Like Button

Sunday, April 05, 2020

A Gentle Reminder

Some time ago I was leaving my family at home while I drove to the airport for a business trip overseas. I prayed as I went. "Dear Lord, please watch over my family while I'm gone." It was one of the few times I felt like I actually heard a response from God. "Did you think it has been you watching over them when you were there?" And I was reminded of my own arrogance. It has always been God.

We live in difficult circumstances. We're rightfully concerned (to varying degrees) over this whole "How many are going to die from this virus?" problem. Our government is responding strongly with "Don't even breathe on one another" to help ease our fears. A lot of us are out of work, isolated from friends, family, church, all the lifelines we've been accustomed to in times of crisis. And at the back of everyone's mind is the constant, "Am I the next to get this thing?" and more. "Am I going to lose my job?" "Is one of my loved ones going to get sick?" "Will someone I love die?" Lots of frightening questions brought on by this virus.

So we pray. We pray for guidance. Guidance for ourselves, for our leaders, for the doctors, for our loved ones. We pray for protection -- protection for all we pray for guidance for. We ask God if it is His will can we keep our jobs, our health, our friends and family, our lives.

And God says, "Did you think it was you before this? Did you think I wasn't providing guidance before this? Did you think I wasn't providing protection before this? Did you think you were keeping your own job, your own health, your own friends and family, your own life?" Because the fact is we tend to be arrogant and it was always God.

And it will always be God. God is still on the throne (Psa 93:1-2). In Him all things consist (Col 1:17). He works all things according to His will (Eph 1:11). All things are from Him and through Him and to Him (Rom 11:36). Not a sparrow falls without Him (Matt 10:29). He is still working all things together for good to those who love Him (Rom 8:28-29).

So go ahead and pray. We're told to do that (1 Thess 5:17). That's good. He offers peace that passes understanding when we pray (Php 4:6-7). Do that. But keep in your mind and your heart the comforting fact that He was watching over us before this started, He is watching over us during it, and He'll be watching over us afterward. We feel out of control right now (because we are), but, as it turns out, we're not more out of control than we were before because He has always been that control. And there's no safer place to be than in the hands of the Father.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

News Weakly - 4/4/2020

Spin Class
On the newsfeed I frequent, the headline was "Fed loans suspended" and the picture was of much-hated Secretary of Education, Nancy DeVos. "This won't be good," I thought as I clicked over to the story. As it turned out, federal student loans were not suspended. Loan payments were. No payments and no interest for 6 months. That's a good thing. So why is it the media hopes to make the reader think it's the evil Trump administration in general and Nancy DeVos in particular at work again?

The New Scapegoat
The New York Times has decided who the main culprit is in this current coronavirus crisis. It's the "religious right." Yep! If you evangelicals didn't have religious beliefs that made you hostile to science, they could have responded much better. There have been hate crimes against people who look Asian because the public has perceived that this virus is a product of China and anyone that looks Asian is likely from Wuhan, apparently. It wouldn't be outrageous to expect similar responses toward evangelicals thanks to the New York Times. (Note to the New York Times. Just because I question your science at times -- "XX ... XY? What's that?" or "Have you seen the complex design of a bird? There can't be a Designer!" or "A baby in the womb is not a baby." or the like -- doesn't mean I'm hostile to science. It means I question some of your oddball conclusions.)

Latest Numbers
The White House has new models for this virus and are now worried about 100K to 240K people dying from it. Keep in mind that we're currently under 7,000. Keep in mind that we're currently less than a 3% death rate of those who get diagnosed. Keep in mind that we're currently in lockdown and drastic measures are in place. But we're not going to let the facts spoil our minds, right? (Like "XX and XY mean something" or "Complexity and data don't mean a Designer" or "O.J. didn't do it." Right?)

Right Answer
Bill Gates is concerned. "Really? How many will die?" So he has a suggestion. The most effective way to combat the virus is to completely shutdown the nation for 10 weeks. "The country’s leaders need to be clear: Shutdown anywhere means shutdown everywhere," he said. I beg to differ, Mr. Gates. The most effective means of combating this virus is to put everyone in a cell for 10 weeks. Feed them, house them, give them entertainment, internet, digital communication, whatever, but isolate them all. Every one. Because "isolate" means "isolate" everywhere. That ought to do it. Oh, wait. Not in favor of the most effective means? Huh. I wonder why.

It Could Be Worse
Things are bad in a lot of places, but it could be worse. It could be like in the Philippines where the president is telling police to shoot on sight anyone who violates the coronavirus lockdown. Nice. And you thought we had it bad. (Note: He's actually ordering them to shoot anyone who causes trouble ... like protesters.)

Just When You Thought It Couldn't Get Any Worse
I knew things were bad, but I didn't realize how bad. The loudest American voice these days appears to be Dr. Anthony Fauci. He's outraged that China would continue their "wet markets." Now, for those of you who don't know, that would be a live animal market. And there might very well be a link between the origin of this COVID-19 thing and wet markets. So Fauci said, "It boggles my mind how, when we have so many diseases that emanate out of that unusual human-animal interface, that we just don't shut it down." Wait ... I missed something. When did we suspend international law and the concept of sovereign states and just decide that the U.S. should have the right and responsibility to go into another country and shut down a market? I'm not entirely sure, but that sounds a lot like grounds for war. And I'm not 100% positive, but I'm pretty convinced that a war with China would kill far more people on the planet than COVID-19 will. So ... what am I missing? Suggest China shut them down? Sure. Urge them internationally? Why not? But "shut it down"? I don't think that's a possibility, is it? It feels like Fauci's loud voice has gone to his head. 'Cause I'm thinking "Go to war with China" is a bad approach to fighting this virus.

The Up Side
All that bad news, but there is an up side. We may have found the solution to global warming. The Global Carbon Project is saying that, due to the near collapse of all industry and business in this crisis, we may see the largest fall in carbon emissions since World War II. Climate scientists were saying that our emissions have to drop by 2020. Are you happy now?

Friday, April 03, 2020

Essential

This worldwide panic (not entirely unwarranted) is bringing up an important question. Here's what governments are telling us. "Stop all activities and stay at home. Oh, not 'all' activities. Just the nonessential ones." To which we all nod our heads and say, "Amen, brother!"

Without asking, "How do you define essential?"

My dentist has rescheduled teeth cleaning because that's nonessential. You can still get in to kill your unborn baby because that is essential. Churches are closed because that is nonessential. I can still buy a McDonalds Big Mac while shopping at Walmart because Big Macs are essential. Schools, they say, are not essential; daycare centers are. Because no one of school age, apparently, needs to be watched during the day while their parents work. Only those under 5. You can't get into a bar -- nonessential. You can still buy your marijuana -- essential. So how do we define "essential"???

Legally, "essential services" is defined as services that, if interrupted, would endanger life, health, or personal safety of the population. In that definition you can see that abortion is essential because we've understood for almost 50 years that killing babies is critical to life, health, or personal safety. Wait. That doesn't work. Federal guidelines allow states and localities to decide individually what is deemed "essential." So, clearly, things like food production and and delivery to the public would be essential. That's why restaurants that deliver are essential. Wait. That doesn't seem right, either. Health care is absolutely essential until you start splitting hairs to say that this healthcare is essential (like abortion) but that healthcare is not (like a colonoscopy). And no one would argue that it is essential that you can still get your favorite toys delivered to your home in a crisis, but package delivery in general might fall in the "essential" category, so all package delivery will be deemed essential ... even if the glut of deliveries that include some nonessential stuff delays essential deliveries.

I think we have a problem. I think that "essential" is elusive to us. We think it's clear and we think we have a firm grasp on the idea, but I'm not so sure. Neither was Jesus. When the good sister was running around doing all the good things for her Savior and the bad sister was simply listening to Him, the good sister complained. "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." (Luke 10:38-40) Jesus replied, "Only one thing is necessary." (Luke 10:42) We believers need to remember that. There are lots of concerns and lots of "essentials" that may or may not be, but only one thing is necessary. It is that relationship with the Savior, that sitting at the feet of the Master. It is listening to Christ. From there the good, the important, the helpful, the loving things are determined and accomplished and not by some arbitrary government listing of "essential."

Thursday, April 02, 2020

By the Numbers

According to the government population clock right now, the U.S. population is over 329 million people. At the time of this writing, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is 143,000 and deaths from the virus stand at just over 2,500. Now, let's look at numbers for a moment.

The death rate from COVID-19 in the U.S. (under these current numbers) would be 1.75%. That is, 1.75% of everyone that contracts the virus dies from it. In comparison, the death rate from seasonal flu is around 0.1%, so, in perspective, this virus is something like 10 times worse. (Please note. If, as is likely, there are far more cases that are undiagnosed and, therefore, unreported, then the actual death rate number will drop markedly. If there are actually 25% more cases than have been reported, for instance, the death rate would drop from 1.75% to 1.5%. You get the idea.) Still, the numbers are not as frightening as we're being told. A death rate of less than 2% is nothing like the death knell we're being fed that sounds a lot like, "Retreat! Retreat! We're all gonna die!!" But the numbers are also misleading because they're only in terms of those who get the virus. Factoring in the population versus the infected, currently 0.04% of the population has contracted the virus and 0.0008% have died from it. That is, 8 out of every million people have died from it. In comparison, in 2017 the death rate in the U.S. from cancer was 1,525 per 1 million people. In 2017 suicides accounted for a death rate in the U.S. of 140 per 1 million people. Death by accidents were 494 per 1 million people. In perspective, then, death by accident was 61 times the rate this virus is killing. To put it another way, you are 61 times more likely to die by going for a drive than by contracting COVID-19. (For an interesting piece on the numbers, read this one from a doctor of pathology at The Spectator.)

It is true that people are dying. It is true that it is sad and frightening and hard on us all. It is true that we ought to take precautions to avoid contracting this virus. All this is true. But what is also true is that we already have death rates exceeding by far what this virus is doing and we're hardly batting an eye over them. Smokers contract lung disease at an approximate rate of 30%, but we're still letting them smoke. People die every day from auto accidents, but we're still operating motor vehicles. The number one cause of deaths in the world last year was abortion, but we're still aborting babies and defending the right to do so. This is not rational. This is not consistent with the facts.

But, look, this doesn't really help, does it? I mean, are we really going to operate on statistics and numbers? Of course not. We're going to listen to the media and listen to the voices around us and panic if necessary because that's what we do. So I'm speaking right here and now to a smaller group of "us" -- the U.S. I'm speaking to those who have a living relationship with Christ. I'm talking right now to those who know the Sovereign God. Who are you going to listen to? Who are you going to believe? We are told in Scripture that we are upheld by God, supplied by God, sustained by God. We are told that God is in charge, that His will is always carried out. We are told that no one can stand against Him and, as such, against us. Not even COVID-19. Who are you going to believe? Take precautions? Sure. That's prudent. We don't need to infect other people or frighten them unnecessarily. But if we are 1) ignoring the simple numerical facts and 2) ignoring God's Word on God's character and think we're being wise, we need to reconsider. We of all people can love others fearlessly at this time. And we ought to.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (Psa 23:4)

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Ending It All

In light of this whole crisis -- the "social distancing" and the deaths and the cataclysmic rise in cases in the U.S. and all (How did a technologically advanced nation of 300 million so vastly exceed a less advanced source nation of 1 billion in cases?) -- I've decided it's time to quit this blogging thing.

There's just no point in going on. Clearly the closure of churches and businesses and such and the "social distancing" we've all embraced will become the norm rather than the exception and life as we know it will be replaced by a remote and distant life that I don't wish to participate in. So I'm selling everything and moving to an island in the South Pacific with my lovely wife so we can enjoy our waning years in peace and comfort.

I'm sure that there are people out there that will rejoice. I'm sure there are a few that will be saddened. I would hope that, wherever you fall on that spectrum, you would be clever enough to note the date of this entry and realize that it's April Fools Day ...

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Not the Everyday Thing

Perhaps you've heard the term, "syncretism." Or ... not. Syncretism is the practice of blending beliefs, of assimilating one set of beliefs into another. That "another" is generally the process is the merging or assimilation of opposing beliefs. An obvious example is Santeria.Santeria is a meld of Afro-Cuban (Africans brought by slaves to Cuba) cult beliefs (like voodoo) with Catholicism. Putting those two together is in direct opposition to Catholic beliefs, but it doesn't stop it from happening.

There is a problem with syncretism, as you can see. The object is to meld the old with the new, but it assumes that the old is wrong -- insufficient, incomplete, inadequate somehow. Jesus, however, said that He is the Truth. That doesn't change. That doesn't age. That is not incomplete. So melding that "old" with anything new and opposing would simply be nonsense ... at best.

And, yet, we do it all the time. We think, "What would people like to hear today?" as a means of getting them to come into our churches and then we give that to them as if it's a Christian thing. We don't actually evaluate it. It's not a theological decision. It's a marketing scheme. I'm not suggesting that all "updates" we employ are syncretism -- merging Christianity with the world. I'm saying that some of it is and we're doing it without thinking. We do it in our churches. We do it in our lives. We make adjustments to make ourselves -- either personally or as a body -- more palatable to the world around us ... which Scripture says is hostile toward God (Rom 8:7). That is, it isn't going to happen.

So here's the deal. We need to stop thinking of the church as something that's supposed to be like the world. We need to stop thinking of Christianity as a tool to get along with the world. We need to stop thinking of our faith as an everyday thing in that sense. It's not. It's a God thing. It's a supernatural thing. It's a "not of this world" thing. When we try to make it such, we go against the essence of the faith -- die with Christ to live with Christ (Rom 6:3-4). On the other hand, "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." (1 John 2:15).

When we begin to think of our faith -- the beliefs that make us Christians -- as an everyday thing, we begin to nullify our faith. We dumb it down, mitigate it, diminish it. Faith in Christ itself is a supernatural thing (Rom 12:3) and we are "strangers and exiles on the earth" (Heb 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11). If this life we call Christianity is just an everyday thing -- common -- then we're missing Christianity.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Pray at Home

My wife posted a (very brief) video last week that showed our "watching party" -- us two and 6 other people gathered from our church to be together in small fashion to worship during the online service. We didn't exceed any suggested limits. We didn't come in close contact. We just were in the same place worshiping together. A small "communion of the saints." Because one of the absolutely bottom-line key components of Christian ethics is "one another." We are, at the core, supposed to love one another, to bear one another's burdens, to be kind to one another. And so on. And without "another" it is impossible to do. So, as much as is in our capability, we meet ... with one another.

My wife received angry opposition from that. "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!?" (In all caps.) She was informed of how stupid we were being and how dangerous it was and how we needed to isolate, isolate, isolate. The fact that we live in a state with a low infection rate and the commenter was from a state with a high infection rate was superfluous. The fact that we were within the limitations of the government restrictions was irrelevant. "If you want to pray," the commenter said, "pray at home alone!" Sure, it is unavoidable that we will come in contact with people, but we are not supposed to do it willingly. Only the essentials. Only that which is critical. That's the idea.

I learned from this. I learned of the basic disconnect between the faith and most everything else from the outside perspective. (I say "the faith" because I'm not talking about institutional Christianity or the public perception of Christianity. I'm talking about the actual-relationship-with-God kind of Christianity.) Our current culture thinks it's all well and good if you want to believe, but just keep it to yourself. Don't trot it out in public. Don't bother anyone else with it. It's a personal thing. Like surfing or bike-riding or quilting. Something you do because you like it. Not something you are. That's the disconnect.

A religion is a personal thing to our world. You practice it as you see fit. But to the believer, it is life itself. We are known by God (Gal 4:9) in contrast to "I never knew you" (Matt 7:23). Our eternal life is found in knowing God (John 17:3). That relationship with the Godhead is life itself. You can't keep it personal. You can't practice as you like. It permeates and indwells and transforms you. It changes how you act, think, speak, live. So this isn't nonessential. It is absolutely critical. And in that is the whole "one another" thing. John wrote, "Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us." (1 John 4:11-12). God's love for us demands that we love one another and that love for one another is a sign that God abides in us. That's absolutely critical.

Beyond the oft repeated "love one another," Scripture speaks of fellowship with one another (1 John 1:7), humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5), serving one another (1 Peter 4:10), praying for one another (James 5:16), encouraging one another (Heb 3:13; Heb 10:25), stimulating one another to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24), building up one another (1 Thess 5:11), bearing with one another (Gal 6:2; Col 3:13), regarding one another as more important than yourself (Php 2:3), showing tolerance for one another (Eph 4:2), serving one another (Gal 5:13), and so much more. Oh, and "Greet one another with a holy kiss." Multiple times (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26). Sure, that was then. We don't do that. You can say that, but what you cannot say is that the bulk of Scripture on the topic of "one another" was only talking about "at a distance." In principle, it cannot be done at a distance. Explicitly we are not supposed to forsake assembling together (Heb 10:25). This isn't whimsical, lightweight, a personal thing. This is mission critical.

So, sure, we try to be safe. We comply with government mandates, which currently limit us to 10. Fine. At least we're still with one another. If we're symptomatic or potentially infected, out of love for one another we withdraw for a time (They tell us the incubation period from infection to symptoms is less than two weeks.). We limit exposure. We pay attention to our surroundings and the people we're with. We practice good things like hygiene. All of these are real and true and good. But if we let this thing stop us from following that for which God made us, the damage will be worse than any pandemic. Knowing and following Christ is not nonessential. Nor is it merely a personal thing. We can't just do it at home. We must be connected to one another. To do otherwise is neither safe nor reasonable.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Insufficient

Like so many others, our church is closed for Sunday services these days. Like so many others, we have an online service to watch. So, last week and this week, people gather at our house -- less than the maximum allowed -- to join with us to worship ... online.

Is this the next big thing? Are we looking at a church revolution or evolution? Will the church become a remote location? I don't think so.

Virtual Church is not a thing. The concept of "church" is a "one another" thing, an assembling together for fellowship (Heb 10:25) for those "one another" things like encouraging one another (Heb 10:25) and stimulating one another to love and good deeds (Heb 10:24) and such. Lots of that. In Acts, they met "house to house" (Acts 2:46) which expanded to "church to church" today, but it has always been understood that "gathered" never meant "virtually." (I mean, come on, how do we "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Rom 16:16; 1 Cor 16:20; 2 Cor 13:12; 1 Thess 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14) online?) VR -- virtual reality -- is not reality; it is "almost like reality." In the same sense, virtual church is not church; it can only be a temporary and incomplete approximation.

This last week CNN did a story about an 11-year-old who lost his grandfather on March 2, came home from the funeral to find his school had closed, and faced a birthday on March 22 without a birthday party. So a local woman organized a caravan of well-wishers to drive by with signs and songs and such to cheer the boy and ease his hard times. Very nice story. Very thoughtful. Lots of good things. But what it was not was a birthday party. It's the same today. We have to make allowances for crises and temporarily find other means to virtually gather, but let's not confuse virtual with actual. Like husbands in Afghanistan keeping in touch with their wives at home via remote video, it's an approximation, but when the distance ends, they won't keep that up. This cannot become the norm because virtual church is insufficient for God's intention for the gathering of believers. This, too, shall pass.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

News Weakly - 3/28/20

From the Sublime to ... Not
In an interesting twist to the good, Ohio's attorney general has demanded that abortions stop during this pandemic, calling them "non-essential and elective." So, at least at the moment in Ohio, lives are being saved by this crisis.

At the other end of the spectrum, two New Jersey homeowners were arrested for hosting large gatherings including a wedding at their home. (That one said "a couple dozen people" were there.) The local residents called police. Now this is serious. Throughout New Jersey police have been acting proactively to shut down reported possible events at halls and ballrooms and such. From "Social distancing is highly recommended" to "You're going to jail for failing to do it." Maybe it's necessary, but you can't quite call it "the land of the free" or "the home of the brave."

The New Terrorism
First New Jersey was arresting people for having too many people in one place. Now they have a terrorst running loose coughing on store employees. In a Pennsylvania supermarket a woman thought it would be cool to cough on food and they had to destroy $35,000 worth to protect the public. What's wrong with these people??

Not COVID-19 News
Billionaire and recent competitor-for-the-presidency Michael Bloomberg, man of the people, a guy who cares about the little guy, is being sued by his aides for fraud in failing to pay their promised wages. He had guaranteed wages through November regardless of his success in the nominee race but laid them off without pay. Instead, he donated $18 million to the Democratic National Committee ... like a good socialist would. "Here's your pay. I'm going take your pay and donate it to the DNC. Thank you for giving to the cause."

In other "not COVID-19" news, Alex Salmond was acquitted of all charges in his sexual assault trial. Salmond was a former first minister of Scotland facing 12 charges of attempted rape, sexual assault, and indecent assault. A jury of eight women and five men found him not guilty. We, of course, decry this injustice. He is a man, is he not? Isn't he, therefore, guilty of all they claim simply by virtue of his gender? (And how did 8 women acquit him? That doesn't seem natural.) The outrage.

Unclear on the Concept
There are a lot of thoughts on fighting this virus, from social distancing to anti-malaria medication, but I think we've finally got a good plan: Buy more guns. Okay, sure, they're not fighting the disease with them, but ... who or what are they fighting? Just how bad can the media panic glut make it? And when does the fear-mongering media get tagged as a terrorist organization on their own? Because they're certainly spreading fear of this thing faster than the actual virus can travel.

So That's What it Takes
What does it take to make our current government act? Apparently it takes a pandemic. The Senate unanimously passed their $2 trillion plan to provide coronavirus relief. That's nearly 100 lawmakers (the vote was actually 96-0) all agreeing. Didn't even know that was possible. And after just 3 hours of debate the House passed it on Friday. Now the president has signed the stimulus. All in a week. I don't expect those kinds of results again, but it was momentarily fun to see. Now we'll see if we can stimulate the economy by pushing our national debt well past our GDP.

Oh, the Irony
People have long been protesting that our country is too limiting in letting people into the U.S. It's unfair. It's unkind. We're just bullies. Especially Trump. Bully! So does anyone else see the irony when Mexican protestors block Americans from coming into Mexico because they're concerned about the coronavirus? Will Mexico admit that limiting access is a good thing and the U.S. can do it, too? Or will the U.S. take the blame for controlling its borders but Mexico won't? Sure, it's all fun and games until someone gets COVID-19.

From the Bee
They had some good stories in the Babylon Bee this last couple of weeks. Lots of ammunition, I guess. I particularly liked the headline, "Pants Sales Plummet As Everyone Working From Home." I guess I laughed because, like so many others, I'm working from home. And the one that just came out -- "Toilet Paper Crisis Solved As Government Prints Trillions Of Fresh, Soft Dollar Bills." Tell me again this is humor and not real, right?

Friday, March 27, 2020

Joy Unleashed

Happiness is easy. Just find favorable circumstances and you can be happy. Can't find favorable circumstances? Well, that is a problem, but, don't worry, things will change. They always do. At some point everyone finds sufficient positives to be happy, at least for a time. Unfortunately, that time never lasts.

Scripture, on the other hand, gives a startling command. "Rejoice!" (Rom 12:12; 2 Cor 13:11; Php 3:1; Php 4:4; 1 Thess 5:16; etc.) In Philippians alone Paul commands it three times ... self-consciously. By "self-consciously" I mean that Paul was well aware that he was repeating himself.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. (Php 3:1)

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. (Php 4:4)
In the Hebrew mentality, repetition was reinforcement of an idea and Paul was "a Hebrew of Hebrews" (Php 3:5). So his repetition of this command was significant. Rejoice!

How is this startling? Happiness is dependent. It is an emotion that is activated by a sense of well-being and contentment. As such, it cannot be commanded. It is an effect, not a cause. It is passive, not active. But we are commanded to choose to rejoice.

How does biblical joy differ from our "happiness"? Paul lists "joy" as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). That means that, for the believer, joy is sourced by God's Spirit within us. For us, "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Rom 14:17) For us, then, joy is not sourced in circumstances; it is a product of God's Spirit. When Paul writes, "This is God's will for you in Christ Jesus," (1 Thess 5:18), he includes joy in the list. It isn't tied to circumstances or tethered to pleasure. As such, we can "count it all joy" when we face trials knowing that God is at work (James 1:2-4). We can weep and rejoice. We can have joy unleashed from conditions around us.

We face problems all the time. It's a product of the Fall. It's just the way it is. Our current crisis illustrates it. But we are not limited to happiness in these problems. We can actually rejoice always if we'll be obedient to God. It's a fruit of the Spirit.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Talking Back

In Paul's epistle to Rome he asks, "Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?" (Rom 9:20) An ominous question, one that should give us all pause. "Do I do that?" Because, as it turns out, I think we do.

In the book of Job, Job's friends were explaining his need to repent. Elihu said, "Who has said, 'You have done wrong'?" (Job 36:23) In other words, "Who can accuse God of doing wrong?" It seems like we regularly do that. If we were honest, we would all raise our hand and say, "I do that. I have accused God of doing wrong." He didn't act when we needed Him to. He didn't do what we asked Him to. Unanswered prayers, tragedies, illnesses, sorrow, great loss ... we've all experienced things that cause us to ask, "Why, God?", and usually not in a good way.

In the book of Daniel Nebuchadnezzar was restored to sanity and recognized the hand of God and exalted Him. In his praise he states, "None can stay His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'" (Dan 4:35) And we often answer back, "Yes, I can." Most of us at some point or another are quite certain that we have the capacity to block God's hand. We believe that God intended to save Bill (fictitious placeholder name) but I failed to share the gospel with him so God couldn't. We believe that God intended to do something good but I lacked the faith and He couldn't do it. Many will say that when Jesus said, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:28) that "I can. I am that 'no one' who can snatch me out of His hand."

The most obvious answer-back that we do, of course, is our simple "No." "Love God with all your being." "No." "Love your neighbor as yourself." "No." "Give up all your possessions and follow Me." "No." "Don't be anxious about anything but pray about everything." "No." "Pray without ceasing." "I already said no."

Paul's question about answering back to God was a rhetorical one. No one gets to answer back to God. As such, it was intended to be an ominous question. "If you do answer back, be afraid. It isn't a good thing." You can sense the warning in the question. We often ignore it in our lives. So we blithely challenge God right and left and can't figure out why we're not growing in our relationship with Him. Perhaps we're challenging the wrong God. Perhaps we ought to challenge the gods we think we are.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Hope

We can respond differently to the coronavirus crisis. We can respond with hope.

The coronavirus is, in the first place, a product of sin. Paul wrote, "For the creation was subjected to futility." (Rom 8:20) That's because of sin. That's bad. But that's not the end of the story. In fact, that's not the end of his sentence.
The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Rom 8:20-21)
So, as a consequence of sin, we have a futile creation in which we live. That's bad. But it isn't a blind futility. God did it, and He did it with an eye to hope. What hope? Creation will be set free when the children of God are glorified. There is hope.

In the meantime, God is not "on hold." He uses this "futility" -- disasters, illnesses, death, etc. -- for His purposes. He disciplines (e.g., 1 Cor 11:30-32) and perfects (James 1:2-4) and uses those who come through it for better purposes (2 Cor 1:3-4). Satan, people, the world ... these intend it for and see it as evil, but God intends it for good (Gen 50:20). All of this is hope.

C.S. Lewis considered pain as God's megaphone. "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world." (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Harper Collins, 1940/1996), 91.) While the world around us runs around in varying levels of panic, we don't have to. God is still on His throne. He works all things together for good to those who love Him (Rom 8:28).

Our world has little reason for hope in the face of pandemics and the like. We do. We have a good God. We have a living Savior. We can share.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Trickle-Down Thinking

Trickle-down economics is a theory that lets rich people be rich with the idea that they will share their wealth by hiring and by spending, so we all get to share in it. I'm not talking about trickle-down economics. I'm talking about thinking from the top down.

We generally see the world from the bottom up. Let me explain. We go from the known to the unknown. It's the only way we can operate. We know what's in front of us in the light, so we're fine, but we don't know what's in the dark, so we're cautious. We know that the sun comes up every day, so we plan for it -- literally set our clocks by it. We know from experience and education lots of things and we operate from there to try to figure out things we don't yet know. It's just the way we are.

That's generally a good idea. Unfortunately, there is at least one time that it isn't. When it comes to theology, as a rule, we operate from the bottom up. "I know this is true about me, so what can I discover about God?" So, "I am finite, so God must also be limited" makes sense. "I can be capricious, so God is likely the same at times." Or, "This obviously bad thing happened, so God is in some way defective." I'm sure you can see, at least in the first two, that there is a problem. God said it Himself. "You thought that I was one like yourself." (Psa 50:21) He's not. So figuring out God from the bottom up isn't going to work.

This is where we need to use what I'll call "trickle-down thinking." Here's how it works. He is God; we are not. Therefore, we need to go with His revelation about what He is like first and then work our way back to us. Because, as it turns out, "The heart is deceitful and desperately sick" (Jer 17:9), so we need a genuine, trustworthy standard to use for this, and that's not us.

Let's try one. Rather than "This obviously bad thing happened, so God is in some way defective," let's start with what we know from God.
"Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.'" (Isa 46:9-10)
Just a single example. The Scriptures are full of them (e.g., 2 Chron 20:6; Job 42:2; Psa 115:3; Psa 135:6; Dan 4:35; Isa 45:9-10; Matt 19:26; Eph 1:11; 1 Tim 1:17; 1 Tim 6:15; James 4:15; Heb 1:8 ... for starters). Nothing stops God from accomplishing what God wills. That's what God reveals about Himself. Further, "'My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'" (Isa 55:8-9) So we know that He doesn't think like we do. Beyond that, Jesus told us, "No one is good except God alone." (Luke 18:19) and Abraham asked the ultimate rhetorical question when he asked God, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?" (Gen 18:25) So God always accomplishes His will, He doesn't think like we do, He is the only good, and He always does what is right.

Thinking down from there, that means that the bad things that have happened -- the events that makes us question God -- are bad from our perspective but not from God's viewpoint. He is good. He is right. That means that the problem is in our perspective, not His character. That clearly points out that we have deceived hearts and need a renewed mind, but it casts no aspersions on God. Further, if God is who His Word says He is, there is always hope in bad events because God will always do what's best. So thinking from the top down certainly changes what we think about God and what we might have originally believed about ourselves.

That was just an exercise. Try it sometime. See what you can see about God in His Word and then think down to how that might change how you see people ... particularly yourself. I think it might be enlightening. And if we are to work from the known to the unknown, it is best not to start with what we know about ourselves because that just might be wrong. Let's start with what The Truth (John 14:6) gives us and work down.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Can't Get No Satisfaction

That was the claim of the Rolling Stones, at least. The song was a complaint about commercialism and about sexual gratification, but I think it's applicable to most of us.

This notion began before the Stones, of course. It began practically at the beginning.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'" The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Gen 3:1-5)
Now, there are a few messages in there. It started with "Did God say ...?" Or, "Are you sure you can trust God?" There was "You surely will not die!" Or, "No, you can't trust God." Ultimately, it was, "God is holding out on you." Or, "You cannot be satisfied with God. You'll have to do that yourself." And thus it has been ever since.

We live dissatisfied. We want more. We want better. We want wealth, comfort, fame, power, whatever it is we think we need and don't have. We discard spouses thinking there's a more satisfying one elsewhere. We have to have what "they" have. We jump from god to god because we're confident, as Adam and Eve were, that the One God is not enough. Sex is a big problem for us because we seek satisfaction in it that was never intended and have to keep looking for something new -- from sexual immorality to sexual immorality. We "can't get no satisfaction," sexual or otherwise, because we have discarded the ultimate satisfaction we were originally given and made for. "No, God is not enough. I'll have to do this myself." It is our operating principle.

This is why Paul's statement is much more stunning than you and I initially realize.
I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. (Php 4:11)
"Content in whatever circumstances"?? How is that possible? Given our natural condition of dissatisfaction, how does Paul arrive at complete satisfaction?
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Php 4:13)
No, this isn't the Prosperity Gospel. It isn't "I can do whatever I want and expect God to enable me." This is "I am satisfied in all circumstances because I have a living relationship with God." This is "I don't need any other satisfaction because God is sufficient." This is genuine, unassailable satisfaction.

The Stones told us what all humans feel: I can't get no satisfaction. Paul offers a solution. You can have it by immersing yourself in the contentment that a relationship with God can provide. You can have satisfaction by expecting God to be enough. And there is a backhanded warning there, too. Nothing else satisfies; if you reject the Maker's satisfaction, you will get none.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Right Before Your Eyes

Have you ever discovered something that was right in front of you but you never saw because it was so obvious? I had one of those "aha" moments the other day.

I was "discussing" (not in reality, but in my mind) with a Jehovah's Witness -- a kind of preparation for a potential real discussion -- about the first and foremost problem with JW theology. To them Jesus is not God. Got it. So, how can we resolve this? The problem is their Bible doesn't say the same thing that our Bible says. All of our Bible translations agree:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
Pretty straightforward and irrefutable. Except that their version adds one word and eliminates the whole thing. Instead of "the Word was God" it says "the Word was a god." (Note: They're not suggesting multiple deities. The Bible in other places refers to all sorts of strong beings, from men to supernatural beings, as "gods" without requiring deity.) So, who is right? Are all the rest of the Bible translators correct and theirs is wrong, or vice versa? Well, arguing the veracity of Bible translators is all well and good, but let's try another approach. Where do we agree?

From their version we read,
All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence. What has come into existence by means of him was life. (John 1:3-4)
That's close enough to our own versions as to be in full agreement. So what do they say? "The Word" brought all things into existence that came into existence. Nothing came into existence that He did not bring into existence. Are we all agreed? Yes, we are. Good.

So, here's the idea. Jesus, to them, is a created being. He was "the first-born creation." So what they want to say is that the first creation created all other creations. But that's a direct violation of their text. Their version says that "not even one thing" came into existence apart from him creating it. So they must argue that Jesus, as the first-born creation, created himself. Nice trick if you can do it.

But here's where the "aha" moment occurred to me. I've always believed in the Trinity. It has never been a question. Jesus is God. Got it. I find it completely unavoidable in Scripture. So as I'm thinking this through, that "In the beginning" phrase from verse 1 called me back to another "In the beginning" in the Bible.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Gen 1:1)
(Their version is word-for-word the same.) So Genesis 1 clearly states that God created the heavens and the earth. Or, in terms of John 1:3-4, the One that created everything that was created was the Word who was God. Not "a god" -- the God. The God they say created the heavens and the earth.

I don't know how they break that link. I never saw it before because I've never needed to, but that seems to be -- from their texts -- an unassailable position that the Word which was the Son was the God who created everything. I've seen a lot of reasons why I should be convinced of this. This was just a new one to me.

Of course, this is too wonderful for me to fully grasp -- the God who is three and only one, the God who made everything but wasn't made, the Father who sent the Son who sent the Holy Spirit. It's way over my head. But while I can't fully explain it (because, at the core, the finite can never fully grasp the infinite), I embrace it and revel in it. Especially now. At a time when the world is terrified of a pandemic and I know the Creator of the universe. That's a God I can really worship.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

News Weakly - 3/21/20

Is there any news but COVID-19? Seems hard to find.

No Atheists in COVID-19 Holes
From 500 to 50 to 10, the gathering size limit has been dropping ... fast. Schools are closed. Businesses are closed. Public libraries are closed. Churches are closed. The government is asking us to close "bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms, and other indoor and outdoor venues where groups of people congregate." We have a new term -- "social distancing" -- to describe the prescribed distance we're supposed to keep between individuals. (Currently 6 feet, I believe.) For two weeks? No. President Trump says the expectation is "about July, August, something like that." On the other hand, the current guidelines are only for the next 15 days. Maybe ... just maybe ... we humans are not the lords of the universe that we think we are.

Under the same heading, I found it interesting this week when my wife and I went to the grocery store. Yes, the toilet paper and canned goods aisles were empty. There was no peanut butter to be found. The fresh meat and vegetables were surprisingly depleted. The chips and water were absent. The place was largely bare. There was one aisle that seemed almost untouched. It seems that, in a crisis, booze isn't the top priority. I thought that was interesting.

Interesting Sidenote
In other COVID-19 news, I recently got this inside information. The drugstore, Walgreens, sells masks. Well, usually. They've been out for awhile (obviously), but it turns out that they get their masked from China. Any guess as to where? Yep. They're manufactured in Wuhan, China. I guess we know one of the reasons they've been unable to get them.

Feel Bad Story
So, people are dying and we're all holed up in our little panic rooms trying to avoid the same and people are trying to send out things to make us feel better. My newsfeed is full of helpful things like exercises you can do at home and easy food to cook while you're hiding. So now actress Gal Gadot joins with a group of other stars to make us all feel better ... by singing John Lennon's Imagine. You know,
Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today ...
Yes, I feel much better. Imagine that there is no hope for tomorrow, no "better place" or ultimate purpose in life, no real meaning or basis for human value. Yes! That's the kind of thing we need to feel better in a pandemic. Thanks!

Not a Feel-Good Story
California's governor has issued a "stay at home" order statewide. Predicting that more than half the state will get the virus in the next 8 weeks, he fears the numbers will overrun the state's hospital capability. Only critical infrastructure will continue. Illinois will do the same starting Saturday.

In other news, the EU has asked Netflix to slow its streaming to prevent the Internet from overloading ... while everyone is stuck at home. Now this is getting serious.

The Truth Will Out
Perhaps the most startling-and-yet-expected news on this whole crisis is the revelation that this whole mass hysteria was started by Trump in order to allow him to go on the rides at Disneyland without lines.

That, of course, is a Babylon Bee conspiracy report. Satire. The non-satire reports are just as ludicrous. Russia is trying to stir up distrust in Europe by claiming that Western countries have created and weaponized the virus. A Republican representative voiced the belief of many that it's a Chinese weapon that got out. Actor Idris Elba was diagnosed with the virus and is debunking the notion that black people are immune. One malicious group has advanced the idea that you can cure yourself of the virus if you drink bleach. A relative of mine loudly proclaimed that it's Trump's fault because the WHO offered to step in and solve the problem at the beginning and he refused. (Note: If the WHO had the solution at the beginning, has every country refused?)

I can't say if this is judgment from God. I'm not one that leaps to that conclusion. I can't say if this virus is the work of the devil. Again, I'm not going there, either. But I can say that the devil is the father of lies, so we know where these conspiracy theories come from, don't we?

Friday, March 20, 2020

Don't Feed the Trolls

It's an Internet thing (for those of you who don't know). Internet sites that allow interaction from the public will, to varying degrees, encounter "trolls" -- folks not interested in actually contributing to the discussion, but intent on angering, upsetting, or disrupting. They'll drop a "bomb" comment and not return, just to see what happens. So "Don't feed the trolls" means "When those types show up, don't give them the satisfaction of reacting."

Similarly, we have the media. Oh, not just the media. We are surrounded by "trolls." They are evident in this current "pandemic panic." I recently heard a relative rant about how this is all Trump's fault because the WHO offered to solve the problem for us at the beginning and he refused. Internet, meet troll. As an example. The media isn't telling us, the whole truth or offering a balanced view because that wouldn't serve their bottom line. No, it's best to upset and disrupt, and we see the effectiveness of the trolls in our empty aisles in the supermarket, for instance.

There are biblical responses. There are multiple responses.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes. (Pro 26:4-5)
It appears to be a contradiction at first glance, but it's not. Dealing with fools requires that we don't stand on their ground ("according to his folly"). With their premises and their line of thinking you'll end up with their foolishness. Don't deal with them that way. But don't simply ignore them. Give a fool genuine truth "that he not be wise in his own eyes." This, of course, requires that we have the truth, so we have homework to do.

In a world given to panic we are ... given to panic. Instead,
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Php 4:6-7)
This is not a panacea. This isn't a cheerful "Don't worry; be happy." It places one foot on the real nature of the problem and the other on the real One who is in charge. It is a solid and complete trust in God. We know He is good. We know He is wise. We know He is love. We know He is Sovereign. We know He is omnipotent. We know that He causes all things to work together for good. It is that God to whom we pray and ask and give thanks and that God that can provide an incomprehensible peace in a storm.

And, don't forget. Included in that prayer is
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Tim 2:1-2)
We (I) too often glance over this. Don't. Scripture calls for "entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men." We get that we need to pray for ourselves. And our loved ones. Family. Friends. Got it. This one is "all men" -- all people everywhere. Then it specifies "all who are in authority." Pray for Pelosi; pray for Trump. Pray for the leadership of Iran, the president of Russia, the government of China. All people; all authority. I have to say that if we take this seriously we will be a people of constant prayer. Like we're told to be (1 Thess 5:17).

One more. Right after that "Be anxious for nothing" text, Paul wrote this:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Php 4:8)
They tell us "You are what you eat." We certainly become what we dwell on. Here's a list. A good starting point. To be true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, excellent, and praise worthy, that's where we need to be thinking. Dwelling. Since we can expect little of that from the media, perhaps that's not where we should be dwelling. Since the world is "of your father, the devil," perhaps that shouldn't be our primary source of things to think about.

Panic doesn't help. Lies are not from God. We are not alone here struggling to get by. Don't feed the trolls; pray for them. We, of all people, should be people of love, joy, and peace in a world afraid of a pandemic. "Practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." (Php 4:9)

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Live as Free

I was just reading the other day and came across this.
Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. (1 Peter 2:16)
Wait ... what? Peter says we have freedom. We are free. Then he says that we aren't to misuse our freedom. We're supposed to use our freedom properly by living as servants. Nay, "bondslaves." Peter is saying, "Use your freedom to live as slaves."

It would appear, then, that God's definition of "freedom" is somewhat different than ours. (Surprise, surprise, right?) We think of freedom as the ability to do whatever we want. Peter says freedom is the power or right to do what we ought. We think of freedom as the state of not being enslaved and Peter says that freedom is determined by who it is you are enslaved to -- evil or God.

Maybe, just maybe, in a world where servanthood was the norm this wouldn't be so jarring. Free to serve a master more fully was reasonable. In today's ardent "We will not submit to anyone" American culture, it is just plain wrong. Except, of course, that it comes from Scripture. So who is wrong?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Deists

There are a lot of "isms" out there, from "feminism" to "radicalism" and beyond. There are several that are tied to God. We know about theism and atheism (where, of mild interest likely only to me, the "a" in the latter is the Greek "not," making "atheism" "not theism"). There is a third of which you might not be quite as aware. It is deism.

Deism isn't very old as an "ism." It came out of the Enlightenment. The first (English) major statement on deism came out in 1624. The basic concept is that there is a God, but that He is withdrawn. He "spun up" the universe, perhaps, but now He's letting it run on its own. Deism believes you can see God in reason and observation, but rejects divine revelation. Deism was fairly popular from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and a sizable number of our founding fathers were deists rather than "standard Christians." As a creed, however, it has largely died out. You won't find churches that advertise as deist or the like. Very few people identify as deists. There is, still, at least one website that is trying to make converts to deism, but it's just not that big anymore.

Or is it?

I write this primarily to Christians. It is my suspicion based on my experience that there are a lot more deists than we realize. They are here among us. They may even be you.

Christianity affirms God's Word. That is an essential component. By that I mean without the Bible we don't have a faith. Others complain about "questionable biblical revelations" but the Christian faith is centered on the reliability of God and God has reliably revealed Himself in His Word. That is the opposite of deism at its core. Still, how dedicated are we to that premise? I know genuine, God-fearing, Bible-reading, sincere Christians who certainly live as if God is removed somewhat (I'll call that "practical deism") and even argue that God takes a more "hands off" approach than Scripture claims. God has limited Himself to Human Free Will. Nature itself does things God never intended. As a Sovereign, it seems, He's pretty aloof and even inept because all sorts of bad stuff goes on that He is either unwilling or unable (or both) to do anything about. That's their argument. That's their belief. And that is unabashed deism.

Oh, sure, the rest of it is fairly popular, too. Lots of people self-identify as "Christian" while rejecting God's Word as anything more than "useful" ... if that. Reliable? Not really. Among these folks they'll even argue that the God of the Old Testament was just plain wrong again and again. At best, the Scriptures themselves can't be trusted because ... well ... He's a "hands off" God in the end. These folks define Christianity by their own terms and standards, considering those as superior to God's revelation. That isn't "practical deism." It's bold-faced deism.

So, as it turns out, although the term is less common these days, I would argue that the "doctrines" are still quite popular. It is popular among secular people that claim to believe in "a God of some sort" but have no clear definition because this God is of their own design. It is popular among the liberal Christians who are adamant that the only good God is the God they make Him out to be without regard to the Bible. It is popular among conservative Christians who are quite certain that there is the God of the Bible, but surely He isn't in charge of everything because bad things happen, so the revealed God in Scripture is not the actual God in practice. I guess deism isn't really dead after all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Fear

I knew a guy from church years ago who was out of work, living in a camper at the back of the church lot, getting by doing odd jobs for the church. I asked him how the job search was going. "I'm waiting on the Lord," was his reply. "But," I countered, "you're looking, right?" "No, I'm waiting on the Lord." Perhaps it sounds holy, but surely we recognize that God uses ordinary means to achieve divine ends. He used the sinful hatred of Joseph's brothers to save Israel from death (Gen 50:20). He used a betrothed virgin to bring His Son into the world. Generally, by His power through earthly mediums He brings about His will. Looking for a job is an earthly medium.

Still, we seem to think that we should not fear. Just trust. Fear is bad. But that can't be true. Start, obviously, with "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov 9:10) and you can see right off that some fear is good, even necessary. And in a very pragmatic way, we demonstrate it every day. We lock our doors. We buy insurance. We drive defensively. We use and safeguard passwords. We live in a world that includes a significant and real threat and it is simple wisdom to act on the significant and real fear that threat produces to protect ourselves. No one says, "I'm just trusting the Lord, so I broadcast my Social Security number and bank account information to whomever asks for it." That may be fearless, but it's certainly foolish.

We are commanded to fear God, and we are told not to fear. We are wise to reasonably fear bad things and take steps to avoid them and we are commanded, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Php 4:6) So in this COVID-19-panic world, what kind of fear is wise and what kind of fear is sin? Are we mandated to hug everyone without fear because God will keep us safe? Or is there reasonable, biblical caution available that isn't sin?

Okay, so, first, a biblical response to the current crisis.
Cleanse your hands, sinners! (James 4:8)
Yes, intended for humor, but also to illustrate that Scripture doesn't address everything. So ... what else?

I don't actually have answers to my own questions. I'm trying to balance reasonable versus unreasonable fear. I'm trying to be cognizant that Christians are boldly declaring "I will say to the LORD, 'My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.' For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence" (Psa 91:2-3) while recognizing that genuine followers of Christ do die from "deadly pestilence." I'm trying to figure out how to tell sinful fear from reasonable fear. I think, for instance, that a panic purchase of all the toilet paper on the shelves is sinful fear (and thoroughly irrational), but what about the fact that most of the churches in my area were closed this last Sunday? I am working from home these days "out of an abundance of caution" (read "they told me to") and not because I'm scared of exposure; is that not enough fear? How and where do we draw the line? I know a 74-year-old guy with diabetes and asthma who is avoiding all gatherings (nearly all) because he's at risk and I know a 75-year-old guy with a seriously compromised immune system who is still going about his daily living because he trusts God. Is one right? Are both right? "Don't worry; you can't be hurt because God is your protector" sounds really spiritual, but it isn't factual. He does use difficulties for our benefit. And certainly if we do find ourselves in that kind of difficulty the proper response is trust and "count it all joy" (James 1:2-4). There must be a balance point, and I'm not sure where it is. Are you?

Perhaps the problem is the premise. If we are to love God and love others as our fundamental mode of operation, the question of fear would change faces, wouldn't it? We wouldn't be asking, "What can I do to protect myself?" We'd be asking, "What can I do to love?" As in the case of the aircraft oxygen masks, in order to be most helpful you have to put your own mask on first, so perhaps sometimes protecting yourself will make you more useful for others. But when our fear makes our primary concern to be our own safety and comfort above and beyond that of others, does that become sin? Just asking questions here.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Expertise

I was looking at an article the other day entitled How to Become an Expert. Generic enough. Not "an expert in" anything particular. Just ... an expert. The overarching answer they gave was "deliberate practice." This refers to practicing whatever it is in order to improve your skills more and more with specific goals, feedback, etc. Interesting.

So ... what if we want to become "experts" in being a follower of Christ?

I read the other day, "Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His son's name? Surely you know! Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you and you be found a liar." (Prov 30:4-6) God's Word states that God's Word is true. That's significant. Peter offers this:
Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. (1 Peter 2:2-3)
The text is not ambiguous. If you wish to "grow up into salvation," we have a biblical approach: "Long for the pure milk of the word." That's interesting, isn't it? Peter tells us to alter our affections. He tells us to desire something that we currently may or may not desire. Not just desire -- long for. It is, in this milk, the means to grow in salvation. Paul said to work out our salvation (Php 2:12). Peter says to grow in it by means of the word.

So, we want to become "expert" Christians. Expertise is acquired by deliberate practice. Growing in our salvation is acquired by the milk of the word. Putting it all together then, we ought to be making the Word a deliberate practice in which we engage often and fully with great desire in order to grow in our salvation. Why? Because we've tasted that the Lord is good. If you're not really keen on this approach, perhaps you haven't. That's a different issue ... one that ought to be addressed immediately.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Serious Worship

In Exodus we read of the famous encounter at Mt. Sinai. In preparation, God told the people to go to the mountain but keep away. "Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death." (Exo 19:12) So the people stood around while God dictated the 10 commandments to Moses complete with smoke and fire ... and terror. Their response?
Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, "You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die." (Exo 20:18-19)
How did we get from this to the "stormtrooper dance"?

The answer isn't that hard to find. The fundamental problem for humans is described in Romans 1. "Although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him." (Rom 1:21) You see, God has made Himself evident to all humans (Rom 1:19), but as a race we reject that. Remember, the problem is "ungodliness" and "unrighteousness" (Rom 1:18), beginning with the failure to recognize God as God and progressing to unrighteous behavior. "They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator." (Rom 1:25) Biblically, this leads to a moral decay ending in sexual immorality, homosexual behavior, and all manner of sin (Rom 1:26-32). This is the normal, sinful condition of Man.

So how do we get from a genuine fear of the Lord to kids doing dances in church for "worship"? We -- yes, we believers as well -- don't heed the warnings. We fail to honor Him as God or give thanks. We exchange God for a lie -- the worship of the Creature rather than the Creator. We all have this tendency. We all have a real possibility of this path. But this path, according to Scripture, produces futile thinking and foolish hearts (Rom 1:21-22). Sin rots the brain.

When Nadab and Abihu decided to "jazz up" their worship, God struck them dead (Lev 10:1-2). They died, according to Scripture, because they failed to represent a holy God and bring Him glory (Lev 10:3). We must not fall into that trap. Believers are human just like everyone else and prone to sin, but we have the Spirit. We should be paying attention to this problem and earnestly pursue God's glory rather than our entertainment. Worship is important. It's not a game. Treating it as such is dangerous.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

News Weakly - 3/14/20

What Part of "No" Don't You Understand?
Brigham Young University is owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As such, its students have to agree to adhere to a strict honor code including not drinking alcohol and not engaging in sex before marriage. They removed a prohibition of homosexual behavior recently, but clarified that such behavior was not compatible with the rules of the school. Self-identified homosexuals are aghast. "Students had spoken out against the clause because they argued it unfairly banned behavior granted to straight couples, such as holding hands or kissing." The school, they were saying, was singling out gays. Well, yes. If you have rules against murder, you single out murderers. If you have rules against smiling in public, you single out people who smile. Listen, if you are considering going to a school that has rules against X and you want X, don't go there. Stop trying to force everyone to conform to your preferences. I'm not a Mormon fan, but, look, I don't want to engage in homosexual behavior, so I won't be going to any gay bars. This kind of thinking would require that I go to gay bars and try to force them to stop because they're singling me out for discrimination and it makes me uncomfortable. Makes no sense.

Gender Identity Development?
In the UK Keira Bell, 23, is suing the NHS for prematurely transitioning her from female to male as a child. She has since begun the transition back to female and believed they shouldn't have allowed her to transition based solely on her gender dysphoria as a teen. The damage, she says, is physical and mental and irreversible. Would we expect anything else from the "Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS)"?

Political Climate Change
According to the USDA Forest Service, Oregon has the most trees per acreage in the U.S. with some of the lowest greenhouse gas emissions in the nation. For a couple of years, now, the Republicans have been evading a vote on decreasing carbon emissions, so you can see why it is important that the governor would issue an executive order to lower carbon emissions to 80% less than 1990 levels by 2050. I guess if they can't do it by trees and decreased emissions, you will do it by executive fiat.

An Abundance of Caution
COVID-19 is all the news these days. Given the current virulent infection rate in the U.S. (0.0004%) and the horrendous mortality rate worldwide (96% of those infected survive), at least 6 states are closing schools, while individual schools are closing themselves. France is closing schools nationwide. The world is panic-buying toilet paper into a shortage. (Seriously? Toilet paper?? Why??!!) (There are reports of armed robberies in Hong Kong for toilet paper.)

And we deeply value life, don't we? Take, for instance, the latest from Italy. With a surge in COVID-19 cases, doctors are warning medics to stop treating the elderly. Because human life is valuable.

In related news, the Democrats in the House have produced a coronavirus relief package. The multibillion dollar bill includes economic measures to assist working people, paid sick leave, expanded unemployment benefits, and free testing. Oh, yeah, and a provision to bypass the Hyde Amendment that prevents federal funding for abortions. The last stalled negotiations and got removed, but you can see how important it is to save lives ... by killing little people. (I cannot grasp how paying for abortions will provide coronavirus relief in anyone's mind.)

Sheeple
You read "Pregnant teen falls from Texas border wall and dies as migrants take more risks to cross" and think "Dirty, rotten Trump and his evil border wall. He's getting people killed who are just seeking a better life." It is a tragic loss. And you read, "Her fetus did not survive" and realize, once again, that the media has an agenda other than simply reporting the news. What you will not read is "a 19-year-old woman tried to enter the country illegally and she and her baby died in the attempt" because 1) it makes it seem as if there is a legal and an illegal way to enter the country and 2) the unborn are babies. Neither is acceptable to the media and, therefore, the sheeple that follow them.

The Other Satirical Site
Genesius Times came up with the satirical headline that says what I feel about the current COVID-19 panic: BREAKING: COVID-19 skyrockets to 1,543,299th highest cause of death in US; just behind butterflies. Obviously the truth is hardly a protection against overblown fear tactics.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Self-Made

"He's a self-made man." What do we mean by that? Well, this guy pulled himself up by his bootstraps. He worked hard, worked smart, found the right niche. Without help from anyone else, he succeeded. A self-made man.

It is, of course, utter nonsense. In reality it is not possible to be "self-made." Scripture, referring to Christ, says, "All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:3) Nothing is "self-made."

Sure, I understand the idea. Our "self-made man" was certainly created by God, but we're talking about what he did with it. We're talking about his work and his effort and his self-reliance and self-determination. We admire those qualities, and, in that sense, what he has become he has become by his own efforts. "Self-made."

Jesus would beg to differ. "Apart from Me," He said, "you can do nothing." (John 15:5) Nothing? Really? Surely that's not what He means. Look, it talks about the vine and the branches; He probably just means that apart from Him we can't do anything toward being productive Christians ... right?

I would suggest there are a couple of possibilities, a couple of ways to understand this. We know, for instance, that we can sin quite well. Is Jesus saying, "Apart from Me you cannot sin"? That won't work. On the other hand, we know that "in Him all things hold together." (Col 1:17) In that sense, we can't actually exist apart from Him. On one end of the spectrum, then, we can do no actual good without Him. That which is sourced by us without Him is not actual good. On the other end, we wouldn't be at all if He didn't make it so.

So what about our "self-made man." In this light he might be "self-made" if we want to admit that what he has made is not good. If he is good, he is not self-made because without Christ we can do nothing that is actually good. But even the self-made guy who is not good is not self-made because we all rely on Christ to exist at all.

In the end, then, it is important for us to remember our place. We should call to mind our reliance on Him for anything good and the failure of doing on our own that which is not good. We should be ever grateful that we are alive at all because that, on its own, is sheer grace. And this should shape our notion of the "self-made man" (or woman) at all times.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

It's Getting Better

Progress. That's our word for it. "Progress" refers to forward motion. We think that "forward motion" is good motion, that progress is making things better. We think of progress as advance, as improvement, as correction of error. We think of more enlightenment, more freedom, more happiness. It is obviously "change," but we unilaterally think of it as positive change.

As it turns out, of course, nothing in the concept of "moving forward" requires positive change. Just as a silly example, if your "forward movement" walks you off a cliff, it's not positive. So it should be obvious that it is important to evaluate progress rather than merely applaud it.

Recently Germany's highest court voted to overturn a legislative ban on euthanasia. Progress! But is it positive? In a Christian worldview, humans have value that exceeds the intrinsic; they have value assigned by God. Human life is valuable because we have been made in the image of God (Gen 9:6). Exit the Christian worldview and substitute the secular. Progress! So killing babies in the womb is not an issue because we're not limited to some Christian value judgment. Killing the sick and the old is not a problem because we're not limited to a valuation from the Divine. We can still stand firmly on those in the middle, perhaps. Don't kill children; don't kill adults. Just the two ends, mostly. But on what are we still standing firmly? Thin air. I recently read an article published in the BMJ -- the British Medical Journal -- that made an argument for eugenics as a moral option. I read an article some time ago from a doctor explaining the ethical removal of body parts for people who suffer from BIID -- Body Integrity Identity Disorder. This is a condition in which a person believes that some healthy body part should be amputated because it is not theirs; it is alien in some way. The doctor's conclusion? It is ethical to remove such a part because the person just might be right.

This, we think, is progress. We've moved beyond the mistreatment of the black people as slaves and we've progressed past the massacre of millions of Jews in Germany -- positive progress -- and we've gotten to the place that the number one cause of death for human beings in 2019 was ... abortion. The World Health Organization estimates there are 40-50 million abortions per year in the world. Compare that with the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust or the 3 million killed by the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1979 or even the 60 million killed by Stalin or the 70 million under Mao Zedong. Those last two were over 30 years each. Our "progress" allows us to eclipse that in two years and the count continues. Progress. Sure, but not positive change.

What we think of as "progress" in the sense of improvement is often just "progress" in the sense of change. Sometimes it is good. Sometimes it appears good but isn't. Sometimes we think it's good but it is, in fact, the opposite. "It's getting better" is our general notion of "progress." I think, more often than not, it isn't.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Intersectionality v Christianity

Recently I wrote about "Intersectionality" and how it doesn't seem to help Christianity at all despite the SBC's claim that it is a useful tool. Turns out I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Rosaria Butterfield wrote on the same topic -- much better than I did, of course -- so I thought I'd let you read someone besides me on the topic.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Rebuke

Paul wrote his epistle to the saints at Rome without actually having been to Rome. He didn't know these people personally. He wanted to, but he hadn't gotten to them yet. So he laid out a straightforward presentation of the Gospel in advance of his arrival -- a kind of "study guide" if you will. "Here's what we'll be talking about when I get there."

In his epistle to "unknown" Christians, then, Paul appears to have really messed up. You want to make a good impression, right? "How's the wife? How's the kids? Everything okay with you guys?" That kind of thing. Paul didn't do that. He said that he wanted to "reap some harvest" (Rom 1:13) among them. What harvest? "I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome." (Rom 1:15) That's when he gives his famous, "I am not ashamed oof the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." (Rom 1:16) In what sense is it the power of God? "In it the righteousness of God is revealed." (Rom 1:17) That's powerful, but he explains further that it is revealed in the phrase, "The righteous shall live by faith." (Rom 1:17) So how does this reveal the righteousness of God? He begins the answer to that question in the next verse.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. (Rom 1:18)
(Note: He doesn't complete the answer until Rom 3:21-22.) See? Paul is unclear on the concept. If you want to make a good impression, you don't go around telling people that "God is really, really mad ... at something you've done." You don't accuse people you don't know of "ungodliness and unrighteousness." You don't tell them that they've suppressed the truth. That's just not done in polite society.

But Paul did it. He did it from chapter 1 verse 18 all the way through chapter 3 verse 20. He laid out the worst of the bad news, beginning with human culpability -- "they are without excuse" (Rom 1:20) and ending with human inability -- "by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight." (Rom 3:20)

The thing is, by doing this Paul laid out the worst of the bad news in order to present the best of all possible good news. Only in this hopeless and helpless condition does "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe" become really, really good news (Rom 3:22). Only then is the full impact achieved. Paul transgressed conventional protocols for talking to strangers in order to give them the best possible news out of the worst possible situation.

I titled this "Rebuke" for a reason. I've been thinking lately about my approach on the topic of judgment and rebuke. I've defended it biblically in the face of a popular culture that tells us to back off. But this time I'm aiming to rebuke us believers. Should we point out sin in others? Jesus did. Paul did. Scripture does. Yes, we should. Should we do it in love (rather than moral indignation or self-righteous pride)? Absolutely! Without a doubt! So ... why don't we? Why do we hold back? We have the best of all possible good news that requires us to tell people the bad news of sin in order to grasp the magnitude of the Gospel -- the good news. How can we not share that? If we love others, how can we possibly hold back? Are we going to let self-preservation and personal discomfort prevent us from loving others that way? I would hope not.

Monday, March 09, 2020

The Prophecy Skeptic

One of my friendly (anonymous) commenters has taken up the task of "proving" that the Bible is false and, by extension, so is Christianity by taking up an old argument. It goes something like this. "See? The prophesied return of Christ hasn't happened! Proof!! It's all a lie." I think it's interesting that this line of reasoning is actually predicted in the Bible. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians telling them that it would happen.
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to Him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. (2 Thess 2:1-2)
Peter warned that it was expected.
This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." (2 Peter 3:1-4)
This approach is, perhaps, popular, but it is also biblically anticipated and answered. "But," they will object, "didn't the first century believers expect Christ's imminent return?" Yes, they did. All believers from Christ's ascension on have expected His imminent return. But all believers have understood that the timing is His. Paul certainly said things, like, "Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord ..." (1 Thess 4:17), sounding very much like "we" means "you, the people to whom I write, and I," but nothing in there requires "within the next 10 years or so" or the like.

Remember, the Old Testament prophecies of a Messiah included both a Suffering Servant and a Conquering King. The Jews were expecting that Conquering King and missed entirely the Suffering Servant. What they got was Christ, the Suffering Servant, and what is yet to come is Christ, the Conquering King. Since prophecy often carries this time anomaly, it is no surprise that prophecies on the return of Christ may, also.

What is often forgotten is this little fact. Built into these prophecies is an intentional delay. In Paul's letters to the church at Thessalonica, he tells them "Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God." (2 Thess 2:3-4) In truth, a misunderstanding of a favorite passage almost blinds us to the other delay. Peter, easing his readers' fears about this delay, writes, "Do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." (2 Peter 3:8-9) Note, first, that Peter is not vague. The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise. He accomplishes it at the very time He intends. We understand that Peter tells us that God's time is not our time, and he says that should comfort us. But the reason for the delay is much bigger than we seem to realize. God is "not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." Now, we tend to think that this is a generalization, that God really wishes everyone would be saved. This, of course, is a strange reading. Is God not Sovereign? Is He not Omniscient? How does this vague wish delay Him? It doesn't. That's not the intent. We arrive at that by inserting a term that isn't there. We understand "that all should reach repentance" refers to "all people." Note that "people" is not in that sentence. We've inserted it in our minds, but it's not there. But the subject of that "all" is not missing. Peter wrote to the elect -- God "is patient toward you." The "all" in view here is the "all" who will be saved. God is waiting for the last person He intends to save to be saved, when His "wish" becomes a fact, not a failed hope. That is the reason for the delay. God is waiting to finish the job He set out to do -- to save every last one of His elect.

This won't convince the skeptics; I only hope to encourage believers. Some of prophecy yet unfulfilled appears to be troublesome. For 2000 years and more we've anticipated prophetic events that haven't occurred, yet they seemed so imminent when the prophecies were made. This isn't an error on God's part, a mistake of Scripture. The problem is on our end. We're impatient. God has specific plans with specific events and specific ends and He is not late ... ever. When Joseph dreamed of his family bowing to him, I'm quite certain he had no thought of the process and time that would take, but it did. God's Word encourages us to trust God through the delays because God is reliable, He has a plan, and He never fails. Expect the skepticism. Just don't add to it.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Inverted

Everyone ... it seems like literally everyone ... knows what we call "the Golden Rule." They can even quote it word for word from Christ's lips. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Complete with King James language.

It's not in there, of course. You can't find that phrase in the Bible. In the actual text Jesus said, "Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matt 7:12) It's okay; it's close enough. And, yet, we still seem to see something ... different.

In almost every application I've seen from people for that verse/concept, it is not in the sense given. It is in the opposite sense: "Don't do to others something you wouldn't want done to you." While this is a thoroughly reasonable and probably accurate inference from the original, I think by going with the inference and disregarding the explicit, we're missing something important.

Avoiding doing to others what you wouldn't want done to you is a good thing. It is, however, passive. It is not doing something. Jesus, on the other hand, presented it as active. "Don't do" is negative; Jesus said to "do" -- positive.

"What's the difference?" you might ask. Jesus was surely instructing us not to do things to people that we wouldn't want done to ourselves, but His more pressing concern was loving others. "This is the Law and the Prophets," He said. The Law hinges on "love your neighbor." This command, then, is a positive. Not "avoid," but "do." And it's not about "What would I want for Christmas? I'll give that to them." It's about the principles of how we treat others. Would you like to be respected? Respect others. Would you like to be treated with courtesy and kindness? Treat others with courtesy and kindness. Could you use some help in tough spots? Give people help in tough spots.

I'm not sure if I'm getting this across. Do you see the difference between "don't do" and "do"? In one you're avoiding being bad, so to speak. In the other you are putting yourself out, engaging others, expending effort for others. The "don't do" doesn't tell you what to do; Jesus did. Do to others what you would like done to you. Active. Selfless. Love. It is the standard "Golden Rule" -- "Don't do to others what you wouldn't want done to you" -- inverted.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

News Weakly - 3/7/20

No Surprise
It isn't really a surprise, is it, that Bernie Sanders, the possibly most socialist candidate for president, won in the most socialist state in the Union -- California? Probably not. But I still think that America is not ready for a socialist president any more than we're happy with a socialist state overall.

And it really isn't a surprise that another bastion of liberal politics banned "conversion therapy." Virginia became the 20th state to do so. Mind you, I'm not a fan of "conversion therapy." I don't think therapy is the answer. Governor Northam said, "Conversion therapy sends the harmful message that there is something wrong with who you are." "Conversion therapy" doesn't change who you are, but if you believe that there is nothing wrong with who you are, you definitely need Christ.

Doesn't Sound Like Microaggression to Me
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is facing stiff complaints over threats he made in favor of baby-killing at a rally outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday. "I want to tell you Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions." Schumer says he did not threaten Supreme Court justices on the steps of the Supreme Court. No, no. He was misunderstood. He said later, "I should not have used the words I used yesterday. They didn't come out the way I intended to. My point was that there would be political consequences ..." Because threatening with political consequences is not the same as threatening. Oh, wait ... isn't it? In a world of "microagression" and "trigger words" and bullying and hair-trigger offenses, surely this falls way beyond "Oops! You misunderstood."

So Many Layers of "Confusing"
Amanda Nunes and Nina Ansaroff are UFC fighters and are now expecting a bouncing baby tissue mass that they plan to name Raegan Ann Nunes. I mean, it's not a baby, right? So why are they naming a tissue mass in the womb? And since gender is fluid, why are they calling this tissue mass a "her"? They "got engaged" in 2018 and "have stated publicly for a long time that they intended to have a child together." Well, not together together. That doesn't happen naturally, of course. Females do not impregnate females. But it's all natural, you know, except that ... it's not. Oh, it's all so confusing.

Breaking News
If you've been watching gas prices rising for the last few months, you'll appreciate this good news. On Friday oil prices dropped more than 3% on news that Russia will not agree to steeper oil output cuts. Expect lower prices at the pump any day now.

Ha, ha, ha ... sorry, couldn't keep a straight face. Thought I could, but couldn't. When something bad happens, gas prices skyrocket, sometimes just in anticipation, but when they drop, we won't likely see that for months. Too bad.

Doing the Impossible
Virginia made the news a second time this week. They sent an "historic energy bill" to the governor. "Today," said Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, "the Virginia Senate finalized what would have been impossible just a year ago: comprehensive legislation that gets us to 100 percent clean electricity and zero carbon emissions." In fact, 100% clean electricity and actual zero emissions is not scientifically possible. No current method of electricity production is "clean" and "zero carbon emissions" has never been possible. But, hey, they'll be sure the Virginian population pays for this "new and improved" lie.

Some good news in the coronavirus panic
Despite all the furor and fear, it appears there is a safety measure for escaping the virus. "It seems the best way to avoid getting infected is supernatural: many have found that if you paint Chick-fil-A sauce on your doorposts, the virus will pass right over you and your household."

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.