voiced, what about others? We were definitely unfair to Native Americans in that same time frame. Shouldn't they get equally compensated? But, then, you'd need to determine the culpability of each person/family there, too, wouldn't you? At some point the debt owed by the "actually culpable by family association" to the "actually wronged" would be so huge that the "actually culpable by family association" side couldn't pay it. Never mind the "guilty by association" fallacy. So we're looking for everyone to pitch in to pay off a debt no one today owes to an unclear number of people for something they never did and, perhaps, suffered from. That, dear reader, is what is being deemed "fair and reasonable."

There is the question of expected outcome. The idea is to right a wrong, to move away from what they did wrong to making things right. Do we actually expect that to happen? Setting aside all those problems I just mentioned above, let's say we came up with a suitable amount to pay out. Someone has suggested $100 billion with $10 billion paid out each year for 10 years. Fine, if that's acceptable. (With approximately 50 million African Americans in the U.S., that would work out to about $200 each per year.) Whatever. So we pay out the "right amount" and those who are descendants of slaves get compensated. Do we expect that this solves the problems? Do they stop feeling harshly toward white people? Do we expect that, having paid so much, racists will stop being racist? Will this eliminate the income disparity between those who paid and those who received? What do we hope to gain here? I don't think that's clear at all.

There is a theological aspect to the question. I've heard many people object to the notion that Christ paid for our sin. "It's not right," they say. "You can't make someone else pay for what you did wrong." (And, of course, that's not the argument. Christ volunteered.) So they deny basic Christianity because it would be unfair of God to accept on our behalf payment by Christ. On the other hand, it is right and just to accept on behalf of people who lived a century and a half ago payment by modern Americans? Seems inconsistent.

In fact, my primary objection is a theological one. We, as sinners, violated God's glory. We made ourselves debtors to Him. He has every right to collect. That would be just. If Someone else comes along and says, "I'll pay it!" that would be grace and mercy, but it would not be justice. That is, the One to whom the debt is owed is not obligated to accept payment from One who owes no such debt. So God's acceptance of Christ's payment on my behalf is huge. He didn't have to do it. There was no requirement of justice to accept it. He did. God reconciled us to Him. What reparations would say is the exact opposite. Those who were wronged are obliged to accept as payment in full from those who did no wrong. And those who did no wrong but pay it will do so without choosing to. It will be required by law. It states in exact opposition what I see to be a primary component of the gospel.

I find the current notion of slavery to be inexcusable (save by the blood of Christ, of course). We have no version that works in any sense of morality. But I also am dismayed at the notion of charging people who committed no crime with a crime of such magnitude and making them pay for it. Worse, forcing people who suffered from the effects of the crime to pay for the crime is unconscionable to me. Finally, making "I wasn't even there, Officer" pay for the crimes of the ones that were there does not sound like justice to me. Now, if they want to do so voluntarily, I won't object. Making it a law would negate the good will of those who think they should contribute and call guilty those who did nothing and require payment from the victims they wish to compensate. That, somehow, seems completely wrong to me.

Postscript
I need to address this. I've said (with others in the comments) that the concern is justice. I've been assured that the reason I am saying I'm concerned about justice is because I'm actually a white racist who is just concerned about my pocketbook (and maybe keeping the black man down). That's a blatant lie.

The story (I got from another blog) goes like this: If a Jewish family had art in Nazi Germany that was stolen by Nazis and that direct family was killed off by Nazis, but descendants of that Jewish family had escaped and a great grandchild was to find out today that a great grandchild of the Nazi that stole their family's art still had that art, then it would be reasonable to expect that the art would be returned to the family from which it had been stolen. That wasn't to cast any blame on the descendant of the original Nazi thief ... to say that they were to blame for the Holocaust or anything ... only that to be just to the aggrieved family, it is reasonable that this debt should be paid.

This idea is, of course, reasonable. This idea, of course, is not what reparations is about. The direct relations of the Jewish family who were wronged should get reparations from the direct relations of those who wronged them. In this perfectly suitable example, the wronged family gets back precisely what was taken from the relatives of those who took it. In reparations EVERYONE, whether or not they are in the line of those who did it, is required to pay back ALL of a group of people, whether or not they are descendants of the wronged. Going with the Nazi parallel, if a Jewish family survived the Holocaust and returned to Germany and Germany decided to pay reparations to Jews, the descendants of this Jewish family would pay into the fund that would pay them reparations. Justice? In the Nazi story above, they were paid back exactly what was taken. In the reparation story this is, in fact, impossible. One pro-reparation type has suggested $100 billion. Is that it? Each of the entire group (wronged or not) gets $200/year for 10 years and that is just? That's payback? That's what was taken?

The reason I say justice is not in view here is because the call is not that the ones who were in the line of those who were wronged would get paid back what they lost from the line of those who did the wrong.

Another thing. I'm not opposed to justice. If you could come up with a way that the families of those who perpetrated the wrongs could pay back at least some of what was taken to the families of those who were wronged, I'd be for it. (Paying it all back is, frankly, impossible.) No one is offering that.

One last thing. It's not because I'm white, and only a racist assumes that it is from the beginning. I'm actually amazed that white people can be so hateful of whites merely because of the color of their skin.

Postscript II, the sequel
There is a biblical principle here.
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. (Ezek 18:20)
I'm really disappointed that people that call themselves Christians think that the son should suffer for the father's iniquity. In essence, they argue that God would be unjust to make this true in the case of reparations.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Diminishing Returns

Let's face it; hymns are old. Hey, what can I say? It's a fact. That does not make them bad. But we can run into problems with hymns. AS an obvious example, when the language changes (as English is constantly doing), you can run into difficulty. The original lyrics of Hark, the Herald Angels Sing included "Hark how all the Welkin rings" as the first line. "Welkin? Really?" So we changed it to "Hark, the herald angels sing." We get it. Robert Robinson in Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing wrote, "Here I raise mine Ebenezer." What's an "Ebenezer?" (It occurs in 1 Samuel 7 where Samuel took a stone to remind them "Thus far the LORD has helped us." Robinson's "Ebenezer" was a reminder of God's help.) Isaac Watts, one of the most prolific hymn writers of all time, wrote How Sweet and Awful back when "awful" meant "full of awe," not "very bad." Gotta change that.

Other changes are not for such reasonable reasons.

We love grace. Why? Because we love to get good things we don't deserve. It's a wonderful thing. It really is. Oh, mercy, too. Not getting the bad things we do deserve is good, too, but grace is right up at the top of things we love about our Savior. So we sing "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a ..." wait, what is that word? The original word -- perhaps the very word that comes to your mind right now -- is "wretch." It is not a nice word. We need to fix that. So we gin up something new. Not "such a wretch," but "such a one as I." Much better.

Isaac Watts wrote Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed. This is his first verse.
Alas! and did my Savior bleed,
and did my Sovereign die!
Would he devote that sacred head
for such a worm as I?
Oh! Oh no! That will never fly. "Such a worm as I?" No, no, we have to change it. Today's most common version says, "Would he devote that sacred head for sinners such as I?" Yes, we can live with that. No worm, please.

Beneath the Cross of Jesus was an Elizabeth Clephane piece. In one verse she looks at the cross and confesses two wonders: "the wonders of redeeming love and my own worthlessness." That version is really hard to find these days. Nearly every version I found changed it so "my unworthiness." Why? Because "worthlessness" feels too harsh.

Sometimes it is necessary to change words in hymns. We call them "sacred hymns," but they aren't God's Word -- they aren't actually sacred. Correcting errors in hymns isn't a problem. Some popular hymns are downright wrong in places. Making them more understandable as the tide of language changes isn't really an issue. We all have to deal with that ourselves these days. But when the changes occur because we don't like the term, we should be more careful. John Newton referred to himself as a "wretch" because he understood the magnitude of his sin problem. Isaac Watts' reference to himself as a "worm" was biblical (Job 25:5-6; Psa 22:6). Objections to "my own worthlessness" come not from a demand for accuracy, but from a demand for self-esteem, something we're warned about (Rom 12:3). And here's the real problem. When we diminish our sin problem we do more than make ourselves feel better about ourselves. We diminish grace. We demean the Savior's work on the cross. We decrease our debt. Until we're not that bad. Jesus said, "He who is forgiven little, loves little" (Luke 7:47). That's the wrong effect we should be seeking -- diminishing God, His grace, and our love -- by improving our self-image.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Literally?

This is just another word rant.

According to the dictionary, the word "literal" means "in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical." Thus, "literally" would be the adverb form meaning "in the literal sense" or "in the sense that is in the primary or strict meaning of the word or words." So how is it that we've gotten to the place that "literally" can now mean "Used for emphasis while not being literally true." How did we get from "literally" meaning "literally" to now meaning "not literally"? But literally every day I hear someone say that something is literally true by which they mean it is only virtually true ... which means that it is not literally true ... like I just did here.

We have several English words with "gamy" as a suffix like "monogamy," "bigamy," or "polygamy." The suffix comes from Greek -- gamia -- and means "married." So "mono-gamy" would be "married to one" and "bi-gamy" would be "married to two" and "poly-gamy" would be "married to many." Not hard; you get the idea. Except somewhere along the way "monogamy" shifted to where it now means "The practice or state of having a sexual relationship with only one partner." Now, that's strange, since "married sex" and "extramarital sex" has always been distinct in our historical mindset. Indeed, in our day we recognize "serial monogamy" where you have sex with lots of people ... one at a time. How did we get from "monogamy" meaning "married to only one person" to "sex with a lot of people"? Is that a product of our culture's work at redefining marriage and sexual morality? I think so.

We have in modern English a gender problem. I'm not referring to sexism or even transgender issues. I'm referring to the word. There is, technically, a distinction between "gender" and "sex" in the language. "Sex" refers to the biology of it and "gender" refers to the maleness or femaleness of a person. "Sex" refers to the genitalia and other physical differences and "gender" is about roles and appearance and such. In the language. Our problem? We haven't got a clue. We understand that almost everyone is born with one or the other sexes. Binary sex. Undeniable. You can speak of the baby's sex, for instance, as a boy or a girl at birth. In a literal sense, it's there for all to see. Gender, on the other hand, isn't as clear to us. On one hand we rant and rave that there is no difference between the genders, that gender is a social construct, that maleness and femaleness is a largely arbitrary thing. But if a biological male decides he is actually of female gender, he will always switch over to the appearance and mannerisms of a female gender ... which we just determined wasn't real. We call it "gender dysphoria" and, yet, he/she is quite clear what gender he/she really is and what roles, appearance, and mannerisms that gender should display. That, dear reader, is real confusion.

Well, look, I'm going to go with it. Sure, I could afford to lose some weight, but I've decided I'm translender. I may weigh too much, but I identify as a slender person. I have slender dysphoria, and I'll thank the doctors not to refer to me as "overweight." Right? No? Why not??! Because ... words have literal meaning and how I feel about it doesn't matter.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Deserve's Got Nothing to Do With It

(The names and people in this story are fictitious to protect the ... guilty.)

A group of friends were sharing prayer requests. One said, "Pray for my granddaughter. She feels like she doesn't deserve God's love and is very depressed." So they did. And I thought, "But ... she doesn't deserve God's love." And I became concerned that no one in the group seemed to notice. I became concerned for the group.

I get it. "Depressed" is indeed a real problem. That's one of those "demons" that doesn't come out without much prayer. I get it. I'll pray about that. On the other hand, I thought "don't deserve" was at the heart of the Gospel. I thought -- correct me if I'm wrong ... I'm just winging it here -- that "by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Eph 2:8-9). I thought "if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace" (Rom 11:6). I thought "don't deserve" was at the core of grace.

To me, understanding the depths of my sin has enlarged the grace of God. He didn't have to stoop a little to save me. He didn't have to make a couple of minor corrections, a couple of adjustments, forgive a few faux pas. He needed to send His Son (Eph 2:4-5) to live a perfect life and take on Himself my sin and exchange it for His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21). For a righteous and holy God to save someone who is "deserving" or even "mostly okay" is not such a large thing. To save a wretch like me? That's huge.

I didn't pray with them that day. I prayed that God would open her eyes to the fact that she was undeserving and help her to see the vast grace that God gives to the completely undeserving of such a great love and such forgiveness and such mercy. I prayed that He would magnify Himself in her heart to give her maximum gratitude and Him maximum glory. And I prayed that the group would see it, too. Amen.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Celebrating Resurrection

I read this recently. Paul was writing to the church at Thessalonica. He wanted to reassure them about those who had died. He wanted them to know that because Jesus died and rose again, "even so, through Jesus, God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep" (1 Thess 4:14). What Paul is saying here is significant. We know that Christ died for our sins. His death demonstrated God's justice (Rom 3:23-25). That's good. We can be declared forgiven on the basis of His death on our behalf. But what about the Resurrection? Why is that important?

Paul gives an answer here. We know we're forgiven because Christ died on our behalf. What then? We know on the basis of His Resurrection that we will be with Him. We will be with Him.

It's Resurrection Sunday and we're celebrating far more than Easter bunnies and candy eggs. Sometimes, I think, we're not entirely clear on what that "far more" is. His death was important -- absolutely vital. His Resurrection is no less. To me, it is critical. Salvation is wonderful. Forgiveness is grand. His righteousness applied to my life is amazing. But to know that one day I will be with Him is my supreme delight. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.

We celebrate our Lord's Resurrection every Sunday with special attention once a year. It's not enough. The huge significance of this event gets lost on us sometimes. I, for one, cannot wait for the day that I will be with Him -- to be like Him because we see Him as He is (1 John 3:2) -- on the basis of His Resurrection.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

News Weakly - 4/20/19

The Burnt Cathedral
The big news of the week seems to be the disaster in Paris. The venerable Notre Dame cathedral burned. It was devastated in an apparently accidental fire. There was a universal sense of horror from the thousands of onlookers. There are photos of a seemingly miraculous preservation of the interior in places. The loss of this landmark is really difficult.

Given the decline of Christianity in Europe and America, one might be tempted to draw a parallel. "The church is burning, but the holy is saved." Very few French people were concerned about the loss of a "sacred place," but they felt the loss of a "national treasure," a beloved landmark. In terms of parallels, it would seem that the church burned down after the cows had already left. Oh, that's mixed metaphors, but you get it. They're planning to rebuild the building. There are no plans to restore Christ to the nation or the world.

UnAmerican
The Laguna Beach, California, police department really messed up. They included American flags on their police car paint job. The louses. Laguna Beach is an artist community and some of the community just complained because they didn't get to have an input. But others are complaining that it's too "aggressive" and think that American flags on American police cars are offending immigrants and visitors. Only proving that you can do nothing these days without offending someone.

Rights Shmites
New York City appears to be having a serious measles outbreak. As a result, Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided to force vaccinations for 212,000 people living, working, or attending school in four zip codes or face a fine. You can get vaccinated, produce proof of vaccination within 3 days, or pay a $1000 fine. A group of orthodox Jews in the area have sued to prevent the violation of their religious freedom. They believe (for reasons I don't understand) that a measles vaccination is a violation of their religious beliefs. The government doesn't care. "First Amendment? We've already determined that you don't get that. Move along." The judge says so.

I get "quarantine" or "isolate" or even "You don't get to ignore the vaccination requirement because you're scared it might cause autism," but this country has religious freedom as a basic right. Now it's being kicked again and again to the curb. (And, hey, how does a $1000 fine prevent measles?)

Tough Love? No, Thanks!
Australian rugby player Israel Folau has been cut from Rugby Australia for posting on Instagram that "hell awaits homosexuals." Chief executive Raelene Castle said, "It was made clear to him that any social media posts or commentary that is in any way disrespectful to people because of their sexuality will result in disciplinary action." Further, Billy Vunipola was formally warned by the Rugby Football Union for liking Folau's post.

In a similar story, several road workers were fired for putting up "Bridge Out" signs on the road to a bridge that was removed and being replaced. "Posting signs that are in any way disrespectful to people because of the road they're on will result in disciplinary action," their supervisor stated. Oh, wait ... maybe not. Please note, world: Warning someone of impending disaster is not the same as disrespecting them. I would consider that it is disrespectful to encourage people to continue to their doom. And, hey, while I have your attention, world, let me ask: do you know Jesus?

Banning Hate?
This week Facebook banned some far right groups and individuals from their service on the basis that "Individuals and organisations who spread hate, or attack or call for the exclusion of others on the basis of who they are, have no place on Facebook." It sounds wise and reasonable, but you can surely see that "spread hate" or "call for the exclusion of others" is a hair's breadth away from excluding any biblical Christian since "You're a sinner and need Christ" or "We're a church; we don't hire those who disagree with our beliefs to lead us" are classified today as hateful. And what Facebook excludes many others will also.

Drawing Conclusions
Well, the poll is out. According to Gallup, church membership in the U.S. is down sharply in the past two decades. In 1999 something like 70% said they were church members; today's count is around 50%. Further, it seems that the slippage -- that 20% -- have not gone elsewhere. They've gone to "no religion." Among those who do classify themselves as religious, those who are church members have fallen by 9%.

(Important note: This was a Gallup poll. "Church membership" is not merely Christian churches. It is all of them, including JW, LDS, Islam, etc. That will, on its own, throw off the numbers we Christians are looking at.)

What can we conclude? Well, clearly America is no longer a Christian nation. (Hint: America was never a Christian nation. Nations can't have a saving relationship with Christ.) We could likely surmise that America, like the major trends in most developed nations, is losing its religion, so to speak. That's not news to us, either. I might conclude that the numbers are headed in a more honest direction. Polls in earlier decades said upwards of 75% of Americans were "Christian" but 5% said it made any difference in their lives. I suspect when we get closer to 5% of Americans as members of Christian churches, we'll be closer to reality. I also think it is abundantly clear that America is no longer the "missionary nation" -- the sender. We are quickly and seriously becoming the genuine mission field. And I think it should be obvious that as America loses its religion, it will lose the religious values that informed her. As such, expect a decline in morality, civility, family values, the value of the human being in the image of God, and, oh, yeah, reason (Rom 1:28). Hang on (real) Christians; it's gonna be a bumpy ride.

Brain Damage
Bobby Azarian is pleased to report that if you believe that the Bible is God's inspired Word and we ought to live our lives by that inspired Word, it is likely that you are suffering from brain impairment. Good news! Apparently it's not your fault!!

Beginning with the stunningly ignorant "Religious beliefs can be thought of as socially transmitted mental representations that consist of supernatural events and entities assumed to be real," the story descends into sheer stupidity. The fundamental starting point of this argument is that there can be no Supreme Being concluding, therefore, anyone who operates as if there is can only be brain damaged. "Religious fundamentalism refers to an ideology that emphasizes traditional religious texts and rituals and discourages progressive thinking about religion and social issues." Because, after all, if there is a God and He did give us His Word, He would certainly be more "progressive" ... than His Word, right? Assumptions about faith opposed to reason or evidence or faith that disallows challenges or questions are faulty assumptions. "Since religious fundamentalism involves a strict adherence to a rigid set of beliefs, cognitive flexibility and open-mindedness present a challenge for fundamentalists." False. Standing on fundamentals because they are fundamental does not preempt flexibility or open-mindedness. On the other hand, a mind so open that it can ignore fundamentals is headed toward disaster. (Think, "I can step off this cliff because I'm open-minded enough to think that the Law of Gravity is merely a suggestion.") Oh, and the best news! Their findings "could allow us to someday inoculate against rigid or radical belief systems." Great! We can eliminate God! Who has the brain damage now?

Friday, April 19, 2019

Who Killed Jesus?

For a long, long time the question of who killed Jesus was a serious issue. It was one of the leading causes of the rift between the original people of God -- the Jews -- and the adopted people of God -- Christians. Who killed Jesus? The Jews. And in many claiming the name of Christ (who was a Jew) this fact produced hatred for the Jews, pure and simple anti-Semitism of the worst kind. But ... did they? Well, in fact, they didn't actually have the authority to do so. They were begging Pilate to do it because they couldn't. While it is true that the Jews asked for it and even pushed him into it -- they actually claimed responsibility (Matt 27:22) -- any thinking person familiar with the story would have to say that the truth is that the Jews did not kill Jesus. The Romans did (Acts 2:23).

Okay, so the Romans did it. This is true. It was their tree, their hammer, their nails, their soldiers who did it all. No Jew pounded those spikes into our Savior's hands and feet. That was the Romans. The Jews pressed for it, but it was ultimately the Romans that did the deed.

If you consider, however, the reason for the murder of the Son of God, you'd have to admit that it wasn't the Jews or the Romans underlying this. The Bible tells us "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3), that He "died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" (1 Peter 3:18). There are voices out there that assure us that Jesus did not die for our sins. It was a morality display or something like that. But Scripture says otherwise. Scripture says that we killed Jesus. He "humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8) in order that "we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." (Rom 5:9) Who killed Jesus? We did, with every sin, with every shake of our fist in the face of God, with every refusal to submit. Without us, that death would have been unnecessary.

But don't stop there. Think it through to the end. We all agree that God loved the world in this particular way: "He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16) Scripture claims that the Jews and the Romans executed Jesus according to God's predetermined plan (Acts 4:27-28). This execution was God's idea (Acts 2:23). Just in stark physical realities, if "All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being" (John 1:3), then Jesus made the man that drove in the nails and the tree on which He was crucified. Who killed Jesus? Ultimately God -- Father and Son -- did it.

The Jews did it by pushing it through and the Romans carried it out. The whole thing occurred solely because of our sin. At the bottom, though, is God who made us not because we're so necessary or wonderful but because He wanted to and planned before time to carry out this Creation/Fall/Redemption course of action so that He would be most glorified. We have a lot that we are guilty of when it comes to sin. We have much, much more to be grateful for when it comes to salvation. That is a gift from God (Eph 2:8). It is what we celebrate at His Resurrection.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Good Friday

Tomorrow is Good Friday. It's the day we recognize every year for the day Christ died. Good Friday.

Think about what was included in that. On "Good Friday" the perfect, sinless Son of God was tortured and executed by His creation. On that day Jesus hung on a tree of His own making (John 1:3) after being betrayed by a kiss from one of His own disciples (Luke 22:47-48). He was placed there by His own created beings (Col 1:16-17) under the authority that He established (Rom 13:1). A "good" day? Really? He underwent more physical torment than we can imagine, but the only time He is recorded as "crying out" was when His own Father forsook Him (Matt 27:46). (Note: The word "excruciating" has its roots in the Latin for "cross." That is, the cross defines "excruciating.") "Good" Friday? Really??

Well, it isn't called "Good Friday" because of what He went through. It isn't because of the injustice, the hatred, the torture, the pain, the loss. We all know that it is Good Friday because of the result. He died -- willingly -- so that we might be saved. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace" (Eph 1:7). He reconciled to Himself all things, making peace by the blood of His cross (Col 1:20). We know this, so we call it "good."

We know, also, that none of it happened by accident. It wasn't just good; it was the plan. Without exonerating Judas's sin, Jesus said, "The Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!" (Luke 22:22). Thus, Judas's betrayal was part of what had been determined, but Judas was still on the hook for His betrayal. Jesus was executed by "Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel" who did "whatever Your hand and Your plan had predestined to take place" (Acts 4:27-28). It was the plan. So it was good.

Every Good Friday we pause to remember what Christ suffered, yes, but also what He accomplished on that cross. It is good to do so. That's why we call it Good Friday. But I want to ask you to consider something more. If the worst event in the history of Earth -- the torture and murder by humans of the sinless Son of God -- can be called "good" for any reason at all -- if God could have actually planned all that and used it for ultimate good -- is it remotely possible that the things you suffer and the problems you face could be part of a plan that God intends for your good? Just consider it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Because of You

Paul, in several of his letters, tells his readers something like, "We give thanks to God always for all of you" (1 Thess 1:2). How nice. Because of them, Paul gave thanks to God. They're lives and attitudes and actions and faith caused Paul to be grateful. On the other hand we read, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you" (Rom 2:24). Oh, now that's not so nice.

I cannot tell you how many times I've been told what unchristian things Christians have done and are doing. Some of it is "excusable," not in the sense of "it's okay," but in the sense that we all make mistakes and they did (or I did). Some, on the other hand, is horrible. I think of the famous Crusades where people went off to war in the name of Christ to rescue "holy lands." Lots of genuine evil has been done in the name of Christ. There are plenty of people who blaspheme God because of these. There are many, even so-called Christians, who use them as a tool to denigrate Christ, His Church, and His people.

I understand the dilemma. People are claiming to do bad things in the name of Christ. If they are, then Christ is bad. I get it. But for reasons I do not understand, no one appears to ask, "Is what they did something of which Christ would approve?" Or, if they do, it is based on a Christ of their own manufacture. They assign their own values to Christ. They build God in their own image and then assume that He will do/allow/approve what they outline for Him. So "Jesus would never condone calling sinners out for their sin" is a fabrication based on a "Jesus of my own making" and not the Jesus revealed in the pages of Scripture (e.g., the "woes" of Christ such as Matt 11:21; Matt 23:13-29; Luke 6:24-26).

So, what to do? Perhaps this is radical, but perhaps we ought to start by taking God at His Word. What does He say about Himself? What does Scripture say about Christ? Is there anything in the Word that suggests that we should go to war with Islam to save some "holy lands"? Then let's not assign that to "Christian." And let's not lay that event at the feet of Christ. Does Scripture offer guidance in confronting sin? Yes, it does. So let's do that in a biblical way even if those who experience it find it offensive. We must let God be God by not assigning our own values to Him and then acting wrongly or by refusing to do what He says because someone might be offended.

A lot of Christians think that we need to make Christianity more attractive. I don't think so. What we need to do is display Christianity -- "Christ following" -- as it is supposed to be with the love and commitment we're supposed to have and the good works that glorify the Father. We do not need to be one of those who cause unbelievers to blaspheme God. We don't want to be the ones who cause others to be against God because we've failed to know Him and show Him as He reveals Himself. We can fail by acting against His Word and calling it "of God," or we can do that by failing to hold to His self-revelation and calling that "of God." Don't be that guy. Be the one that causes others to give thanks to God for you.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Inside Out

We try hard. We want to be good, to be obedient, to do what God wants. We want to be followers of Christ. So we work it ... you know, like Paul said: "Work out your salvation" (Php 2:12). We exercise it and we push it and we try ... really ... hard. We look for good preachers and teachers. We find Christian counselors, professional or not, who can give us "Christian therapy," so to speak. We get accountability partners and prayer partners and we adopt programs and procedures to be godly. We'll whip this thing into shape.

How's that working for you?

As it turns out, it doesn't work well if we're honest. Just "being good" isn't something we do easily. The problem, of course, is that it isn't natural. We are denying ourselves of our pleasures and desires, pushing back our fleshly nature, warring against the flesh (1 Peter 2:11). As it turns out, we are doing it wrong. We looking in all the wrong places. We aim for the here and now when we're supposed to have an eternal view. We care most for ourselves when we're supposed to consider others as more important than ourselves. We celebrate humanity when we're supposed to celebrate God above all. We are in real trouble here.

God wants faithful followers, but the notion that we can work that up is not part of His plan. We need something else. You won't like this. We don't need to fix things; we need to die. We need to be crucified (Rom 6:5-6) spiritually. We can't fix this flesh; we have to kill it. We don't work with it; we end it. This is only possible if we are under a new paradigm, the one where we are raised with Christ (Rom 6:4) and God is at work in us (Php 2:13). We need the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). We need forgiveness, sure, but we also need righteousness that is not our own (2 Cor 5:21). We don't need to work harder; we need to be transformed (Rom 12:2). We need "the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).

Paul complained, "I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing" (Rom 7:19). Have you experienced that? He cried out, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:24). Have you done that? It's because we aren't naturally good; we are naturally flesh -- sinful. Our hope doesn't lie in better methods and programs and partners. It lies in a supernatural change from within wrought by God. It changes your "want to" to align with God's will. It changes your motivating force from self -- flesh -- to God's will. It isn't something you can produce on your own. It has to occur from the inside out. It is a supernatural work of God so that no one may boast.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Communion of the Saints

How was church yesterday? Maybe you went to a big service or a smaller service or maybe a home church. How was that? Or ... did you go?

A large and apparently growing number of self-identified Christians are leaving church. Part of it, I suspect, is due to American (which has infiltrated deep into other cultures as well) independence. "I don't need anyone; I can do this on my own." Our heroes are those standalone guys and gals, the ones standing against the enemy on their own. We may poo-poo the "Lone Ranger Christian" concept, but I think more and more of us are liking it. Others might be failing to forgive a bad experience or simply are rebellious. "You're not the boss of me!" For whatever reason, too many Christians are not participating in the communion of the saints, that community that links all believers.

The Bible paints a different picture. We are described as a body, requiring each individual that comprises the varied parts (1 Cor 12:12-27). Believers that step out on their own are like livers and hearts that exit the body to do their own thing. That's neither good for the parts nor the body. Christianity is full of "one anothers," requiring community rather than individuality. We are to love one another (John 13:34-35; 15:12, 17; Rom 12:10), wash one another's feet (John 13:14), live in harmony with one another (Rom 12:16), instruct one another (Rom 15:14), serve one another (Gal 5;13), bear one another's burdens (Gal 6:2), be kind to one another (Eph 4:32), forgive one another (Eph 4:32), bear with one another (Eph 4:2; Col 3:13), teach and admonish one another (Col 3:16) ... do I need to go on? It is all throughout the New Testament. This isn't a small thing; it's a central issue. The church stands to defend believers with its elders, deacons, and members together. Believers stand to grow in sanctification by serving one another and exercising gifts. The church is God's mission to the world, both in edifying and maturing believers and in sending them out with the gospel. The Scriptures speak of koinonia. The first church "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers" (Acts 2:42), where "fellowship" is the translation of koinonia. Fellowship -- a key component of Christianity.

So Hebrews says, "Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near" (Heb 10:24-25). Paul wrote, "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose" (Php 2:1-2). Tell me, if you can, how one can fail to gather with other believers and accomplish any of these commands?

So, how was church yesterday? You know, it is possible to go to church and still not do any of these (and the rest that God commands for believers to act toward each other). Did you go? Did you fulfill any of the precious instructions God gives us in His Word? If you didn't go, what excuse do you use? Do you think God buys it? No, no, I get it. There are believers who cannot make it to church in any form. Bed-ridden, hospital-bound, isolated. I get it. But I dare say that it's rare. Are you fulfilling God's instructions to love and benefit His children? If not, why not? (Rhetorical question; I'm not expecting an answer here. Just for your consideration.)

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Vain Worship

What do we know about worship? Well, our word for it is vague. The dictionaries define it as an expression of reverence and adoration. Fine. But what does that mean? I want to ask what the Bible says about it.

We know that it is possible to worship in vain. That is, people can go through the motions of worship without actually worshiping. It looks like worship, but it's not. Jesus said, "This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me" (Matt 15:8-9). Worship, then, requires a heart condition, not merely lipservice.

What, then, would be real worship versus vain worship? Jesus told the woman at the well, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). In this He outlined two necessary components -- spirit and truth. Vain worship would be without spirit and/or without truth. You can express all the reverence and adoration you want, but without truth it is not worship. We also know "You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve" (Matt 4:10). So genuine worship is toward God alone. Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matt 6:21), so true worship requires a heart that values God above all. Our English word, worship, originated as "worth-ship" -- a recognition of worth. When we treasure God above all else, that is "worth-ship" -- worship. In Romans Paul wrote, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship" (Rom 12:1). Sacrificing self on behalf of God is biblical worship.

The Bible isn't silent about worship, but in many cases we're just not listening. We think it's singing some good songs and gathering a warm feeling about God. It is not. If that's all it was, it would simply fall, biblically, in the category of "vain worship." Valid worship requires that we value God above everything else, placing Him at the center of our heart and spirit, sacrificing all we have and are to Him. In this version of worship, Sunday is a good day for it, but certainly not a sufficient day. We need a lifetime of it. We can start that today.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

News Weakly - 4/13/19

You're Gonna Pay
Senator Cory Booker announced that he is going to introduce a bill aimed at paying reparations to descendants of 19th-century slaves. It's only fair, I guess. I mean, after all, the money would come from tax payers ... which includes every working black person in the country as well as all those who didn't have a family history in the U.S. in the 19th century. Unless, of course, they plan to figure out a way to exempt blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics, whites whose families weren't here in the 19th century or who didn't own slaves ... uh, oh, the list of tax payers for this "reparations" is getting smaller and smaller. So, of course, "fair" has nothing to do with it and, as we all know, neither does "justice".

Murder Expands
After 66 years of protecting the lives of the most vulnerable humans, South Korea's Constitutional Court has decreed that killing babies in the womb will now be legal like other developed nations, a major win for pro-murder advocates. One woman who had an illegal abortion 12 years ago said "she is still haunted by the knowledge that she committed a crime. 'I felt guilty for getting rid of a life to begin with, but the fact that it was a crime made it emotionally much more difficult,' Kim said." She illustrates the problem. Making it legal doesn't make it right. Conversely, making it legal could ease the conscience of those who are "getting rid of a life." Legalizing murder simply makes murderers feel better about it.

On the Other Hand
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine is signing a "heartbeat bill" that the media is calling an "abortion ban." The logic is "If it has a heartbeat and it's human, it's a life." That, of course, is not an abortion ban as much as a murder ban, but you won't see that in the media. The ACLU promises to fight to keep babies from gaining civil liberties like the protection of life in Ohio and every other state that has passed or is trying to pass such a murder ban.

A Nation on the Move
New Zealand proved a couple of interesting things this week. First, they proved that they could act far more quickly than any other nation I've ever seen in making laws. In less than a month after the Christchurch attacks, New Zealand managed to ban a large number of weapons. They expect to buy back tens of thousands of guns in the wake of their new firearm laws. Very fast. They've also proved that they are largely ignorant of what causes murder. Removing the tools doesn't remove the problem. It doesn't change the motivating hate. It doesn't add a sense of value to human life that might prevent someone from killing another human being. It doesn't address the actual problem at all. But, I guess, to be fair very few these days seem to understand that fact. Not really unique to New Zealand.

You're Write!
Okay, not a big deal, perhaps, but I like it. Texas schools are bringing back cursive writing to the classroom. Given the ubiquity of keyboards everywhere, a lot of schools have dropped penmanship from their curriculum. Especially cursive writing. Who needs it? We have electronic writing. Common Core curriculum omitted it because they didn't figure kids would need it. Turns out that cursive writing enhances hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills and promotes reading, writing, and cognition skills. Who knew? And now they'll be able to actually sign documents again! Win-win!

New Rights ... Again
Trump's transgender troop ban took effect this week. As of Friday, those who cannot serve in their biological gender cannot serve unless they were already in the military. "It is 'don't ask, don't tell' all over again," said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a research institute focusing on sexual minorities in the military. (Really? There is an institute focusing on sexual minorities in the military??) The Human Rights Campaign describes the policy as a national security threat. (Really?? A national security threat???!) The Pentagon estimates that 9,000 of their total 1.3 million active-duty personnel identify as transgender. Transgender Army Staff Sergeant Patricia King says, "As many as 15,000 transgender service members stand to lose their jobs," completely ignoring what the numbers are ("9,000") or what the rules are ("Those who are already in won't be affected"). Facts normally don't bother a lot of people these days. And apparently serving in the military is a right and Hillary is outraged that these people aren't being allowed to serve their country. I am not getting it.

Successful Boycott
Protesters wildly succeeded in preventing Chick-fil-A from selling a single sandwich last Sunday. They said there was "not one customer all day." They're calling it deadly blow to hate peddlers and the beginning of the end for Chick-fil-A.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

(Note: In case you're not aware of it, Chick-fil-A is always closed on Sundays. Thus, the joke ...)

In other news, the report is out that Joe Biden has been appointed the head of TSA. No one seems concerned about the double entendre with the word "frisky."

Friday, April 12, 2019

Submitted for Your Consideration

Most of us (those who read this blog) are firmly set against the "health and wealth," "your best life now," "prosperity gospel" (which is not another gospel (Gal 1:6-7)). The only thing, they tell us, that is keeping us from being healthy and wealthy is our lack of faith. If we had faith, they tell us, all good things would come to us. But we know better. We know that Christ promised tribulation in this world (John 16:33). We know that there will be suffering (1 Peter 4:12). And we know that it isn't all bad (2 Cor 12:7-10; James 1:2-4). We're smarter than that. Okay, wiser. Right?

I suspect that this false doctrine we rightly usher out the front door often ends up getting smuggled back in the back door. Consider.

When Jesus was in His hometown, He complained, "A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household" (Mark 6:4). The text goes on to say, "And He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief" (Mark 6:4-5). Now, you tell me what we've learned. What I am nearly universally told is that Jesus was unable to perform miracles when those for whom He would perform them had no faith. Right? I mean, that's what it says, right? So how is that different than "You aren't getting what you want from God because you don't have enough faith"? Is it actually true that our lack of faith can prevent God from accomplishing His plans? Is God's power limited by our faith? (I'm sure you can see the clear implication: God is not Omnipotent if His power is limited.) Is this the required conclusion from this text? And if so, how is that different than the "Your lack of faith prevents God from giving you all the good things He wants to give you" position?

I don't think it is required. First, note, it does not say "He could do no mighty works there because of their unbelief." That is not what it says. It says He marveled because of their unbelief, and it says He could do no mighty works there. The two are not connected in the text. In the parallel text it says He did not do mighty works there because of their unbelief (Matt 13:58), so it true that "no mighty works" is connected to "unbelief," but Mark doesn't connect "could not" with unbelief. Why does that matter? If Christ is actually incapable of performing mighty works in the absence of faith, we have a problem. On one hand, the repeated claim of Scripture that God can and does do whatever He pleases is without merit. That is, Scripture is wrong. On the other hand, we have lots of biblical examples of mighty works done without faith or even permission. People were raised from the dead, healed, made to walk or see again, many times without any evidence of faith primarily because they didn't know it was coming. So if the lack of faith can prevent an Omnipotent God from being Omnipotent, we have a faulty Bible and a faulty God.

So what could it mean when Mark says "He could do no mighty work there" if not "He lacked the power to perform them because of their lack of faith"? Well, we routinely use the word "could" (or "could not") to mean something other than having or lacking the power to do something. Let me give you an example. I remember overhearing my son on the phone talking to a friend who was encouraging him to lie to his father about going somewhere. "Oh," my son answered, "I couldn't do that." Really? "Couldn't"? Did he mean he lacked the power to lie? Of course not. He meant that something else was preventing him from exercising that power. For us to do something, it requires two things -- ability and will. So "cannot" could mean "I lack the ability" or "I lack the will." Lacking the will, clearly, makes is impossible to do something. If I will not, I cannot.

It is entirely reasonable, then, that Jesus lacked the will to do mighty works there because they lacked faith. One commentator suggests that if they lacked faith, they wouldn't ask and He wouldn't answer. Jesus was all about glorifying God; if they lacked faith would it have brought God any glory to do mighty works among skeptics? Jesus was all about loving others; would it have been in their best interest to do mighty works for those who wouldn't believe?

We have abilities and we have will. Sometimes our abilities don't measure up to our will, and we can't do what we will. Sometimes our will doesn't fit our abilities, and we won't do what we can. In either case it can rightly be said, "I cannot do it." I would suggest that Christ "could do no mighty works there" not because human free will limits God's ability to act, but because God (the Father, the Son, the Spirit) may lack the will to do mighty works if we refuse to believe. This perspective would maintain an Omnipotent God and agree with Scripture. What say you?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Why Ask?

I'm not a big fan of Pascal's wager. You know. The argument goes something like, "You ought to believe in God because if you're wrong about it you lose little but if you're wrong in disbelieving in God you could go to hell" or something like it. Some people love it; others hate it. I'm not a big fan of it because it seems as if it goes against Paul's statement. "If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied" (1 Cor 15:19). Seems like Paul disagreed with Pascal.

To be fair, scholars aren't at all sure about Pascal's wager. Much of what he wrote was fragmented. This particular one was written on four sides of a sheet of paper -- some in the middle, some in the margins, some upside down. What went where? What did he actually intend? It's difficult to be certain. He seems to argue that "Reason cannot prove the existence of God, so you should just believe." But Pascal himself offered lots of reasons for the existence of God and wrote, "The way of God ... is to instill religion into our minds with reasoned arguments, and into our hearts with grace" (Pensées, 172, 185). So it's difficult to be sure what he intended with this particular argument.

Thus, while I'm not a fan, I think that there is a place for it. It isn't a good reason to believe there is a God, but it is a good reason to ask the question. And that is the good reason for the wager. It can't be offered as an argument to believe, but it is certainly a strong argument to ask the question. Given the immensity of the question at hand -- "Is there a God?" and all its ramifications -- over against the import of "If there is no God," I would think it would be abundantly clear that this would be a good reason to examine the question. If we're talking about "Who is better -- Batman or Superman?", the ramifications are pointless, so the question is of little value. If we're talking about "Do my car's brakes work or not?" that question has some serious ramifications and is certainly worth examining. The existence of God is a bigger question with larger ramifications -- both ways. I would think it would be worth serious consideration rather than a cursory rejection offered by so many today. It is, in fact, one of the biggest puzzles I continue to consider: How can so many who actually have some information on this still remain outside the faith, outside even considering the facts, giving no thought to the potentially eternal ramifications of their position? I don't get it.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Body Positive

Thebodypositive is a website dedicated to teaching people to "move past shame, self-judgment, and isolation, and into the knowledge that every body is the 'perfect body.'" Body positivity is a social movement encouraging everyone to embrace whatever they look like because it's fine, it's just fine. The idea is to avoid getting hooked into unrealistic beauty standards and just ... love yourself. There is even a National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) urging self-acceptance at all sizes. Stop the shaming! Just embrace yourself!

Given a world driven by bizarre standards of appearance and the apparent inability to look for character rather than appearance, I get it. Too many people are insulting too many people over stupid, stupid things. Really? She's not skinny enough? Really, she doesn't conform to a nonsensical notion of what "beauty" ought to be? You hear stories out of Hollywood where an attractive actor is told to lose weight because she's not thin enough yet and you just scratch your head. What's wrong with these people??! I see the problem. It's just that I'm not sure "Embrace yourself" is the best answer. They tell us that America is suffering from an obesity epidemic. While a person's value is not determined by their appearance, is it wise to say, "Embrace that physical condition likely to kill you young!"?

But, look, I'm not really thinking here about "body positive." That's one issue. I'm more concerned about the "embrace yourself" message being broadcast all over the world where the self you are encouraged to embrace is a sinful being living on sensual lusts, sexual immorality, greed, selfishness, hate -- you know, the stuff Scripture says leads to death. And not merely physical death like obesity might do. Eternal death. We are told over and over "Don't judge" by which they mean, "Let us embrace our sin with joy!!" And that cannot end well.

It may be that I'm not as ugly as I think I am. It may well be that I'm not thinking straight about my appearance or worth. I suspect that's a real problem. "Feel better" is not the right answer. It is certainly true that I am not the follower of Christ I want to be. "Embrace your sin" is the absolutely wrong answer there. So go ahead. Speak the truth in love. I need to know if I'm overweight and maybe some tips on how to lose it. I need to know if there are sins in my life I don't see and maybe some help in overcoming them. But don't tell me, "Embrace yourself" when the self I'm embracing will get me killed, physically or otherwise. Don't try to convert me to "body positive" or "spirit positive" when it's not the truth. I'd much rather deal with the problem than simply feel better about myself.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

Not To Be

In Hamlet's famous soliloquy -- perhaps the most famous soliloquy ever -- he claims, "To be, or not to be: that is the question." He is, of course, considering suicide. And, of course, "not to be" is a misnomer. When we die, we cease to be in this physical world, but we don't cease to be. On the other hand, I can see in the contemplation an echo of Paul's words, "For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Php 1:21), except that Paul gives value to "live" and "die" -- Christ. One serves Him; the other gains Him.

But it got me to thinking, that "not to be" concept. While we will continue to "be" whether it is here or after death, there is a sense of "not to be" in our lives. There are a lot of things in our lives that are "not to be." I did not die at 3 years old when I had spinal meningitis with a strain that kills in 24 hours and I had had it for that long already. Dying then, for me, was not to be. There were careers I didn't pursue which, as it turned out, was a blessing because they would have been really bad, but they were not to be. I cannot tell you how many traffic accidents, diseases, injuries, and the like I did not experience that were not to be. We can't actually know the extent of what did not happen in our lives, but, looking at what has happened in the lives of others, I would imagine the list is extensive.

The belief today and even in biblical times has been that if you suffer, it is because of sin. It comes from a basic belief that you get what you earn in life and if you earn evil, you'll get it. It even comes from a biblical perspective when God promises good things for those who obey and bad things for those who don't. And, while Scripture itself debunks the notion that all suffering is the direct response to sin, it is true that, in general, suffering is the result of sin (Rom 8:20-23). That's why all this "not to be" I'm talking about is staggering. I cannot even begin to guess how much mercy God has exercised towards me by preventing the pain and suffering I've rightly and thoroughly earned from actually occurring. We all think we suffer too much, but I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt we have not suffered what we deserve in this life. Jesus said, "Your Father in heaven ... makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt 5:45). That's grace -- getting favor we don't deserve. All this "not to be" that I know and don't know is mercy -- not getting what I so richly deserve. Unfortunately, since much of it is unknown, I don't think I'm sufficiently thankful for it. But I do recognize it. And I thank God for it.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Modesty

Paul is a problem sometimes. Like, for instance, he says, "If possible so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all" (Rom 12:18) and then he goes and writes something like this:
Women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. (1 Tim 2:9-10)
Paul, Paul, what were you thinking, man? You can't get away with something like that? Don't you know this will cause no end of conflict between men and women, no end of "no peace"? Really, Paul. You can't tell women how to dress.

It wasn't that long ago that the standard of modesty for women was "no ankle showing." I admit, that was before my time, but it wasn't a lot before my time. As the years went by, the skirt length requirement rose. From "show some ankle" to "perhaps the calves" to my day when it was "at the knees" (and they'd make girls kneel to make sure the hem touched the ground). After that there was no stopping it. "Six inches above the knee" to today's version that says, "No genitals showing" (seriously).

Now, tell me again, what is "modesty"? We're not entirely sure anymore, but we're pretty sure Paul has no place calling for it.

The dictionary defines modesty as "regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc." (among other things, of course). The first thought (at least among conservative Christians) is "not showing too much skin; not creating sexual arousal." I guess that would fall under "regard for decency," but that's certainly not all. Paul uses the same word in 1 Tim 3:2 where elders are required, among other things, to be "respectable," so it's not a "woman thing." If biblical "modesty" is also "respectable" (the word is kosmios meaning "orderly, of good behavior, seemly"), then what is Paul talking about in that text?

First, we acknowledge that it is an issue for both males and females. So, if we are to all be "modest" and not merely "not showing too much skin," what is that? It is to be respectable, to be orderly, to be seemly. It speaks of conforming to propriety. We need to consider "What is appropriate?" If we answer that question from Scripture, we end up somewhere we may not have considered. Paul said we should, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others as more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Php 2:3-4). That, Paul suggests, is seemly -- appropriate. Like Christ (Php 2:5).

Where does that take us? If we are to be kosmios, we should be humble, considering others first. As such, our question in dress and behavior would not be "What would make me look best?" but "What would be best for others?" Women and men should dress with that in mind, act with that in mind, speak with that in mind. That is modesty. That is the aim. Biblical modesty speaks of propriety -- what is appropriate -- and and what is biblically appropriate is "Love God" and "Love your neighbor." If you let that drive how you dress and act and speak and live, you will do well. Hmm, perhaps Paul was not completely crazy.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

"I'm Okay"

"Hey, how are you doing?" We all get that question in one form or another often in our normal day. You will likely get it more than once at church today. And the answer will stereotypically be, "I'm okay." (My mother taught me, "Never say, 'I'm good.' There is none good but God.") We, of course, are not asking or answering the question for real. It's a greeting. We could just as easily do a "hello" and be on our way. "How are you doing?" sounds more ... engaged. So be it.

But ... are we "okay"? That depends on what we're talking about. "Most of my joints and muscles and bodily functions are working as expected. I'm okay." That's fine. "I have no outstanding interpersonal conflicts in my life." That's okay. "I'm saved by the grace of God, forgiven by the blood of Christ, and deemed righteous by the applied righteousness of Christ." That, I hope, would be a truthful answer. But are we okay?

Paul didn't think he was. "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate" (Rom 7:15). Oh, that's not "okay." "I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing" (Rom 7:19). That's not "fine."
I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom 7:22-24)
"Hey, Paul, how are you doing?" "Not okay ... not okay at all!"

Paul understood. Jesus said, "In this world there will be trouble" (John 16:33). Paul sought to "be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (Php 3:9), but acknowledged that he had not already obtained it or become perfect (Php 3:12). We're not okay.

But we are. Paul answered his own question in Romans 7:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1)
When Jesus promised that there would be trouble in this world, He also promised, "Take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). When Paul admitted that He sought to be found in Christ but had not arrived, he said, "One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Php 3:13-14)

If we are honest, we would have to admit that we are not "okay." That's not the end of the response, however. We are not "okay," but we are saved, not condemned. The Savior has conquered; we can have peace (John 16:33). We can press on toward the upward call (Php 3:13-14) in the power of God (Php 2:13). It may not look like it right now, but in Christ we are more than conquerors (Rom 8:37). Right now we are down but not out. We live in a dichotomy of "already" and "not yet," where we are okay by God's power and declaration but not yet in experience. And we know the final outcome. We're not okay, but we will be.

Saturday, April 06, 2019

News Weakly - 4/6/19

Solving the Environmental Problem
Our world is getting more and more frenzied in its attempts to solve our environmental problems. More and more are coming to the same conclusion. Humans are the problem and the best way to save the earth is to eliminate the humans. This is the logical outcome of murdering babies in the womb -- human beings have no intrinsic value. Note that this position -- no value -- is a direct assault on God who says otherwise (Gen 9:6). I don't think that's a coincidence.

Feeling Better About Ourselves
New Zealand's deputy Prime Minister says that "within four weeks of the Christchurch terrorist attack, New Zealand will have passed legislation banning all military-style semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles." They've accomplished this amazing feat by banning "every semi-automatic weapon used in the terrorist attack" used in the Christchurch mosque attack. The aim appears to be to limit the number of bullets that can be sent downrange at a semi-rapid rate, including handguns and shotguns. The point is to make New Zealand feel better about their sin problem by shifting available tools for people to kill in New Zealand. If they're anything like America, it won't be a big shift.

Belated Apology
Last week, Mexico's president asked for an apology from Spain for invading several centuries ago. I guess some people thought that was a good idea, because this week the mayor of New Orleans announced plans to apologize for the lynching of 11 Italian immigrants in 1891. The 11 (8 U.S. citizens and 3 Italian citizens) had been tried for the killing police Commissioner David Hennessy. Six had been acquitted; three others were awaiting a retrial because of a hung jury. The crowd that included prominent citizens took "justice" into their own hands, the jailers opened the cell doors, and the 11 were lynched ... much like they'd like to do these days when, say, a police officer is acquitted of a killing. We're much more civilized today. Note that they paid $25,000 in reparations in 1892 to the families of the victims. I'm not at all sure what the apology of a mayor in 2019 for something that was done in 1891 and settled in 1892 will accomplish. "It was bad and they shouldn't have done that" would have sufficed.

Value Clarification
Earlier this year Virginia signed up for an abortion law that would make it legal to kill unborn children who are viable and even full term as long as it is a "reasonable and good-faith judgment." At the same time the legislator who introduced the bill, Kathy Tran, also introduced legislation to protect cankerworms. Okay, so where are we? Clearly "baby" is of less value than "cankerworm." Now Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a bill that outlaws "cruelly or unnecessarily beating, maiming, mutilating, or killing a dog or cat." There you have it, folks. Kill the babies, but protect the worms and make sure you don't hurt cats and dogs. That is a clarification of their hierarchy of values. A North Carolina man is being charged with animal cruelty for improper care of a pet fish. Yes, a fish. We, as a nation, no longer have a reasonable or clear sense of values.

Not Your Normal News
This isn't exactly a news item. It's something to consider. Cameron Cole, the director of youth ministries at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama, has written this disturbing encouragement for parents to be vigilant with their kids' use of social media and technology. If you have kids at home or grandkids, you might want to take a look.

Twitter Not
While Dumbo failed at the box office, Unplanned seemed to come out strong, garnering over $6 million while only playing at 1,059 theaters. If you haven't heard, Unplanned is the story of Abby Johnson who worked at Planned Parenthood before becoming a pro-life activist. Without giving a reason, Twitter suspended the Unplanned account over the weekend. Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has called for an independent audit. Twitter says it was a mistake, but when they lifted the ban, 99% of their followers had vanished. The Babylon Bee suggests a different reason for the problem -- a "truthful content warning."