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Saturday, August 31, 2019

News Weakly - 8/31/19

Disorder in the Court
It used to be "sex reassignment surgery" but that was clearly wrong, wrong, wrong. Not "reassignment;" "confirmation." That's what they're calling it now. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the state of Idaho must provide "gender confirmation surgery" for an inmate who is not only a pedophile (convicted of it at the age of 22) but confused about his gender. In order to accommodate his confusion, the court has ruled the finding as "logical and well-supported" -- without regard to logic or science. The Democrats want to renovate the Supreme Court because their findings are too conservative. I know a lot of people that would like to renovate the 9th Circuit court for the equal but opposite reason. So now the people of Idaho will pay for a sex change because the court requires it "when it is contrary to the medical opinions of the treating physician and multiple mental health professionals."

According to a Think article from NBC, "heterosexuality is just not working." The purpose of heterosexuality, according to the article, is to allow men to maintain their societal dominance over women. It is patriarchy, "packaged in terms of biology, religion or basic social needs like security comfort, acceptance and success." Women have been "conditioned to believe that heterosexuality is natural or innate." Well, no more! We will not go peacefully into the night. Women will not reproduce! Patriarchy will not be allowed. Heterosexuality will not be tolerated. We will have freedom of sex! And gender! Except, of course, not heterosexual sex. That's right out.

The piece is listed as a "thought experiment" and I would suggest that it was not well thought out and a failure as an experiment. To be fair, it is my sincere suspicion that the author of this piece is using a word that she doesn't mean. At least, I hope so. You can't say "Homosexuality is natural and innate, but heterosexuality isn't." You can't argue that "No one is heterosexual by nature" without arguing that "No one is any form of sexual orientation by nature." Perhaps it's "monogamy" she's looking for or "sexual morality" she's aiming at or even "marriage," but surely she cannot actually be arguing that the only innate sexual orientation is "omnisexual" (anything and everything). Can she?

Barack Obama has launched a new initiative to take on gerrymandering. "The movement for fair maps will determine the course of progress on every issue we care about for the next decade." Gerrymandering is the manipulation of an electoral constituency's boundaries intended to favor one political party over another ... as long as we're talking about the other party. It's not gerrymandering if our party does it.

There You Have It
In another redefinition effort, we appear to have changed the meaning of "racism." According to Joe Biden, racism is "overwhelmingly a white man's problem visited on people of color." We've been hearing this for some time now, but in my dictionary "racism" is defined as "a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others." That would include the Japanese that hate Westerners (non-Japanese) and the people of color who hate whites and any other race that believes theirs is the superior race and others are of little value. In America today that is only decried in whites, but is certainly present ... everywhere.

Banning Hand Guns
A Court in Pennsylvania has ruled that using a "gunlike hand gesture" is a crime. The "imitate shooting a gun by holding your hand to look like a gun" move apparently makes people feel "extremely threatened" and that's illegal. Apparently the sooner we can ban hand guns the better. Maybe cut them off at the wrist? (Maybe we can come up with a list of other gestures that make people uncomfortable that we can ban.) At least we'll have to come up with laws governing the carrying of concealed hand guns.

Help for Porn Problem
Covenant Eyes, if you don't know, is an organization that offers help for people who want to quit looking at porn on the Internet. So it's a good thing, I guess, that they've now come out with a convenient "pluck your eye out" feature, right?

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, August 30, 2019


A majority of the Democrats running for president in 2020 are aiming to save the planet. High ideas. How? Well, they want to have America running on renewable energy in the near future. Maybe as late as 2050, but near enough. What is "renewable energy"?

Renewable energy is the energy derived from resources that can be naturally replenished. Interestingly, they are not defined as "clean." For instance, one renewable source is "biofuel," which could include ... wait for it ... products from wood, animal farming, human waste, etc. Not clean, but renewable. Burning wood is "renewable energy" but not "clean energy."

Renewable energy could include biofuel or it could be the better known solar, wind, geothermal, or hydroelectric kind of stuff. How do these stack up?

There is the question of cost. Turns out that the most expensive ($/kW-hr) method of producing energy is solar thermal. (That's where they use solar power to produce steam to drive a generator, essentially.) Nice idea, but it's much more expensive than coal with CCS (carbon capture and storage). Down at the bottom, onshore wind, geothermal, solar panels, hydroelectric, and natural gas all are within a $0.006 (6 tenths of a cent) of each other.

But, look, if we're planning to save a planet, cost wouldn't be our first concern. Setting aside financial impact (Replacing the current sources of energy production with renewable energy sources would cost something on the order of $100 trillion.), what about the other costs?

Solar power is all the rage. Just stick some photovoltaic cells on your roof and collect power from the sun. What could be cleaner? As it turns out, a lot of things. The photovoltaic structures are made with all kinds of toxic chemicals -- arsenic, cadmium telluride, hexafluoroethane, lead, and polyvinyl fluoride, and more. Making them is a toxic nightmare. Disposing of them is another. And they have a limited lifespan which means that you have to do this over and over again. And it takes a lot of surface area to produce a lot of energy (read "land consumption").

Wind energy seems really clean and easy. Let the wind blow and these things will spin around and create electricity. Wonderful? Of course, you'll need to ignore their noise. One of them can be heard hundreds of yards away. They regulate where wind farms can be located because of the noise. They also constitute a threat to birds. Studies suggest that more than 45,000 birds have been killed over the last 20 years, including endangered species like eagles. And, of course, there is the problem of the concept: "Let the wind blow." When it doesn't, you get no electricity. In order to continue to supply energy, then, you would need significant storage capability -- another problem. And, again, it takes a lot of these things to produce energy (read "land consumption").

Hydroelectric seems to be clean by definition. It is water, right? Let water flow through generators and the sheer gravity of it will make electricity. That's great! Except that the only way to actually accomplish this is to build dams to block water and build up pressure. And blocking water blocks the natural pathways that nature needs to use. For instance, even with the innovation of fish ladders in dams on the Columbia River, salmon have never recovered from having their natural course blocked off. Hydroelectric power causes disruption to all sorts of ecosystems that depend on the water as well as the areas in which they are constructed. Perhaps these aren't as "friendly" as we originally thought. (Imagine, for instance, the result of either a drought -- no electricity -- or a dam break -- flooding.)

Okay, how about geothermal energy? Typically they dig into an underground hot water source or some other underground heat source and use it to make electricity. All natural, right? It isn't happening much because of the difficulties included in the venture. Finding such geothermal reservoirs isn't easy. Tapping them can be expensive. They have a risk of ... get this ... releasing harmful greenhouse gases harnessed beneath the Earth's surface. Oops! Then, as it turns out, geothermal heat pumps require electricity ... which we were hoping to replace. And, like fracking, the procedure can cause surface instability. In the end this, too, has serious potential for negative outcome.

At the end of it all, there remains one more question. Setting aside the massive cost of replacing existing energy production with alternative methods and accepting the fact that none of them are what you would call "clean" -- all of them have hidden environmental impacts -- there remains the question of the purpose. They are planning to save the planet. Can we do that? Turns out we can't. The U.S. is a contributor to greenhouse gases, but we're not the only ones. If all greenhouse gas emissions stopped today, science tells us that the temperature would continue to rise for more than a decade. Stopping all emissions in the U.S. would decrease the situation (obviously), but not eliminate it. According to the EPA, China produces 30% of the CO2 emissions in the world and "Other" produces another 30%. The United States is only at 15%. So if we could somehow eliminate all greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. (read "go back to pre-Industrial-Age conditions"), 85% of current emissions would still be there.

None of this is intended to say, "Don't do it!" None of this is "climate change denial." I'm just pointing out that there is more to it than, "Let's just go to renewable energy." Saving the world is not just a few years away and the cost in terms of money and land and other environmental problems and more is much, much bigger than we imagine. It's always wise to count the cost, and ignoring some is not the same as counting them. For instance, if your plan is to save the world, you might need to 1) first conquer it to 2) force everyone back to pre-Industrial-Age conditions. What are you willing to pay from all angles? Count the cost.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Bad Reasons to Kill

Actress Alyssa Milano opened up about her two abortions in her podcast. She explains how important and valuable it was for her to kill her children. I will list her reasons that it was good to kill her children, and we'll figure out if these might actually be good reasons to terminate the lives of human beings.
  1. "I control my own body."
  2. "My faith empowered only men to make every single decision of what was allowed and what was not allowed."
  3. "I was not equipped to be a mother."
  4. "[Aborting my babies] was something that I needed."
  5. "I would never had been free to be myself — and that’s what this fight is all about: freedom."
  6. "I refuse to let anyone else's [expletive deleted] morality force me into a life of premarital celibacy."
I hope you can see how dangerous this might be if you actually held these arguments as valid reasons to kill. "I control my body, so anyone who inhibits that control can be executed." "I am a victim of [men], so I should be allowed to kill if I feel like it." "I don't feel like I can handle [being a mother], so it is perfectly moral to terminate whoever might call on me to [be a mother]." "What I believe I need determines my right to kill those I believe to be in the way." "If someone encroaches on my sense of freedom, someone may certainly die." "I determine morality ... predicated on my personal pleasure and preferences."

Given this kind of logic, murder would be a lot more common. Oh, wait, it sure feels like it's getting to be that way, doesn't it? Hmmm.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Comments on Comments

My blog is fairly mid-range when it comes to comments. Some block all but the most elite. Some don't even moderate. I have one rule: Be friendly. Since I have one rule, I do moderate. Since I only have one rule, blocking comments is extremely rare for me. In fact, in the 13 years of blogging I've had only two people I've had to block.

Over the years I've enjoyed a wide range of commenters. Obviously I enjoy the conversations with some who agree with me. Then there are those who mostly agree with me but disagree with me here or there. Good stuff. There are some that have come in only to disagree with me, but in a conversational manner. No fighting, biting, scratching ... you get the idea. On the "opposition" side I've had conversations with people like Brian McClaren, author of A Generous Orthodoxy (which, in my view, has neither) and a lead figure in the Emergent Church movement. He was friendly while disagreeing with me completely. I had a self-declared atheist visiting and commenting for awhile because he could do so without being unkind. You've all, I suppose, heard of the infamous Dan Trabue, one of those liberal, "someone is wrong on the Internet" types who cruises conservative Christian blogs to correct them. In the early months when he first came to my blog there were lots of friendly disagreements. He certainly didn't agree with what I wrote, but he did it without vitriol. Even the recent Feodor started out in a reasonable give and take before turning bombastic. It can happen.

I've had conversations here that have expanded my comprehension. I've had dialogues that corrected my thinking. I upset a Mormon because, as it turned out, I wasn't particularly interested in converting, and a Jehovah's Witness because I told him why his views on Christ weren't biblical. I've defended the faith against Open Theists and Pauline Dispensationalists and others that I couldn't even name. I don't have a problem with dialogue. I'm not worried about disagreement. As long as it's kept at a friendly level, I figure everyone can benefit somehow.

I've had to block individual comments from some and, as I said, all comments from two. That's it. They were often riddled with vulgarities and, hey, my mother reads this blog and I won't have her (and others) reading that kind of language. For awhile I thought about just going unmoderated, but, as it turns out, there are all sorts of crazies out there that I just don't need commenting here. No, not disagreeing with me. Selling stuff. Robots that comment on my exegesis of a passage with, "You, too, can lose weight now." Don't need that. No one benefits from that.

So, no, I'm not blocking comments here because I'm afraid of disagreement. I'm always fine with it. I'm not preventing someone from commenting because they're smarter than me or better educated than me or they "just might be right!" I know people do that (in blogs and in conversations). Not me. As long as we keep it friendly, I can talk to just about anybody. So if your comment doesn't make it in here, I can simplify things for you. Either 1) I accidentally hit the "delete comment" button instead of the "delete email" button (Yeah, I have done that from time to time) or 2) you commented in a completely inappropriate way ("You, too, can lose weight!") or 3) I really didn't believe you intended me to post your comment (like "Don't post this, but ...") or 4) your tone was mean -- unfriendly -- and there is no real benefit in that kind of a conversation. I would venture that more than 90% of the comments I get are not blocked, so if yours doesn't make it, that makes you special. You can decide what that means, but it's not because I'm scared. Trust me.

On a final note, for those of you who are thinking at this moment, "Yeah, right, you liar," you're certainly free to think that. It's not true, but who am I to stop you? I just wonder why, convinced as you particular individuals are that I'm actually lying, you would read the blog of someone you think is a liar. What's the point? Just sayin'.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Reverse Pharisee

Usually, when it comes to error, it is possible to err in two directions. You might go too far or not far enough, be too loose or too tight, be too open or too closed. You get the idea. In the same way, while we know of the errors of the Pharisees in Jesus's day, we don't often think of the other side, what I'll call the reverse pharisee.

Pharisees are legalists, arguing that you get to heaven like every other religion states -- by being good. "If you want to be saved, you have to follow the rules, do what you're told (or, perhaps more correctly, do what we tell you), knuckle under. It's a heavy load, but you'll have to do it. Us? Oh, no, we won't. We're already righteous, already worthy. But you'd better get on that if you want to make it. If you want to get to heaven, you'll have to be righteous ... like me." They are self-righteous hypocrites that demand more of you than God does, and, oh, by the way, they have no intention of living up to the standards they are requiring of you.

Too much. Too far. Error.

What about a reverse pharisee? "Well, those pharisees are really too uptight about the rules. They're too harsh, too judgmental, too intolerant. They take their Scriptures way too seriously as if they possess the secret wisdom for interpreting the voice of God. They lay burdens on people; we don't. They call people to account; we don't. They are more concerned about their doctrines than they are about people; we aren't. Of course, we don't intend to be less harsh, less judgmental, less intolerant (at least, not where they are concerned), but they sure need to be. Why can't they be more laid back and less judgmental ... like me?"

Too little. Not far enough. Error.

That's interesting, though, isn't it? Both errors end up at the same place: "like me." I would guess that both errors result from the same root cause -- "me" at the center.

Monday, August 26, 2019

In Case You Were Wondering

"You idiot! Don't you know that the people who were writing the Bible didn't think they were writing the Bible? Don't you know that Paul's reference to 'all Scripture' being inspired by God was not a reference to what he was writing? He only had the Old Testament for Scripture. Don't you know that no one had the New Testament prior to the Council of Laodicea in the 4th century? If your Bible is so important, how did they get by without it for 400 years?"

The assault on God's Word continues. It started in the Garden (Gen 3:1) and continues to this day. I don't expect it to let up until Christ returns.

We accept the Old Testament as Scripture because the 39 books that we call "the Old Testament" were the Scriptures that Jesus referenced (e.g., Matt 21:42; Matt 22:29; Matt 26:54; John 5:39; etc.). Easy. After that, you'll get a debate. What Scriptures was Paul referring to when he wrote of the Scriptures that were God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16-17)? I've heard skeptics and preachers alike tell me that it was the Old Testament, and, while I'm sure he was referring to the Old Testament, I suspect he was also referring to others. As an example, Paul quotes Luke in a reference to "the Scripture" (1 Tim 5:18; Luke 10:7). Clearly Paul believed that there was more that qualified as "Scripture" than just the Old Testament. Peter calls Paul's writings "Scripture" (2 Peter 3:15-16). So the concept that "the Scriptures" were not limited to the 39 books of the Old Testament wasn't unknown during the writing of the New Testament. (Note: The reason we have 39 books while others have more is that Protestants (and others) admit only the books that were "Scripture" in Jesus's time while the Roman Catholics (and others) include apocryphal books -- books of doubtful authenticity, although widely circulated as being true.)

So when did our 27 books become the "New Testament"? When did they become "Scripture"? Well, answering blithely, they became Scripture as soon as they were written. But perhaps I should be more clear.

If these 27 books are indeed "God-breathed" -- the Word of God -- as historical orthodoxy has maintained, then they were indeed Scripture from their writing. But that's not really what is being asked, is it? "When were they recognized as Scripture?" Okay, that's different. While some would like you to believe that it wasn't until the Council of Laodicea (AD 363) declared it so, that misses the point. One of the criterion used at that council was "What books do we commonly recognize as Scripture?" That is, they didn't pull up a list of books, point fingers, and decide what was in or not. These books had been in use a long time. The 27 books we recognize were written before the end of the first century, but "Scripture" was already in view. Clement of Rome wrote about at least 8 books (AD 95). Ignatius (AD 115) acknowledged at least 7. Polycarp (a disciple of the Apostle John) acknowledged 15 (AD 108). Irenaeus wrote about 21 (AD 185). The first "canon," the Muratorian Canon, was compiled by AD 170. That one included all but 3 -- Hebrews, James, and 3 John. These books were already in circulation and recognized by the 2nd century -- within a generation of their origination.

"Yeah, sure, but not everyone could read back then." Literacy rates back then were not what they are now, but our "New Testament" was already established as "Scripture" within 75 years of the final entry. They were widely circulated to be read by those who could and read to those who could not (e.g., Eph 3:4; Col 4:16; 1 Thess 5:27).

What we currently recognize as "Scripture" -- God's Word -- has been in circulation from the 1st century. They have been recognized as "Scripture" since they were first received. The Council of Laodicea (AD 363), the Council of Hippo (AD 393), and the Council of Carthage (AD 397) all affirmed the same 27 books. They all concluded that these 27 books were written by or in close connection to an Apostle (capital "A"). They agreed that the body of Christ at large agreed that they were Scripture. They agreed that these 27 had a consistency of doctrine and orthodox teaching. They agreed that they bore evidence of high moral and spiritual values consistent with the work of the Holy Spirit. Bottom line, they agreed that God had determined these to be Scripture. Not them; Him. They were just agreeing with Him.

The naysayers are standing on popular but faulty ground. The Bible indicates that the authors of the New Testament understood that there was more than just the Old Testament for "Scripture." They may not have considered what they were writing to be "Scripture," but others did. If "all Scripture is God-breathed" and Paul (for instance) wrote Scripture (as claimed by Peter), then Paul's writings are God-breathed as well. And Christians knew it. Christians in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD understood these to be the authoritative word of God. Did they read them in their homes daily? Probably not. Not all could read. But being read to was a very Jewish thing and gathering with believers was a very Christian thing and these books were in circulation for the day-to-day use of believers from the outset long before the Church was forced to make a formal declaration in that regard. And why did they have to do that? Because of the problem I'm addressing -- skeptics who follow their leader from the Garden and deny God's Word.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

A Hymn

It's Sunday. Surely today you can enjoy a hymn!
Beneath The Cross Of Jesus
Elizabeth Clephane

Beneath the cross of Jesus I fain would take my stand,
The shadow of a mighty Rock within a weary land;
A home within the wilderness, a rest along the way
From the burning of the noonday heat and the burden of the day.

Upon that cross of Jesus, mine eye can sometimes see
The very dying form of One who suffered there for me;
And from my smitten heart with tears two wonders I confess -
The wonders of His glorious love and my own worthlessness.

I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place -
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by, to know no gain nor loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.
Elizabeth Clephane was born in 1830. She was the frail daughter of a county sheriff in Abbotsford, Scotland. The hymn, published anonymously in 1872, was written one year before her death in 1868. It reflects her deep affection for God as well as her love for the Word of God. In the first verse alone there are seven references from Scripture.

The hymn focuses on the cross. Many today see the cross as an offensive thing. They would rather concentrate on the Resurrection or the life of Christ. It just seems like the cross is such an unpleasant and past event. But Elizabeth saw it as a place to abide. That is where she would gladly take her stand. ("Fain" is a Scottish word meaning "gladly.") Look at her view of the cross. She saw it as "the shadow of a mighty Rock within a weary land, a home within the wilderness, a rest along the way."

"The mighty Rock" is a reference to the Messiah taken from Isa 32:2. We see this same Rock in Exo. 33-34 when Moses wanted to see God and in Isaac Watts' hymn "Rock of Ages." Scripture refers to Jesus as the Rock of my salvation, the chief cornerstone, a rock of offense. (Psa. 89:26; 95:1; Isa. 28:16; Rom. 9:33) David calls God the "Rock of my strength." (Psa 31:2, 3; 62:7; 71:3) There are, in fact over 25 references in Scripture to God as "Rock." In the shadow of the cross we can see that unyielding Rock who walked all the way to Calvary to die for me and to become the basis -- the foundation -- of my salvation.

"A home within the wilderness" is a phrase from Jer 9:2. It depicts the personal nature of my relationship with God, portraying His sufficiency and protection. The phrase also illustrates the separation from the world we live in - "the wilderness." We are called to "come out from among them and be separate." (2 Cor 6:17) "What fellowship has light with darkness?" Paul asks the Corinthians. (2 Cor 6:14) ("This world is not my home; I'm just passing through.") Our citizenship is not earthly. (Phil. 3:20) Yet we try with all our might to incorporate as much of our world as we can into our spiritual viewpoints. We have so blended the two that they have become nearly indistinguishable. The morality, the divorce rates, the lifestyles, the attitudes of most evangelical Christians are almost no different than those of the world around them. But God calls to us, "Come home. My grace is sufficient for you." James warns us that friendship with the world is hostility toward God. "Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4)

"A rest along the way," from Isa 28:12, is a reference to the peace of God that passes understanding. God ordained rest in the Sabbath. He refers to our ultimate rest as the sabbath rest. (Heb. 4:9-11; see 4:1-16) Unrest was never God's intention for our lives. So Paul exhorts us to "let the peace of God rule in your hearts." (Col. 3:15)

The hymnist takes a very personal look at the cross in the second verse. She visualizes Christ Himself hanging on that tree. And she sees clearly the truth of the crucifixion. Two truths stand when she looks at Jesus' death: His glorious love and her worthlessness.

Today's therapeutic society would have Elizabeth in counseling in a heartbeat. Her Christian friends might have urged her to go. Our modern hymnals have so protested her comment that they have changed it. Our hymnals now read "my unworthiness." No one should consider themselves worthless. But, then, Paul would have had the earlier appointment with the therapist after his unpopular claim that he was chief among sinners and that no one was good. Now what kind of a self-image is that for a believer?

It is a biblical one. The essence of God's saving grace is that I don't deserve it. By that, I mean we have no intrinsic reason to receive salvation. We have no inborn value, no innate goodness, no inherent lovableness. Paul told the Romans that God chose (not by force) to save us for His glory. (Romans 9:22, 23) God is not obligated by our weighty value to provide for us a means of escaping judgment or a way to know Him. But today's churches largely operate as a cult of self-esteem. We need to feel better about ourselves. We are people of value.

Elizabeth Clephane disagrees. The cross shows me my sin condition. In the third verse she states the only form of value she possesses. Her only value is Christ. Paul concurs - repeatedly. "For me to live is Christ." "I count all things as loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ." Jeremiah quotes God as saying, "Let him who boasts boast in this, that he knows Me." (Jeremiah 9:24) By nature, we are worthless. The only real value to be found in us is Christ in us. The only way that can happen is His redeeming work on the cross.

The hymnist isn't done with her survey of the cross yet. In the final verse, her goal is to make that her dwelling place. "I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place - I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face." This is where we need to live. It is here, in the presence of the crucified Lord, that we see most clearly His unfathomable love and our utter depravity. It is here that we see the seriousness of God's demand for obedience and the consequence of our failure. It is here that we can see our worthlessness and His surpassing value. From the cross comes the strongest call to Christ-like character rather than self-serving ambition. At the cross we learn to endure suffering, a given for each Christian's life. At the cross, husbands learn to love their wives. At the cross, children learn to obey their parents. At the cross, Christians learn to love each other and bear one another's burdens. It is in the shadow of the cross that we all need to abide.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

News Weakly - 8/24/19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Context, Context, Context - Matt 18:20

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Why Jesus Came

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Lamb's Book of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

What Would You Pray for Your Church?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 19, 2019

Abandoned Faith

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Pastors and Elders

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 17, 2019

News Weakly - 8/17/19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 16, 2019

Consider the Source

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Secular Orthodoxy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Pharisee

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A Crazy World

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 12, 2019

The Salutation

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Lord's Supper

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 10, 2019

News Weakly - 8/10/19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.