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Monday, January 24, 2022

Am I a Christian?

Growing up, we always had to come up with the right question. "Are you a believer?" "Are you saved?" "Are you born again?" Each new version had a new nuance that was intended to emphasize the difference between an actual Christian and a nominal Christian -- a Christian in name only. Almost all of what we had to help determine this was "What do you believe?" So we would ask, "Do you believe that Jesus is God? or "Have you repented of your sin?" or "Are you trusting God to forgive your sins?" All well and good, but it's all subjective, you see? Just like a person that doesn't actually trust Christ could consider himself a "believer" simply because he believes there was a man named Jesus (or the like), all this stuff is primarily based on your thinking. Are there other means of telling? Do we have any other hints to discover whether or not I am or am not a Christian?

The Bible doesn't leave us ignorant on the subject. There are more tangible considerations. For instance, Jesus said, "By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). Do you? Peter wrote,
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
This, he said, was the way to "confirm your calling and election" (2 Peter 1:10). Are you making efforts like that? Paul wrote about the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22). Do you see any such fruit? On the negative side, Jesus warned that you can recognize false teachers by their fruits (Matt 7:15-20). Do your fruits look like the Spirit or the flesh (Gal 5:19-21)? Paul warned that "another gospel" was no gospel at all and was "anathema" -- cursed (Gal 1:6-9). Are you following the true gospel? The author of Hebrews said that God disciplined and chastised His children and warned, "If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons" (Heb 12:8). Are you aware of God's discipline in your life?

That was just a sampling. There are lots of tests. First John is filled with various tests. Paul urged us to "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves" (2 Cor 13:5). Because Jesus warned that "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matt 7:21). And wouldn't it be horrible to go through life thinking, "I'm okay" only to find out you're among those whom Jesus never knew (Matt 7:23)?

Sunday, January 23, 2022

The Root

When Paul introduces the gospel -- the good news -- to the Romans (Rom 1:16-17), he begins with the bad news (Rom 1:18-3:20). I find it interesting, then, that the bad news begins with "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them" (Rom 1:18-19). The bad news is, clearly, God's wrath. But why is God angry? He's angry at "ungodliness and unrighteousness." Okay, sure, but in what sense? He's angry at those who suppress the truth. What truth? "What can be known about God."

According to the text that follows, most of what we see around us is the direct result of that particular action. Not admitting to who God is, we refused to honor and thank Him, became futile in our thinking, dark in our hearts, and fools, worshiping the creature rather than the Creator (Rom 1:21-23). That led to depravity (Rom 1:24-25) which led to homosexual behavior (Rom 1:26-27) which led to all manner of evil (Rom 1:28-30). It appears to me, then, that the fundamental cause of sin is the suppression of truth about God. Sin, of course, is defined as a failure to obey God, but I think that failing to obey is the obvious outcome of a refusal to believe the truth about God. Interestingly, when Jesus was explaining to His disciples that the Helper, the Holy Spirit, would come, He said, "And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me ..." (John 16:8-11). Jesus connects the problem of sin with "they do not believe in Me."

Does this work? Well, if we look at the first sin, it does. The approach of the serpent was "Did God really say ...?" (Gen 3:1). Questioning God. Next it was, "You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened ..." (Gen 3:4-5). Directly denying God. So Eve's sin began with the suppression of the truth about God. But I think, if we look, we'll find it everywhere. Paul lays the sin of idolatry at the feet of the suppression of the truth of God. We can see most of the rest in the same light. We take the name of the Lord in vain because we believe Him to be vain. We forget the Sabbath because we don't consider a day to honor Him to be valuable. We fail to honor father and mother because we believe we have better ideas regarding what He gave us for father and mother. We murder because we disagree with His valuation of beings made in His image. We commit adultery because we think we can do better to satisfy our desires than He can. We steal because we believe He is holding back from us. And on and on. I think it is very possible to trace every sin back to a root of suppressing the truth about God.

That's all well and good, but what's the point? I think it is immensely practical. If I know that my primary reason for sinning is a failure on my part to believe what I already know to be true about God, that gives me a direction to go in my work to cease from sinning. (Mind you, I won't attain it in this life. I just want to go in that direction ... as far as I can.) If my primary cause of sin is my failure to believe who God is, then my primary tool to stop sinning is to choose to believe God. That is, I can see that "In this case I did this but God is that." So change how I think. And choose to act on what I know is true about God. Built into this, of course, is the self-realization that I am suppressing the truth about God and I need to remedy that. I need to remedy that by adjusting my thinking to Him (rather than vice versa). Sure, there is lots of work to be done ... often repetitious work. "What? I bought that lie again??" But while struggling with secondary causes -- this temptation or that -- perhaps I need most to work on my heart for God and renewing what I know to be true about God. I'm pretty sure I have errors stored in there that can be fixed with His Word.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

News Weakly - 1/22/2022

Nice Headline
The headline says it all. "The 10 richest billionaires doubled their wealth" in the pandemic world while the rest of us lost income. They always say, "Follow the money." Well?

Not on the Menu
We can take a lot of news, but this one is gonna sting. They're telling us now that a 4th vaccine boost does not prevent omicron breakthroughs. Another "vaccine" (that hasn't really vaccinated anyone) won't vaccinate anyone. Not on the menu of possible narratives, is it?

On the Other Hand
On the other hand, the CDC says boosters are effective for preventing severe illness from omicron. Of course, from all reports, omicron is fairly effective for preventing severe illness from omicron, so ...??

Meaningless
"Net zero" is the term. Like when ExxonMobil says they expect to attaing "net zero emissions" by 2050. "Oh," they have to explain, "no, that's not in the use of our product. That's just in the buildings we own." Because, of course, their product is considered one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions ... giving "net zero" net zero meaning.

A Bizarre Reciprocal
Kyrsten Sinema has been a big surprise to many. Elected as one of Arizona's senators, a left winger in a right wing state, she has appeared to hold fast to the hopes of many of the Arizonans that didn't vote for her. Most recently it was the filibuster vote where she voted against her own party. Well, of course, now her "big-dollar donors" are threatening to sever funding. Now, I don't know what she can do to change her vote to make them happy. And I cannot imagine how it can be legal for "big-dollar donors" to be able to pressure lawmakers to do their bidding. And then, of course, there is the "logic" I don't understand. "Bipartisanship works only if it is reciprocal," they told Sinema. So by "reciprocal" they mean "Only if it works for us when we are a minority and in our favor when we are not." "Reciprocal" in this instance means "We want the filibuster when we need it but don't want them to use it when we don't, and that is what we call 'reciprocal' and 'democracy'."

What's Good for the Goose
Florida is trying to pass a law preventing companies and schools from attempting to make people feel "discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race." And, of course, Florida State Sen. Shevrin Jones is opposed. Truthfully, I am, too. Making it illegal to say something that might cause someone else to feel discomfort or guilt is stupid. Conversely, that is exactly what those of Senator Jones's ilk want. "We need to make white people feel bad for what their predecessors have done." Or, "No one should have the right to say or do anything that might make us feel uncomfortable, but it is a necessity to aim to make white people feel that way."

Just When You Thought It Was Safe ...
California is trying to pass a bill that will allow children 12 and older for COVID without the consent of their parents. Now, you would like to think that there was such a thing as "parental authority" and that parents actually mattered, but you'd be wrong ... in Alabama, Oregon, Rhode Island, Sout Carolina, and Washington, D.C., and coming soon to California. And you thought it was safe. Okay, not safe. It is California. Still ...

As Funny As Can Bee
Perhaps you've heard that M&Ms are getting a new look. That includes a new trans character that identifies as a Skittle. On the president, on the anniversary of Biden's 1st year they noted that he outperformed the expectations of many by still being alive. In Congress, Chuck Schumer gave an impassioned defense of the filibuster after accidentally printing his speech from 2 years ago. Meanwhile, Democrats are warning that Republicans plan to steal elections by blocking Democrat efforts to steal elections.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, January 21, 2022

How Far?

I can use the term "cancel culture" and I don't need to explain it to you. We all know about it. From the #MeToo scandals and the subsequent "beheadings" of the accused to J.K. Rowling's unfortunate belief that a sex is biological, not "how I feel," to the attack on the word "mother" in American government, cancel culture is alive and well. Discussion is not allowed. Debate is not available. Generally there isn't even a trial ... just "guilty without any need for proving it."

What about us? What about Christians? Are we doing that? We are. Word has gotten out that Jonathan Edwards, regarded by most as a American Christian superstar, is on the outs now since it was discovered that he owned slaves. What now? Well, we're going to have to dislodge him from that "superstar" status, of course. But cancel culture demands more. At a minimum we'll have to cease respecting or venerating him. We'll have to disregard what he wrote and dislike anyone who finds it useful. Book burnings may commence later.

Martin Luther shares a similar status and, now, a similar fate. His 95 Theses was the advent of the Protestant movement, but his later writings were so anti-Semitic that he just has to go. We'll obviously make sure he isn't making the talk show rounds, but we'll require people to please stop referring to him with respect or admiration. I don't know. That whole "Lutheran Church" thing may have to change its name.

It isn't, of course, rational. It was Jesus who famously said, "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8:7). That is, who among us is error-free? Jesus told a terrifying parable about the servant who, forgiven of a massive debt by his master, had a fellow servant thrown in jail for a minor debt. The master called him in and said, "You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?" (Matt 18:32-33). And the master required he be jailed until he should pay his debt. "I forgave you," he said, "and you don't forgive?" The cancel culture, even in the church today, would say, "No, we don't. We don't forgive."

It's irrational from another aspect. We think we know what's right. We think we have it all figured out. So, if we rationally applied these current rules for which we are canceling people today to, say, Scripture, guess who we'd be canceling next? It is Genesis that claims, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen 1:1). Everyone knows that's scientific bunk. Canceled! It is Genesis that says He made them male and female ... with no gradations or variations in between (Gen 1:27). Canceled! It is Genesis that defines marriage as between a man and a woman (Gen 2:24). We've canceled God three times already. Paul said "horrendous" things like "I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11:3) and "the women should keep silent in the churches" (1 Cor 14:34) and "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Eph 5:22) and "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man" (1 Tim 2:12). Cancel, cancel, cancel!! But even Jesus gets heat. When His mother -- His mother -- asked Him for help, he said, "Woman, what does this have to do with Me?" (John 2:4) Right out! There are places in this world where teaching that homosexual behavior is a sin (Rom 1:26-27; 1 Cor 6:9-10) is frowned upon and praying for those who do to stop is illegal. Canceled!

How far, then, do we take this? For what do we cancel people? Is there a list somewhere? "These are banned and you will figuratively hang for them, but these are our favorite vices so they're okay." How far do we cancel people? Is it not possible to find truth in what is said, for instance, even if we don't like the person who said it? How far do we throw this net? The FBI reported that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had 40 extramarital affairs and even was present at a rape and just laughed. We just let that go? (Apparently, yes.) Is God next to be canceled? Or just those who agree with His Word? And if we continue this course, who will be left? Will we delete "forgive" from the dictionary as a meaningless term? Hyperbole on my part? Perhaps, but the only way to avoid it is to change course. And that requires a change of heart.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

A Principle We Hate

Scripture is clear ... from the start. In the Garden, God made Adam and then made Eve. He made Eve from Adam (Gen 2:21-22). And, He made her as "a helper fit for him" (Gen 2:18). Thus, men are "the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man" (1 Cor 11:7-9). And instantly we're at war, aren't we? "That's sexist!" "That demeans women!" "That is totally unacceptable." And, of course, "That's not what it means!"

Setting aside the cultural, modern, emotional response, is that what it means? Or are some narrow-minded ancient men simply lording it over women and this was never intended? It is unavoidable that Genesis says God made Adam first, then Eve. It is unavoidable that she was described as a "helper fit for him." It is unavoidable that the rest of Scripture continues to hold to this hierarchy despite all our wishes to the contrary. So "The head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11:3). Not ambiguous; not unclear. "God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says" (1 Cor 14:33-34). There was no stutter, no question, no room to maneuver.

So is Scripture inherently misogynistic? Nothing could be further from the truth. While Genesis 2 indicates that Adam and Eve were made for different roles, Genesis 1 is abundantly clear that both were created in God's own image (Gen 1:27) giving both the same inherent value. It is foolish to argue that differing roles offers differing values. God refers to Eve as a "helper," but Jesus refers to the Spirit in the same way (John 15:26). That doesn't imply that the Spirit is less important, less valuable, or less ... in any way. Indeed, Jesus Himself came to serve (Mark 10:45), so serving is not the definition of "less." Beyond this, in Isaiah God compares Himself to a mother (Isa 66:12) and in 1 Thessalonians Paul compares himself to a mother (1 Thess 2:7). If the Bible was inherently misogynistic, this would be ridiculous. Indeed, Paul specifies that in Christ there is "neither male nor female" (Gal 3:28), indicating that the relationship between Christ and men or women is the same. Peter warned husbands to treat their wives well as "heirs together of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7). To fail to do so would hinder their prayers. So, biblically, God planned for men to have particular roles and women to have particular roles, but both (both men and women and both sets of roles) were of equal value and equal use.

Why all the furor, then? Why can't we just "get along"? I suspect it is rooted in the Garden. I suspect it is rooted in sin. The Scriptures say that Eve was deceived and not Adam (1 Tim 2:14). The Scriptures say that Eve "took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate" (Gen 3:6). What we have here is a failure of Eve to follow God's instructions and a failure of Adam to guard his wife. As a result, God told Eve, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you" (Gen 3:16). That desire toward her husband was to rule her husband as a consequence of sin (cp Gen 4:7). Thus, from the beginning of sin, this struggle of women to rule over their husbands has been ongoing. It's wrong, but it's real.

So, what's the problem? Why don't we believers just bow and say, "Yes, Lord"? Why do we fight this line of thinking? From all appearances it appears to be entirely cultural. As far as I can see God's Word stands in direct contradiction to today's perspectives and, therefore, must be wrong. So Christians are explaining why it is that 2000 years of Christian understanding on the topic was wrong and we've figured it out. Christians are telling us that Paul was mistaken or our understanding of Paul was mistaken. They even tell us that Jesus was mistaken in His treatment of His mother because of this issue. Brothers and sisters, how can these things be? We seem unwilling to stand on God's Word as sufficient or authoritative and are, happily, relieved to find that culture can trump Scripture when culture is more comfortable. We Christians are opting to side with a world that hates God because, after all, they know better. And those who stand on God's Word as accurate and sufficient are considered haters and sexist ... which, by definition, would include God if carried to its logical conclusion. So which side are you on?

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Prayer

There are a variety of religions with a variety of beliefs and practices. One practice that appears to be common to almost all is the practice of prayer. Prayer is simply an address to God. With that kind of simplicity, what could go wrong, right? Well we could. We are human.

Scripture is rich with prayer. It is throughout. Jesus taught us to pray for those who persecute you (Matt 5:44). He said to pray expecting answers (Matt 7:7-11). He said, "Whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He will give it to you" (John 16:23). He taught that we should always pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1-14). In the same vein, Paul said we were to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess 5:17). Jesus said His house would be a house of prayer (Matt 21:13). Isn't it ironic, then, how much prayer has fallen on hard times in the church today?

It seems like we're not as keen on prayer as Scripture asks us to be. Could it be that we're confused about it? I think there are some critical mistakes we make in our thinking that end up causing us to miss out on prayer. For most, I'd dare say, prayer is a method of getting what we want from a divine Butler, so to speak. We should be able to just ask for stuff and He'll deliver. He doesn't, of course, because that is not what prayer is. Prayer is not our opportunity to demand from God or control God or to get our way from God. Prayer is not simply asking God for what we want.

What, then? Prayer includes many facets. It includes confessing sin. We're not seeking forgiveness as much as confessing -- agreeing with God. We're not hoping for absolution (because we already have it), but expressing, again, repentance -- turning from what God says and we agree is sin. Prayer includes thanksgiving, sorely lacking in the human race in general (Rom 1:22) and, by extension, us, too. Prayer certainly includes requests -- supplications and intercession. We pray to ask for what's on our hearts and we pray to ask God's aid and presence for those about whom we care. That would include government (1 Tim 2:1-2), enemies (Matt 5:44), and anyone else we wish. But we must always remember that the point of prayer is not to get our way. It isn't God's magic gift box. "Just do the right incantation and He will provide."

Prayer is more about communication with God. He doesn't actually need our help, you know. We aren't informing Him of things He's not aware of. We aren't raising issues He hadn't seen. We aren't offering Him ideas or solutions that He didn't know but can use now that we made the request. No. God is omniscient; He doesn't need the information we're giving Him. He wants it. He wants to hear from us. He even uses it, making us part of His work. Prayer allows us to share our thoughts with God. "Talk to Me, My child," He offers. Prayer doesn't change God, but it does change us. First and foremost, prayer continually reminds us of our dependency on God. And what could be more necessary than remembering that we are absolutely dependent on God?

Jesus taught His disciples how to pray (Matt 6:7-13), but He included other instructions. We are told to pray in line with His will. John said, "If we ask anything according to His will He hears us" (1 John 5:14). We are told to use the magic phrase, "In Jesus' name" because that guarantees it. Oh, of course that's not true, but we seem to run with that blindly, don't we? He did teach His disciples to pray in His name (John 15:16; John 16:23-27), but that wasn't by way of the proper noun by which we know Him. It was by way of His character. Pray what He wants and for His sake and it is assured. And, of course, there is faith. Jesus said, "And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith" (Matt 21:22). James said that if you doubt you shouldn't expect anything from God (James 1:6-8). Faith is essential.

"Without ceasing" is the phrase that should describe how we pray. Sadly, it rarely is. We have a lot of faulty notions about prayer, thinking that it's our way of getting what we want from God. It's not. Prayer is our communication with God. That should make it an indispensible part of our everyday existence all by itself. It is amazing that God offers to involve us in His work through use of prayer. It is astounding to suggest that He will never fail to provide what we ask for if we ask for what He intends to give us. We ought to be known as a praying people. Are we?

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

How Much Sin?

Redemption is an Old Testament concept in which a person in trouble has sold himself into servanthood to pay back debts and a relative is allowed to "redeem" him or her from that problem. How? They pay the debt.

The idea, then, is carried over into the New Testament all the way down to us. Paul wrote in Ephesians that "We have redemption through His blood" (Eph 1:7). Peter wrote about "you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers" (1 Peter 1:18-19). Paul said (twice), "You were bought with a price" (1 Cor 6:20; 1 Cor 7:23). In Titus we read that "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law" (Titus 2:14). Even Jesus said, "the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many" (Matt 20:28). As the old song says, "Jesus paid it all."

Or ... did He? How much sin did Jesus pay for? There are a few options. Some would say, "None." Others say, "All." And we need to leave room in the middle for "some." Which is it? Of those who argue, "None," there are two basic categories. The first, obviously, are the skeptics, the unbelievers. Jesus didn't pay anything for anybody. He probably didn't exist. The second isn't as obvious. This group argues that Jesus existed and even died on the cross and rose again, but He didn't "pay for sin." Sin didn't need payment. This group minimizes our sin to human proportions and ... it's easy. Poof! God simply blows them away. Now, that doesn't fit in a biblical view, but what other options do we have? The most common among Christians, I think, is the "all" view. He paid for all sin. "But," someone might well ask, "doesn't that mean all are saved?" Logically if all sin is paid for then no one is culpable for any sin. And there is as set of folks who will agree. Universalists. But most say, "No, only those who believe." But if only those who believe have their sins paid for, in what sense did Jesus pay for all? Worse, since Jesus specifies at least one sin that cannot be forgiven (Matt 12:31), we have to conclude that not all sins are paid for. Now, if Christ paid for "None" then no sins are paid for and if Christ paid for "All" then neither obedience nor faith are factors. The only thing that makes sense in light of all that Scripture tells us on the subject is that Jesus did pay for sin. That is, all sin that is now or ever will be forgiven Christ paid for on the cross, but "None" or "All" doesn't work out.

Well, of course, the next question has to be, "What about me? What about my sins?" Well, Paul wrote that the gospel "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom 1:16). The famous John 3:16 says, "Whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." It appears, then, that Christ paid for all the sins of those who believe. That is, all who place their faith in Christ's payment for our sin and in the righteousness conferred by the Father (2 Cor 5:21) can be certain that all their sins are paid in full. End of story. In that sense "all" is paid for. Those who have as their only hope the sacrifice of Christ cannot out-sin the effectiveness of that sacrifice. And what about those who don't believe that Christ died to redeem us, who don't believe that faith in Christ is the only means to salvation? They have something to be concerned about.

Monday, January 17, 2022

The Gospel of Jesus

Last week I took several days to look at "Paul's Gospel" (pointing out that it wasn't simply Paul's gospel). In Mark 1, Jesus was baptized (Mark 1:9-11), then went off to be tempted in the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13), and then began His ministry by "proclaiming the gospel of God" (Mark 1:14). What was that gospel? "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). Really? "Repent and believe"? Was that His gospel?

In Luke 4 we read about Jesus beginning His public ministry. He has been baptized and endured the temptation in the desert and then walks into Nazareth on the Sabbath and speaks from Isaiah.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." And He rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:18-21)
Jesus, from Isaiah 61, gives a brief overview of His ministry. What were the key points? Well, primarily, "to proclaim good news" or, as we would say, "the gospel." He notes it is "to the poor" and "to the captives" and "those who are oppressed." Liberty to the captives, sight to the blind, liberty to the oppressed. Good news.

This passage has been dragged out as proof that "the gospel" is simply a social justice gospel. Jesus was here to help the oppressed and the poor and the transgender. Oh, no, not that one, but He would have been if they had been around at the time. You know, any of the mistreated and minimized. Assuming that's so, it's sad to know that Jesus failed. He told His disciples, "You always have the poor with you, but you will not always have Me" (Matt 26:11). There is not one account of Him lifting a poor family out of their poverty. He certainly did a lot of healing -- sight to the blind and that sort -- but the nation of Israel that He came to save from the oppression and poverty remained in oppression and poverty when He died.

Could it be that it wasn't this kind of "poor," "captives," "oppressed," or, for that matter, "blind" He was talking about? Could it be that He had a deeper meaning? Interestingly, in Isaiah's version it says He had been anointed to preach good tidings to the meek. Literally, the depressed, the humble, the lowly. That could include those without much money, but there is so much more to "poor" than "not enough money." In the Sermon on the Mount He referred to "the poor in spirit" (Matt 5:3) rather than merely "the poor." In that text He also referred to those who mourn (Matt 5:4), those who are meek (Matt 5:5), those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt 5:6) ... and those who are persecuted (Matt 5:10). Are these not also the "poor," the "captives," the "blind," and the "oppressed"?

If Jesus came to save the poor from poverty and the oppressed from oppression, He failed to accomplish His mission. He tried, but apparently it's up to His followers to accomplish what He couldn't. "It is finished" was a dream, not a statement of success. If Jesus came to save the poor in spirit, those oppressed and imprisoned by sin, and to heal those blinded by the god of this world, His mission was a glorious success. He finished it on the cross and we continue today to see the ramifications and proof of His completion every time someone comes in faith to trust Him to save them ... from a poor spirit, a life imprisoned by sin, and spiritual blindness. Now, maybe ... just maybe ... some would think that "saved from poverty and oppression" is better news than "saved from spiritual poverty and the oppression of sin." And it is absolutely true that 1) we who believe have an obligation to help people in need and 2) we are not doing a good job of that. Still, I happen to think that the latter -- saved from sin -- is more impressive and more important ... and more consistent with Jesus's ministry and the rest of the Scriptures (like Jesus's own claim that "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10)). .

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Love is the Answer

In the '60's the Beatles sang, "All you need is love," and in the 70's Todd Rundgren told us, "Love is the answer." It's ironic, then, that they were right ... and wrong.

The Bible places great weight on love. "Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins," Peter wrote (1 Peter 4:8). "Let all you do be done in love," Paul wrote (1 Cor 16:14). Jesus said, "By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35), and at this moment you might come across a dilemma. "Wait, if Jesus's disciples are supposed to be recognized by love, how does that distinguish them? Doesn't everybody love?"

The Bible says "No." The Bible says, "Love is from God" (1 John 4:7) and "God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him" (1 John 4:16). In fact, "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). It is, then, impossible to love if we don't know Him. "Now, hang on," we are sure to say, "we know that's not true. I mean, look at a mother. They almost universally love their babies." Or other examples. So how do we correlate our experience ("You can see love everywhere.") with Scripture? Most are happy to dimiss Scripture; I'll stick with it. Besides, it's the same problem we saw when Paul wrote, "No one does good, not even one" (Rom 3:12) and we know lots of people do good. How do we put these together without deleting either experience or Scripture? It's fairly simple, actually. It's in the simple question, "What do you mean by ...?" In the latter, "What do you mean by 'good'?" and in the former, "What do you mean by 'love'?"

The biblical version of love is almost absent from the planet. That's because it's not natural. For many it's not even good. The biblical version of love is shaped by the One who defines love -- God (1 John 4:8). God is love. Real love is defined by God. And Paul famously laid out what that looks like.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor 13:4-7)
Some of those are obvious, but most are mostly outlandish in actual practice. Love is patient -- not quick tempered -- and kind. That "kind" is not merely "nice," but intentionally beneficial to the loved one. Love doesn't want what others have nor begrudge them having it (envy). Love doesn't talk about how wonderful I am (boast) nor does it allow me to have an inflated view of myself (arrogant). Love is not rude. Imagine that in today's world without civility. Love does not insist on its own way ... in direct contrast to the guy who tells the reluctant girl, "If you love me, you'll do what I want." That "not irritable" is "not easily provoked." That "not resentful" is "doesn't keep accounts of wrongs suffered." Literally "Doesn't keep an inventory of wrongs." Love makes a contrast between injustice ("wrongdoing") and truth, not rejoicing in the former and applauding the latter. Love bears all things. The literal translation is love quietly covers all things. Like Peter's "covers a multitude of sins." Love believes the best, hopes for the best, and endures even if it doesn't happen. I don't think any honest person could say, "Yes, that is the kind of love I see around me all the time." We see the "warm affection" kind of love and we see the "more than liking you" kind of love and we are very familiar with the "let's have sex" kind of love, but the kind of love described here is, practically speaking, nearly impossible to find because 1) it is fundamentally selfless and we are not and 2) it is only from God and, thus, does not come naturally to all humans. This kind of love is a choice, almost entirely foreign in our world.

So, they were right. Love is the answer. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love fulfills the law (Rom 13:8). Love does no wrong to a neighbor (Rom 13:10). And the standard of love is as Christ loves (John 13:34). No one is to be excluded from this love, including enemies (Matt 5:44). And, above all, this love is commanded (an impossibility if love is an emotion). That love is the answer. We know how Christ loved us. Now, go and do thou likewise.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

News Weakly - 1/15/2022

Sick Media
Story after story hits the media. Anti-vaxxer dies of COVID. Famous anti-vaxxers die of COVID. QAnon star dies of COVID. And they defend this. Why? "The public has the right to know," is the kind of garbage they'll tell you, but the truth is, "The public has the right to know what we want them to know." So they'll take great delight in those who die when they die outside the media's comfort zone, but ignore all those that violate their goals. So you don't hear about the deaths among the fully vaccinated, the fact that omnicron is a vaccinated pandemic, or any other stories that lead to "misinformation" -- that which contradicts the approved narrative. Instead they will gloat over people who die. Shame on them.

Widespread Voter Fraud
There was no widespread voter fraud, they assure us, but now it appears to be the plan. New York City has decided to let noncitizens vote. More than 800,000 noncitizens will be able to participate in making the rules, at least for New York. Of course, they're not the first, but they're certainly the largest. Fortunately they at least have the requirement that they have been a resident for 30 days. That's something ... right?

Just the Facts, Ma'am
Justice Sonia Sotomayor, during oral arguments at the Supreme Court regarding the vaccine mandates, made the important observation that "We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition and many on ventilators." Well, this is certainly horrible ... if it's true. It's not. The CDC says there have been less than 100,000 admissions of children with COVID since August, 2020. Once again the terror outweighs the facts. And what will our legislators and judges rule from -- facts or fear?

Now They Tell Us
Have you heard the "latest"? (I put that in quotes because it has actually been around awhile.) Forbes is reporting that studies indicate that the having the common cold can provide some measure of immunity to COVID. Or ... you could get injected with an "experimental" (in the sense of "who knows what the long term affects will be?") vaccine over and over until we're through it. Yeah, that seems much better.

Make Up My Mind
We used to call males who acted "actors" and females who acted "actresses." They have worked diligently to erase the difference and just call them all "actors," sometimes with a vengeance. Except, of course, if it's a guy who identifies as a girl and "becomes the first trans actress" to win a Golden Globe. Since "actress" to "actor" was intended as an equalizer, I suppose we're emphasizing the inequality?

COVID-Related Death
In an effort to push and agenda, IKEA has decided to cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who need to self-isolate or who test positive for COVID. It's an agenda because vaccinated people are self-isolating and testing positive and get sick pay. And it's foolish because the natural response will be, "Well, if we can't get sick pay, we'll just have to come to work sick." COVID has killed a lot of people, to be sure, but it's the death of compassion that concerns me.

Who's Afraid of Democracy?
The story: Biden wants changes to the filibuster rules. The purpose of these changes is to get his way. Filibusters were necessary when the GOP held power in Congress because it was the best way to prevent the majority from running roughshod over the other side, but now the other side wants to run roughshod over the minority, so it has to go. "Democracy over autocracy" they're saying, but that's really not it, is it? If it were, they wouldn't have enacted the filibuster in the first place. (And, considering the power of the LGBT etc. crowd, are we really in favor of a majority ruling the minority?) Maybe they should just put it on hold until the GOP regains some ground; I'm sure they'll want it back again.

No Longer Free
Starting January 15, Washington D.C. will require people to prove they've received at least one COVID vax (2, starting next month) to enter businesses ranging from restaurants to sports arenas. "We're not mandating vaccines; we're just making sure you won't survive not getting it." (And the story includes a hotline for reporting businesses who don't comply.) We are working hard to change our national image, including deleting that "land of the free, home of the brave" line.

Misinformation?
Oregon State University has suggested that certain cannabis compounds might prevent COVID. Is that even legal? No, not the cannabis; the suggestion that something other than the mRNA vaccine might be effective. Pretty sure Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube will ban this story too, right?

Just Curious
I'm just wondering. Why should we forgive a woman who ran off to join ISIS but not forgive someone who, say, made a questionable racial comment? How does our current cancel culture decide when to burn to the ground or forgive?

The Battle of the Sexes
Twenty-two-year-old Lia Thomas is shattering women's swimming records at the University of Pennsylvania after competing on the men's team from 2017-2020. No one is clear why this girl-that-used-to-be-a-guy is doing so awesomely now, but she'll be favored in the upcoming Ivy League championships next month. Oh, and every competition and every record should now have an asterisk attached to indicate "This wasn't a biological female." Seems fair to me.

I'll Bee Back
Some good ones from the Bee this week include the promise from Pfizer that their new omicron vaccine will be ready in time for the Q1 earnings report. Meanwhile, Pfizer and Moderna are suing the human immune system for patent infringement since natural immunity is cutting into their profits. Sen Roger Marshall suggested that Science may have lied under oath. And they're saying that AOC has accused the COVID virus of just wanting to date her. (Note: that last link is the real story from which the Bee drew their satirical one, just in case you hadn't heard it.)

Must be true; I read it on the Internet.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Paul's Gospel - Part 3

Over the past two days we've looked at the gospel as it is the power of God for salvation and reveals the righteousness of God. Then we saw that this revelation begins with the declaration that we have a problem; we suppress the truth about God, and in that suppression is all manner of ungodliness and unrighteousness. Let's not leave it there.

After the really, really bad news -- all are sinners without righteousness, without good, without even looking for God (Rom 3:10-12), condemned (Rom 3:19), and without hope (Rom 3:20) -- Paul shares the really, really good news -- we are "justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Rom 3:24) because God's wrath has been appeased by Jesus's blood (Rom 3:25) so that we are "justified by faith apart from works of the law" (Rom 3:28), both Jew and Gentile (Rom 3:29). Righteousness isn't achieved; it is "reckoned" (Rom 4:5). On the basis of His death and resurrection, we who believe that He was "delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification" (Rom 4:24-25) receive His righteousness. And it only gets better from there. Yes, it gets better.

We, the sinners without righteousness, have peace with God (Rom 5:1). We rejoice in God (Rom 5:11). "We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" (Rom 6:4). "Sin will have no dominion over you" (Rom 6:14). "The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 6:23)."We are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit" (Rom 7:6). "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1). The list goes on and on. God's righteousness goes on and on.

The gospel is the good news. It is the best of good news. Sometimes we get so used to the word that we lose sight of how good it is. Paul's gospel was not merely Paul's good news. He called it "the gospel of Christ" (e.g., Rom 15:19; 1 Cor 9:12; 2 Cor 2:12; Gal 1:7; Php 1:27;1 Thess 3:2) and "the gospel of God (Rom 1:1; Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 2:2-9 (3x)). And he carried it from the Jews to the Gentiles -- to us. Paul wasn't ashamed of this gospel because this gospel is the power of God for salvation. That power is generated by God as it reveals His righteousness. That righteousness has ramifications. Those ramifications can be good ... if we avail ourselves of the gospel. And we need not be ashamed of that gospel either.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Paul's Gospel - Part 2

Yesterday we looked at Romans 1:16-17 where Paul talked about the power of the gospel that reveals God's righteousness. Good stuff. So it's kind of odd that verse 18 follows verse 17. No, wait ... I mean, what Paul says next right after the thing about the gospel revealing God's righteousness seems very much out of place.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Rom 1:18-20)
So Paul starts his explanation of how the gospel reveals the righteousness of God ... with heaven's revelation of God's wrath. Really? That's the first point we want to make in reference to God's righteousness? As it turns out, yes. The gospel is about salvation. Saved ... from what? It is the fundamental question. Why do we need salvation? The answer is ... God's righteousness. God is righteous and our condition demands justice. What condition is that? We "suppress the truth." What truth? The truth about God. The truth about who God really is.

"You know," some might counter, "I'm not sure Paul is right here. I mean, we don't suppress the truth about God; we embrace it." Is that so? This suppression occurred first in the Garden. "Did God really say ...?" (Gen 3:1) followed with "You will be like God" (Gen 3:5). It was the first sin. And I would contend it is the regular sin. It's the Energizer Rabbit of sins -- it just keeps going and going. Unbelievers do it. Believers do it. It is the fundamental reason we violate God's commands ("sin"). We suppress the truth of His authority, His love, His wisdom, His faithfulness, His goodness, His omnipotence, His omniscience, His sovereignty ... "His eternal power and divine nature." We understand that unbelievers do it, but so do we believers. We question God's choices when we don't like it. We question God's rules when they go against what we want or think we need. We question God's love when the uncomfortable occurs. We balk at surrendering to Him when it means we won't get our way. None of this makes sense if we are affirming God's power and nature. We aren't. We're suppressing the truth about Him.

Paul says here that we are without excuse. We know all this. God "made it plain." In a very real sense it can be said that God doesn't believe in atheists. Paul goes on to say, "For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things" (Rom 1:21-23). That's us. We are ungrateful. We don't honor our Maker. We exchange God for ... us. Clearly, then, righteousness must respond. God's righteousness must act. And it is from that righteous action that we need to be saved because He is right and we are not.

That is where the gospel begins. In that gospel we find the horribly bad news (Rom 1:18-3:20) followed by the best possible good news (Rom 3:21ff) wherein those who deserve justice receive grace and mercy. But that grace and mercy is greatly magnified by the demand of justice that we have earned. The God who can be "both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom 3:26) is a truly amazing God offering truly amazing good news. Let's not miss the magnitude of this good news ... or His righteousness in it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Paul's Gospel - Part 1

Paul famously wrote,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." (Rom 1:16-17)
Why did he write that? Well, he had just said that he was "under obligation" to "preach the gospel." So he was telling us that, despite his claim in the letter to Corinth that the gospel is an offense to some (1 Cor 1:18-24), he was not ashamed to do that.

Why was Paul not ashamed? Because "it is the power of God for salvation." The good news is what God uses to save ... anyone. "Everyone who believes." That's powerful. From whence comes this power? "For in it the righteousness of God is revealed." Let's restate it, then. The gospel is powerful. It saves people. It saves those who believe. It is capable of doing this because God's righteousness is revealed in it. (Note, again, that it is "from faith to faith" -- to those who believe.)

Do you think about the gospel in those terms? Sometimes it feels like a story or even a cliché. Paul says it is powerful. Do you think of the gospel as powerful? More interesting to me these days is the reason it is powerful. Do you see how the power of the gospel is in its revelation of God's righteousness? "Now wait a minute," some may say, "don't we already know about God's righteousness?" Apparently not. It takes the gospel to reveal that. So is your gospel primarily about revealing God's righteousness? I would contend that a gospel devoid of God's righteousness is not the gospel Paul is talking about.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Consider Jesus

Jesus came to lay down His life for His friends (John 15:13), to give His life as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28). He came to serve (Mark 10:45). He came to call sinners to repentance (Mark 2:17). He came "not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me" (John 6:38). He came to die for us (John 12:27). He came to glorify God (John 17:4). Jesus emptied Himself and took on the form of a servant (Php 2:7).

If we were actually Christ-followers, how different would we look in contrast to today's world?

Monday, January 10, 2022

Whatcha Thinking About? COVID, of Course

COVID continues to dominate. So much so that I am not at all clear that people are thinking anymore. Do we really know why we're doing what we're doing? Consider.

Why Wear a Mask?
From the beginning masks were a thing. First it was, "Don't wear one because there is a shortage and the medical professionals need them first." Then it was, "The virus is too small; it will go through the holes in most masks." Then they figured out, "But the virus usually leaves the nose and mouth in microglobules that are big enough to be trapped," so they ended up with "Wear a mask." But why? From the start it was "My mask protects you and your mask protects me." Thus, if we were wearing masks for the right reasons, it would be that "I'm concerned I might have and spread COVID even if I have no symptoms, so I'm going to make sure I protect others ... from me."

Most of what I see today includes none of this. People, for instance, driving alone in a car with the windows rolled up and masked makes no sense. I see it quite often. I know of almost nobody that diligently wears a mask to prevent themselves from spreading COVID. Others are unaware of the potential dangers of wearing masks, dangers like improving conditions to overcome innate immunity by making a humid habitat for COVID next to your face or failing to change masks often or not accounting for the decreased oxygen and increased carbon dioxide. There are real dangers (even deaths have been reported), but most people see mask-wearing as the best way ... to protect themselves, a function never intended for masks.

Why Get Vaccinated?
Getting vaccinated can be a good thing. But ... why? Vaccines may decrease cases and effects of COVID. For those on the dangerous edge of dying from COVID symptoms due to age or other risk factors, getting the vaccine makes sense in terms of risk analysis. Vaccines do not provide immunity -- nothing actually does -- but they can decrease the chances and harm of the disease.

The number of people I've talked to that are convinced that the vaccine provides complete immunity from COVID is staggering. They will argue with me, even after I show them the news stories, the CDC guidelines, the print everywhere that says that the vaccine does not provide full immunity. They also seem to have conveniently (and inexplicably) missed the studies that say that the vaccine wears off ... rapidly. The best case is at around 50% effective after 6 months (or less) and the worst is 13%. Why do they recommend boosters? Because the thing isn't keeping up its protection. They're giving us stories about people getting fully vaccinated and getting sick followed immediately with "So everyone get vaccinated now!" and no one seems to notice the cognitive dissonance. I don't know; if you're going to believe the science, that's nonsense.

Why Fear Omicron?
Omicron is the new monster on the block. I recently read that 95% of current new cases are from the omicron variant. In the UK they are reporting that 69% of omicron cases are among the fully vaccinated. (It appears to be a pandemic of the vaccinated now.) And "the current new cases" are through the roof, breaking records seemingly everywhere. That's something to be concerned about. In the U.S. one death has been reported and worldwide it's something less than 10, so death is a possibility. Hospitalizations are on the rise simply because of the skyrocketing number of cases. And it appears that omicron is more transmissible and both natural immunity and the vaccines are not as effective protection against it (which, by the way, is one of the reasons it is more transmissible).

All that being said, the medical community is in agreement. Omicron is less. Less virulent, less catastrophic, less life-threatening ... less. The symptoms for vaccinated and unvaccinated alike are typically closer to those of a cold. Emergency rooms are filling because of the panic and not because of the problem. We're told "Omnicron is gonna get you" (President Biden promised his nation more hospitalization and death for the unvaccinated), so we run for cover when there is a sniffle, but while cases are up, up, up, hospitalizations are not keeping pace. Deaths are really not keeping pace. We might have better named it "Yawnicron." In fact, there are those who are predicting that, due to its transmissibility and our lack of good immunity alongside its fairly benign effects, it might actually end the COVID problem for us.

Conclusions
It's good to do things to help solve problems and ease difficulties. Wearing a mask when in close proximity to others is perhaps wise as long as you're aware that you're doing it to protect them, not yourself. Wearing a mask out of manic paranoia in order to keep yourself from getting it is pointless. Indeed, it could be worse than pointless. Getting vaccinated has its upside and people at risk would be wise to consider it. Mandating a one-size-fits-all approach using a technique known to be insufficient -- you can still get COVID, still transmit it, and still die from it -- is a shotgun approach without reasonable hope of actually hitting the target, actually providing the protection you're intending to provide. And that omnicron thing? Don't sweat it. You may get it, but it's not the terror that COVID-19 or its delta version was. Stay calm. Don't panic. It's not the end of the world. At least, not yet.

Sunday, January 09, 2022

Forgive

We are all about grace, we Christians. I mean, we love it. "You got to be good to get to heaven!" Nope. We have grace. "You have to live right!" Nope! We have grace. "What must I do to be saved?" Believe and receive God's grace. It's glorious. We are not saved by works; we are saved by grace. And we love it. So when we get to this little passage, we have a problem.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt 6:14-15)
That little "for" at the beginning is aimed at the previous part of the Lord's Prayer where Jesus prayed, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matt 6:12). "Let me explain," Jesus says. "If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." That really trips us up. Some argue it is "stunting your growth" if you don't forgive, but that's not what Jesus said, is it? What did He say? Is He contradicting the rest of Scripture?

The word there for "forgive" is ἀφίημι -- aphiēmi. We translate it as "forgive," but it is literally an intensified form of "to send." It speaks, then, of letting go, sending away, giving up, abandoning something. As is the case with so much "Christianese," we understand "forgive" to mean "absolved of sin" when it isn't always so. In "Christianese" "saved" always means "saved from sin" even though it doesn't and "justified" always means "made right with God" even though it doesn't and so on. Forgiveness is one of those terms. Forgiveness can and often does mean the ultimate "removal of sin," but it can also mean to set something aside. In this case, Jesus spoke of setting aside sins. If we don't set aside the sins of others, God is not going to be able to just move on with our sins; He's going to have to deal with us about them. Jesus bore our final payment, but Scripture says that the Father chastises those He loves (Heb 12:6), so this would be the sort of context of this text. We don't face damnation; we do face discipline ... even chastisement -- a temporal response from God for a temporal problem at hand ... the failure to forgive.

So how do we do that? I know a woman who lost much family in the Nazi concentration camps. "I will never forgive them," she told me. I don't understand that to be a sure indication that she isn't saved. I do believe that the best she can expect is ongoing discipline from God. Because he (or she) who is forgiven little loves little (Luke 7:47), and none of us are forgiven little. So how would she forgive? I mean, we're talking about Hitlerian kind of evil.

I see it this way. I am commanded to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt 22:39). Jesus concludes from that they we must "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt 5:43). There is a correlation between loving my neighbor and forgiving my neighbor, including my enemy neighbor. And the lesson is in the "as yourself." You see, I routinely see myself as my own worst enemy. I often don't like myself very much. I am very much aware that I can be evil. And you know what? I still love myself. We all do (Eph 5:29). So what do I do? I correct myself and I discipline myself and I repent and turn (repeatedly) because I love myself. I seek my very best ... which, in the case of sin, is correction and salvation.

In the same way, we can forgive others. We can seek their very best without approving of the evil they've done or even ignoring it. It doesn't take a super genius to realize that ignoring evil is not good for people. We just set aside the personal malice, the desire for vengeance, the "self" that is, in all these cases, the obstacle to forgiveness and seek their best. We show them the same love we have for ourselves. Because in our case to fail to forgive is a failure to love and to fail to love is something that God will have to keep bringing to our attention -- or not "send away" as it were.

Saturday, January 08, 2022

News Weakly - 1/8/2022

COVID-Related Death?
Following an attack on the American embassy in Baghdad, the U.S. sent drones into Iran to kill the mastermind, Qasem Soleimani. That was a year ago. Now Iran is demanding that Trump go on trial for their "criminal act" of killing the terrorist that killed so many Americans. Good luck with that, Iran. You'll have to get in line behind all the Dems still bent on executing the man.

Increasing Inflation for the Benefit of Us All
The headline reads, "A record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November." Wow! 4.5 million quit. Not fired. Not lost. Quit. But, the story says, it's "a sign of confidence and more evidence that the U.S. job market is bouncing back strongly." Oh. Interesting. They're saying these people can get higher paying jobs, so they expect "strong wage gains." Read "higher cost to the consumer."

Record Breaking
We are breaking records right and left. The U.S. reached 1 million cases in a day to kick off the new year. Sweden broke their daily record on Tuesday to include their king and queen. At the same time more than 74% of the population have received at least one dose and 63% have been fully vaccinated. In the 65-and-over category nearly 100% have been vaccinated at least once. Record vaccinations over against record cases ... something just doesn't add up.

Off With Their Heads ... in a Good Way
I had never heard of this, but apparently the Taliban, those wonderful people our president equipped with billions in arms and left in charge of the country we were supposed to be protecting, has a Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention Vice. It was brought up in a story this week where they are demanding that all store mannequins be beheaded because "they are idols." Mind you, photos of women in the clothing that the mannequins are displaying are just fine. It's just the fake people that are idols. And I'm just thinking, "What would a Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention Vice look like in America today?" They certainly wouldn't have a problem with mannequins, but I'm not so sure about, say, people that don't want to be vaccinated or who believe the Bible is true.

Don't Believe the Science
Mayo Clinic fired 700 employees who refused the vaccine mandate. "Mayo Clinic must stand firmly behind the evidence," they said. Because the evidence says that 70% of current omnicron cases are fully vaccinated. Because the evidence says that the vaccine is less effective than they originally thought. Because the evidence says that the vaccine does not keep from getting, transmitting, or even dying of COVID. Because the evidence says that the vaccine has not decreased cases. So, yes, stand behind the evidence ... as in, "Pay no attention to the evidence behind the curtain."

Beeing Satirical
It is almost too close to real when the Bee reports that businesses are now requiring a positive COVID test as proof of vaccination. And the related story of the unvaccinated man who feels left out because all his vaccinated friends have COVID.I suspect the humor of the headline, "FBI to host first annual Jan 6 reunion" was lost on too many Americans. And CNN is proud that they haven't had an employee sex scandal all year.

Must be true; I read it on the Internet. (And, you know something that's funny and sad at the same time? I suspect that even though everyone knows that line means that the Internet is not the divine purveyor of truth, too many of us think most of what we see there really is true.)

Friday, January 07, 2022

God's Gifted Program

On the topic of spiritual gifts you will find a wide variety of views. Some have merit and some don't. How many are there? How many are still in effect? Can we even know how many there are? How many can you have? What do they mean? Lots of various ideas. But what is not in question is that there are spiritual gifts. The New Testament talks about them in a variety of places (Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12:4-11; Eph 4:11-12; 1 Peter 4:10-11). There are a variety of lists, but all agree that these gifts are gifts of the Holy Spirit. And they have a purpose.

Scripture is quite clear that no believer in Christ -- no truly born-again person -- is without a gift. That is, a minimum of one (1 Cor 12:11; 1 Peter 4:10). What you or I get is up to the Spirit (1 Cor 12:11), but all certainly receive at least one gift. All gifts are not "self-powered" -- they are Spirit-powered. "All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit," Paul writes (1 Cor 12:11). Peter divides the gifts into two categories -- speaking and serving (1 Peter 4:11). He also says that both categories are from God and for the glory of God.

It's interesting how we neglect these gifts these days. On one end of the spectrum there are those who revel in the gifts, especially the miraculous kinds, thinking themselves a bit more spiritual than the rest. They take great delight in prophecy and tongues and such, but so many seem to think of them as their own. "What does God want me to do with it?" seems to be a rare consideration. On the other end you have the cessationists who say that all those miraculous gifts are outdated -- replaced by God's Word -- but they don't seem to be too concerned about the remaining ones. As a whole, as a rabble, we modern Christians just aren't really much into that kind of stuff. I can't tell you how many have told me, "I know my gift; it's the gift of gab." Like that's a spiritual gift designed for God's glory and to serve God's people.

God is explicit; we all have at least one, specific, Holy-Spirit-powered gift given to each of us for the building up of the Body of Christ and glorifying God. And we seem to shrug and say, "Well, I don't really know what mine is, so I just won't worry about it." So many Christians these days (thanks, in part, to COVID) are "remote" -- they're no longer closely tied to the Body of Christ. And they're fine with that. They don't exercise the gift they've been given and they don't seek to serve God or His people in it. They don't trust the "spiritual gift tests" (and I don't blame them), so they don't really seem motivated to find what God has given them and use it.

You've been there, haven't you? You know ... someone gives you a fine gift -- Christmas, birthday, something -- and, well, it's just not up your alley, so to speak. You aren't particularly interested, but you don't want to hurt their feelings. So you thank them warmly and keep it and maybe, years later, find it again. "Hmm, I wonder where that came from?" That's us. Except the gift we've been given isn't for our personal pleasure and the Person we're offending is God. "This ol' thing? What good is it? I don't even know what it is." It is given and empowered by the Spirit and it is aimed at serving God's people and, ultimately, glorifying God, and the best we can do is hide it in a closet. Unfortunately, He has access to our closets. And He knows.

Thursday, January 06, 2022

Democratsy

In the 2020 election we saw an unliked incumbent president (Is "unliked" too mild?) get slaughtered by an old white guy that no one likes. But it was a strange slaughter. All the first reports showed the incumbent leading handily, but the media was calling it for the old guy. Strange. But, hey, that's the way the politics bounces, right? Okay, no. Something was ... strange. This led to the "election fraud!" cries and the subsequent easiest dismissals in history. First, "Dominion, did you do this?" "No." "Well, then, there it is!" Then the media and its followers (which is mostly everyone else) hung the term "misinformation" on the claim and it was all over. Pay no attention to the fact that "misinformation" in this application merely means "doesn't align with the approved narrative." If "we" (media, Democrats, whomever has the loudest voice) deem it "misinformation," no further discussion or investigation is needed ... nay, allowed. It's a good way to get yourself banned from social media sites. Besides, we're too busy digging into an insurrection that wasn't and the tax records of a president who isn't anymore. We've got important matters to attend to.

In the subsequent year many states worked to "clean up" their act ... their election act. While the Left complained about the right "hating democracy" because they protested something, some sought to eliminate the question of election fraud. Simple measures like requiring ID (which, as far as I recall, was always the case) and verifying signatures on mail-in ballots and removing people from voter registration rolls that shouldn't be there1. These, of course, are "racist" and "anti-democratic" and whatever other terms they can provide to make you not ask, "Hey, are these steps making voting more reliable?" Whatever you do, don't ask things like that. That would mean you're succumbing to "misinformation," likely a "racist" (because everyone knows black people can't get ID) (seriously, who hates black people so much to believe they can't get ID?), and certainly "anti-democratic."

They aren't called "Democrats" for nothing. They've simply bought their own line. They define "democracy" as "democratsy" -- that which the Democrat Party believes. Every reasonable, caring, thinking person will agree with the Democrats and those who don't are "anti-Democratic." I mean, it's in the name, right? They are Democrats, so anything they do is preserving democratsy. Their enemies are the enemies of democratsy. They are Democrats, so whatever they want is, by definition, democratic. Democratsy does not exist outside of the Democratic party.

There's a book out there that lays it all out neatly and completely. It is titled Rigged by Mollie Hemingway. It tells how the 2020 election was rigged ... beginning way back in 2016. But don't worry. You won't see it. It won't be talked about. It won't be discussed, debated, reviewed, examined. I'm actually surprised it's there on Amazon since, like all Big Tech and media, they're not averse to hiding this kind of stuff from the public. No, it will be labeled appropriately -- "misinformation"2 -- and set aside. "Nothing to see here. Go to your cells ... I mean, go home." Because we are nothing in this country these days if not led by the nose by government, Big Tech, Big Pharma, and the media who all have their own our best interests at heart.

I am really not a conspiracy fan. I think people that see conspiracies around every corner are a bit over the top. It's just that with all this election stuff and now all this COVID stuff that all just doesn't jibe with the reality that is patently obvious, it doesn't appear to be "around every corner." It appears to be in your face.
________
1 Just a note ... an opinion here. Many (most?) (all?) states have mail-in voting. In my state (Arizona) we registered to vote (providing the proper ID) and signed up for mail-in voting and every election they send us a mail-in ballot. Sometimes they send us a note: "If you'd like to stop, send this in." But we keep getting these ballots and that's okay. Just my opinion here, however. If they opted to send out a registration renewal request every election that required us to reaffirm our status and mail-in option, I wouldn't consider that a hardship. If the default was, "If you don't let us know you still want to vote this way, we'll take you off the mail-in list," I'd think that was reasonable. But, I suppose, that's apparently only because I'm anti-Democratic.
2 Not because it is actually appropriate, but because "misinformation" now means "whatever we don't want you to consider."

Wednesday, January 05, 2022

Slavery

Slavery, as we all know, is a bad thing. Everything from working day in and day out ("slaving away") to being kidnapped and owned is a bad thing. We all agree. And yet ...

Paul liked to refer to himself as a "bondslave." The word is doulos. He addressed epistles to Rome, Philippi, and Titus with the descriptive term for himself. Further, in his epistle to the church at Corinth he referred to himself as hupēretēs (1 Cor 4:1). I know ... doesn't much to you and me, but in Paul's day the term was literally an "under-rower" referring to the lowest level of oarsman on a the standard Roman war galley, the trireme. It was the oarsmen on the bottom level -- the lowest of slaves. Due to our modern sensibilities, most translations aim for "servant," but "slave" is the real intent here.

Was Paul being unreasonable? Not when you consider the other facts of the case. Jesus is constantly referred to as "Lord." He is called "the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Tim 6:15). The name is written on His thigh in Revelation (Rev 19:16). "Lord" requires submission. Beyond that, Scripture says, "You were bought with a price" (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23). Peter refers to God as "the Master who bought them" (2 Peter 2:1). We all know we've "been redeemed." What does that mean? It means that Christ paid the price for us, literally "bought us up" (Gal 3:13). If you are a believer, you are bought and paid for, purchased by the Lord of lords.

"I don't like slavery" is a fairly universal response, especially for us. Slavery, in human terms, is bad. However, it's not the same thing in God's terms. Scripture is clear; we're all slaves. Some are slaves to sin and some to righteousness. Some are slaves to the god of this world and some to Jesus. But we're all slaves. We are not our own. The sooner we figure that out, the sooner we can get on with serving the Master who bought us.

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Division

In Hebrews 4 the writer is writing about "rest." He says, "Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Heb 4:11-12). We're used to that "sword" talk when it comes to God's word. It is the only offensive weapon listed in the armor of God (Eph 6:14-17). There it says the sword of the Spirit is the word of God. So it's not surprising that the author of Hebrews would refer to the word of God as a sword, too.

Look at the other descriptives. Living, active, sharp, piercing, discerning. Not much like any sword we're familiar with. That makes the word of God unique. But, of course, in today's "progressive" Christianity that's just "misinformation" kind of talk. Nothing special here. Move along.

It's interesting that this sword is described as divisive. It's sharp enough, apparently, so it can divide between soul and spirit, between joints and marrow, between thoughts and intentions. That first one is difficult. We're not exactly sure of the divide between soul and spirit. Some tell us there is no divide -- soul and spirit are the same. But if the sword can divide them, there must be a division. One is the animal life, the other the spiritual life. One is the mind, the will, the emotions, and the other that ephemeral spiritual nature that connects us to God. They are as closely knit as joint and marrow, but not inseparable. Perhaps the most telling is that parallel, "discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Intentions; really? Are not thoughts and intentions equally difficult to divide as soul and spirit?

We can draw various conclusions, but let's just look at the obvious. The word of God is alive. It's not an old book, stale human thoughts, no longer significant, reliable, or authoritative. The word of God is alive. It is active. And it is sharp. You and I get our emotions mixed up with our spirits and we get our thoughts mixed up with our intentions and, to be honest, we can hardly pry them apart. God's word can. God's word brings about divisions that we need. We need to see a distinction between mind, will, and emotions versus the spiritual being that is us. We need to discern between thoughts and intent. And, frankly, we just don't do it well.

I know it's not in vogue. I know it's not cool. But God thought His word was important, sufficient, and effective (2 Tim 3:16-17). There are many and loud voices trying today to pry you away from that word. Some of them carry "Christian" clothes -- what Jesus termed wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt 7:15). They are not aware of the thoughts and intentions of their hearts. As for you, seek the rest that the word of God gives.

Monday, January 03, 2022

The Worthy Walk

I liked the movie, Sahara. It starred Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn who go in seaarch of a Civil-War-era ship they believed was lost in Africa. What I liked about the movie was the relationship between Dirk (McConaughey) and Al (Zahn). You might be tempted to think of Dirk as the hero and Al as the sidekick, but it wasn't so. Each had their skills and specialties and each relied on the other to do what they did to accomplish the shared goal. I liked that.

In Paul's epistle to the church at Ephesus he urges them "to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called" (Eph 4:1). Of course, the first clue to what he meant would be to know the nature of "the calling" (Eph 1-3), but he offers an explanation here, too.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:1-3)
He goes on to explain the source of "the unity of the Spirit" (Eph 4:4-7), but he gives us a good idea of just what this walk looks like here. It includes humility and gentleness, patience and bearing with one another in love. And it includes an eagerness to maintain unity.

What is this unity? Some seem to think it is "same thinking" or just absolute "sameness." It's not. It's more like Dirk and Al. We each have our specialties (Scripture calls them spiritual gifts) that we're supposed to use together for the shared goal. Paul describes it as a body (1 Cor 12:12-27). All parts, "greater" or "unpresentable" (Paul's words), are important. They don't do the same thing, but they have the same aim. For us, that aim is the glory of God. And I pursue that from this direction while you come at it from that direction so we can work together to declare the glory of God.

It seems simple; it's not. What's the problem? The only way this kind of thing can work is to begin with "It's not about me." This kind of unity, especially "in the bond of peace," has no room for "my glory," "I'm gonna get mine," or "look at me." It demands relying on others and trusting others. It only works if the goal is in view and not me. And to the majority of the human race, that's just crazy talk.

That's why Paul urges unity (Php 2:2) followed immediately by "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Php 2:3-4). That's the only way it works. More than that, it's exactly what Christ did (Php 2:5-8).

That's the worthy walk. It is a death to self that leads to an outward focus with eyes aimed right at the glory of God. Some are equipped to lead and some to follow, some to push and some to pull, some to build and some to repair, but all are intended to be rid of self in favor of a united goal, the glory of God. Anything else is less than worthy of our calling.

Sunday, January 02, 2022

Jesus's Prayer Request

Among other things, Jesus taught His disciples how to pray. He suggested several prayer requests -- God's kingdom would come, His will would be done, that God would supply our needs including forgiveness and deliverance from evil. We know this stuff. Much of the unbelieving world knows this stuff. But what is commonly missed is Jesus's first request.

Jesus began with the address -- "Our Father who is in heaven" (Matt 6:9). Good. We know who He's talking to. It's God the Father. It's not another god. And it's God our Father. There is a relationship. But the next line we often miss because we take it as a descriptive. "Hallowed be Your name." Most of us would say, "Jesus was saying that the Father's name was holy." Not quite. "Hallowed" is a verb meaning "to make holy." The phrase is a request that God would make His name holy. He said, "Hallowed be Your name" and not "Hallowed is Your name." It is a request that God would make His name holy and that we would seek to regard His entire character (the meaning of "name" in this context) as holy.

This is not merely a request among many. This singular request is the beginning, the only reasonable start for all other requests -- indeed, for all of our relationship with God. Scripture repeatedly tells us that God is holy. In fact, He is "holy, holy, holy" (Isa 6:3; Rev 4:8). It is a thrice repetition of His holiness, elevating it to the highest value, and it is repeated in both Old and New Testaments, elevating it to all time. That reality brought a prophet to repentance and signaled the culmination of all things at the end of time. His holiness is the beginning and end of all things. So the start of prayer in Jesus's example is "Father, make Your name holy."

In this light, the rest of the prayer is not random requests, but more of a "how to" list. In what ways will God make His name holy? By bringing His kingdom. By having His will done. By providing our needs of food and forgiveness and deliverance. In that you can see, then, that "Make Your name holy" is also inadequate. He already is holy. Thus, He is "hallowed" -- made holy -- not by becoming holy, but by declaring and demonstrating He is holy. He is "hallowed" -- set apart -- in who He is and what He does and we are imploring Him to do that. "Make Your name -- all that You are -- set apart ... set apart in our hearts, our minds, our hopes and directions, our needs and Your meeting of them, our goals and desires."

It was Jesus's first request when He taught His disciples to pray. It's a big request. And it ought to be ours. Thankfully we have a big God who can make it happen.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

News Weakly - 1/1/2022

I Just Can't Keep Up
They tell us that the omicron variant is coming to get us. They tell us that most of the current omicron cases are among the vaccinated, so they urge us to get vaccinated. Wait, isn't this now a pandemic among the vaccinated? (Of course not ... but I can't keep up.) They tell us that omicron cases are skyrocketing, the vaccinated are at risk, and ... they're decreasing quarantine times for hospital workers. "No, it's okay," they assure us, "as long as they test negative after a positive." But ... didn't they tell us that it can take 3 months to test negative after a positive? Okay, fine, let's just make that 5-day thing for everyone. They tell me to "trust the science," but I don't think science trusts the science. "Our savior, the vaccine, is here, so pay no attention to the record-setting infections even among the vaccinated and get vaccinated." And now a study says the J&J booster offers strong protection against hospitalization from omicron ... which doesn't appear to be sending very many to the hospital anyway. I just can't keep up.

Stages of Grief
The sad story of a 14-year-old bystander who was accidently killed by a police officer whose stray bullet went through a wall and hit her in the dressing room was heartbreaking. The demand for justice is understandable, but what is "justice" here? I suppose, as in all cases in America today, if a police officer, even by accident, injures or kills someone, it will be bad for law enforcement.

Omicold
The average number of COVID cases in the U.S. hit a record high this week. That's despite a record high number of people protected by the "vaccine." We're all gonna die. Okay, too dramatic? (Not really; we are all gonna die ... just not from this.) No, it turns out that omicron is less severe than other versions ... not much worse than a cold. But, don't you worry, the government and the media and Dr. Fauci et al. will continue to beat you over the head with this terror among us. Beware ... the "Immacold" is gonna get you. Better get another booster. (Is this a "booster" for "immunity" (which currently appears to be a myth) or does it refer to boosting the government control and Big Pharma profits?)

Fake News?
Well, this certainly can't be right. Data indicates that shootings in Oakland declined when the police force grew. Well, that just doesn't make sense. Why would more law enforcement cause a decrease in crime? How is it possible that an armed police officer in the vicinity might decrease the threat of armed criminal activity. Who thinks this stuff up?

A New Beeginning
It's 2022. Here are a few items from the Bee for fun. Don't miss the story about the woman who attended the communist-themed New Year's Eve party and was surprised it didn't have any food. Be sure to commiserate with other Christians over ways we're being persecuted in America these days. And there is the excellent report on the genius rebranding of the common cold as "omicron" to generate more hype.

Has to be true; I read it on the Internet.

A little postscript here. When 2021 rolled around I remember hearing optimism. "We should be nearing the end of COVID with this vaccine and all." "We should be heading to a better country with Trump gone." Funny thing -- I'm not hearing optimism for 2022. Why is that?

Friday, December 31, 2021

2021 in Review

January brought us a new regime to replace the old regime. Oh, sorry ... "regime" - "a government, especially an authoritarian one." Immediately there was the protest that was deemed an "insurrection" (although 1) it was not planned and, as such, a stupid insurrection and 2) although most were "mad gun advocates," none carried firearms, making it the supidest insurrection in history and 3) since the only one shot and killed in this insurrection was an unarmed female protester, it would seem to be a lot of things, but not an insurrection). The new president solved the COVID crisis by redefining the unacceptable vaccine that Trump brought to "a gift from the Democrats," so it was now okay (and, later, to be mandatory).

In February the new president committed to rejoin the Paris climate accord that put the U.S. "behind the eight ball" (oh ... that was the phrase the president used referencing Trump's withdrawal ... but the truth is the Paris accord puts the onus on America).

A massive cargo ship blocked the Suez Canal for weeks in March. One might think that would be small news, but it turned out to be a major hit to the international supply chain and gave us all a taste of the supply chain failures to come.

Derek Chauvin was convicted on all charges of George Floyd's death in April, followed by his pleading guilty to federal civil rights charges. It was this death that finally got white people declared racist and banned from suggesting that "all lives matter."

August was fun. We watched our "fearless leader" sneak our troops out of Afghanistan by night, leaving hundreds of Americans and thousands of Afghans behind to face the "friendly" Taliban government. "We won't hurt you. Beheading is practically painless."

Texas tried to save lives in September by passing the new abortion law that would allow citizens to sue abortion doctors for illegal abortions. Silly Texas ... thinking that a heartbeat inferred personhood. We all know that personhood is conferred by the mother's wish.

There has been more, of course, but the biggest news of 2021 overshadowed most of the rest -- COVID. Our "savior" arrived, actually, in December of 2020, but it was kicked into full swing in January of 2021 -- that vaccine that was going to save us all. It was shown to be 94% effective ... 85% ... okay, 54% effective after six months. Maybe as low as 13%. Better get a booster. Two. Ah, just keep 'em coming. And for reasons no one was seeking, the pandemic got worse once the vaccines were surging. Reality wreaked havoc with what we called "science" from our CDC overlords. "Natural immunity" (that which comes from recovering from COVID) "is only about 3 months ... 6 months ... okay, 16 months at last count." "But, it is certainly not as good as ... well ... okay, it is better than the immunity the vaccine gives." "You will need to quarantine for 14 days ... 10 days ... let's make it 5." "Masks are necessary ... unless you're vaccinated ... well, actually, even if you're vaccinated." "Delta will kill us all. Omicron will kill us all. Wait ... omicron is more like a cold. Our vaccines don't work against that one, so it is essential that you get vaccinated." And, of course, the ongoing, "I did not give money to that Wuhan lab."

Second, perhaps, is the economy. In 2021 our leadership has brought us record inflation, record price increases, and record shortages. Shortages included goods, but perhaps the biggest was workers, including "the Great Resignation" where workers quit in droves. Too many refused to return after the federal aid made them dissatisfied with ... work. In order to counter these problems, our overlords passed a new spending bill adding another couple of trillion dollars to the deficit because spending more of your tax dollars always makes your financial situation improve. "Wages are up," Biden claims, but, adjusted for inflation, they're down (-1.2% in October). "We're experiencing the strongest economic recovery in the world," the president claims when, in fact, it's simply not true. "I've brought unemployment down from 14%," Biden crowed, except that 14% was April of 2020 and it was at 6% by December of 2020. "I've fixed the supply chain issue," the White House claimed although there was a record 84 ships still waiting offshore in California as of November and there are still a record number of empty containers waiting to be returned to be refilled. My concern is that our president appears to be as bad at economics as our young people who think "Money grows on rich people ... and it ought to be mine."

One thing that hasn't changed in 2021 -- the media claims "the public has the right to know," but they operate with the caveat "... what we want them to know" and nothing else. Let's not talk about Fauci's questionable issues. Let's label all questions regarding elections as "anti-democratic" and all questions about COVID as "misinformation." They told us about the horrible story of an SUV that drove into a crowd in Waukesha, Wisconsin, instead of a black driver who had a documented history of hating white people. They told us about the racial inequities in the Rittenhouse case while ignoring the fact that there were no racial components in the accusations. And so on and so forth. The media is our "go-to" for what we believe to be true ... even though they have consistently demonstrated their determination to decide for you what you must believe to be true.

All this is not lost on the Babylon Bee. Don't miss their "Top CNN Moments of 2021 review.

j I leave, then, you with this.
I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings [and presidents] and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. (1 Tim 2:1-2)
And I pray for to have a blessed New Year in 2022. Jesus said, "Surely I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus (Rev 22:20)!