God Help Us

Several events in the past week or so have brought these three words to my prayers more often than usual. Don’t get me wrong, when I don’t pray this, I am failing in my praying. It was Jesus who taught us to pray saying, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Sadly, Christians often say this prayer but refuse to go the next step.

Faith without works is dead. At least according to James. You might rightfully extend that to prayer without action is a waste of time. Yet we need the biblical action of the church in obedience to God’s Law more than ever. Our Constitution was grounded in it. The preachers in the pulpit preached it before and after the Revolution. The Church of Jesus Christ has an obligation to be politically involved and active.

Without apology, I believe that our obedience to Christ and the moral law God gave us, does not allow us to blindly speak of conscience over righteousness. The time to allow anyone, especially those in power and those who shape the thinking of the rest of us, to lie, cheat, steal, and kill in order to gain what they want must end. And the Church is the leaven in society that was designed to stand against such immorality. Unfortunately, the church seems perfectly willing to act the three monkeys neither seeing, speaking, nor hearing as long as they are left alone.

The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (my own denomination) chose to “remember Breonna Taylor with a vigil for justice.” Every human being should be saddened when another human loses her life. But to claim she was an innocent victim of over-zealous police use of force denies the facts and truth of the incident. Taylor’s boyfriend shot at the police first and in running away to hide used Breaonna as a shield. This is only one example of how the church in this age has bought the lie and thus brought darkness into the world.

I have served five churches during my ministry. In all but one I have received rebuke for becoming “political” in the pulpit. Why, then, is it acceptable to join the modern Social Justice movement and support such political activity? Moreover, what political positions are non-moral issues? Abortion? Same gender marriage? Homosexual behaviors? Denying God’s determined gender to claim another?

How about publishing “fake news” by either the left or the right. Or violating one’s oath to uphold the Constitution all the while violating it. One of the things that has become an interesting twist in the events of late has been the revelation of the principle “Let him who has no sin cast the first stone.” It is true that our sins will eventually find us out, but not to worry, we can simply deny them or ignore them.

The Church is the institution that has allowed the creation of today’s America. I say shame on us. Shame on me for not being a bolder pastor. Shame on our denominations for allowing the humanism of the world mold and shape us. Shame on us for not listening to our founding fathers and those of the past who warned of such apostasy. And shame on us for allowing politics become free of Christian oversight. It is not true what we are told, that there is an absolute separation of church and state.

The state exists by God’s grant. The state exists to keep order and make society free for the Church to manifest the Kingdom of God. The state is responsible to God. But how does God speak to the state? By those who proclaim the Word of God and those who obey it. We the people are the judge of the government and we should always be skeptical of the motives and manipulations of those who deny our right to do so.

…confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16 (ESV)

Our first job as the Church is to pray. Prayer begins with confession. It seems to be that when we pray for one another in the humility of confession, we can no longer treat one another poorly. However, this speaks about relationships in Christ and not relationships outside of Christ. The world hates us because the world hates Christ. And anyone who thinks such hatred can be appeased simply by helping the poor, the oppressed, and the down-trodden, does not yet understand the world’s hatred of Christ. Are we to help the people living like the description above? ABSOLUTELY! But such help alone will not redeem them. Only Christ redeems, and who can believe if they do not hear, and who can hear if Christ is not preached?

James continues, though, for it is not enough to pray for forgiveness and for the spiritual health, growth, and relationship to Christ. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” I believe this is the prayer we must make for our world, our rulers, our nation, our enemies. Why? Because it is the prayer of a righteous person. Righteousness is obedience to God’s Law. Righteousness is obedience to the commands of Christ. And he commanded a lot more than handouts to the down and out.

Jesus told his disciples that their job was to make disciples. Discipleship in this context was to teach them to obey the commands of Christ. The Great Commandment extends to all Christians. Christian parents are to teach obedience to their children. Allowing children to grow up and make their own decision for Christ is like waiting children to grow up before they choose what food they want to eat. They will starve first.

The same holds true for Shepherds of Congregations. It is our job to teach the sheep to obey Christ. How can the sheep know what they need to know about Christ unless the Word is consistently preached? Saying that the Holy Spirit will lead you to the knowledge and obedience without the need of communal worship which includes the sacraments and the Word. God’s method is to use the Holy Spirit in conjunction with preaching in communal worship.

The key is confession and restoration to righteousness, then righteousness praying for the world, then the prayers of the righteous working by the power of the Holy Spirit through the arms, legs, bodies, and minds of the ones praying. Faith without works is dead. Prayer without action is useless. God can perform miracles and make wide-spread changes in the world. But looking at history, at least the history we have left, God usually does his work through human work.

God help us. Help us from ourselves. Help us from anti-Christianity. Help us to pray, stand, and work for the Kingdom that it may reign on this earth even as it does in heaven. If not, then let’s just go watch sports and movies on TV. God won’t help us do that.

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Three Goats

It has been reported that John Wayne once said life is hard, it’s even harder when you’re stupid. I can’t cite the quotation, so maybe he didn’t really say it, but he should have. Our entire system of education is based upon this general principle. I remember when I was young, everyone was supposed to go to college to get an education. Success in life was supposedly based on this ideal.

When I grew up and had children, the big push was to get your children into a good preschool because preschool was the first step toward educational success which meant going to college. I began to doubt things though, for I did go to college and graduated. I also credit the Christian college I attended as God’s way of directing me away from my career path toward his (it took many years beyond college to figure this out).

However, I did not go to an educationally intense preschool. In fact, I distinctly remember kindergarten was more about playing, painting, sometimes eating paste, and having a snack and a nap every day. All of this took place in half day trips to school. Kindergarten was when I was first introduced into the world of socialization with others my own age and entering those many painful years to follow of making and losing friends, trying to make it in the circle of “cool,” and being fairly consistently chosen last for sports.

With all of that as my rite of passage into education, I made it to college. In truth, I made it beyond college to graduate school, twice (or was it three times?). Looking back on it all, I would much rather go to institutions of upper education that work as there is much less pressure there. Nevertheless, I survived. And I learned one very important thing: most people who graduate with a college degree do not end up working in their original field of study.

In my day, computers were just becoming a thing. I college I had to pay someone to type my papers for a dollar a page. Within a few years, young women and men were attending college to train for fields in computer sciences that passed them by long before they graduated. In the end, though, I discovered that there are basically three principles by which anyone could get a job, keep the job, and succeed in the job. I taught them to my children as best as I could. They are:

  • Be willing to work hard no matter what you do.
  • Be honest in all that you do.
  • Expect to start at the bottom and work your way up.

Not to difficult and I have never seen anyone fail who followed these three rules. My grandfather taught me another which is to avoid the water cooler. For those who don’t understand real socialization beyond emails and texts, the water cooler was the place employees would gather to complain about their work, their boss, and their co-workers instead of honestly working hard. I confess that this last rule was probably one of the most difficult, but that is because my generation grew up without all of the modern conveniences that replace actual human contact. (I still can’t get over how easy it has been for people to buy into the oxymoron of “social distancing” as if that is even possible.)

My wife and I never required our children to go to college. We did not try to prevent them from doing so, but we pointed out that there are many honest and honorable professions in which one can serve God, his Kingdom, and the world without a college degree. I am thankful that all of my children are good, honest, hardworking citizens with or without college degrees.

Today, I am even more convinced that college is not necessary for success in the world. I am also convinced that the system of Universities in America which were very good at one time, are often a hindrance to those who seek a real education. I know that many of you will say, “Oh, that’s just your opinion.” Yes it is. Yet it is not why I believe it to be true. Here is my evidence:

  1. The Bible does not deny the potential value of any education. However, the highest priority placed on education in the Scriptures is the requirement of fathers teaching their children to know what God commands and to obey him in all things. When it comes to his Law, we are to know it well enough that it is “bound to our foreheads.” I consider this to mean what David wrote, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee,” and “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light upon my path.”
  2. If the knowledge of the Scriptures is the primary focus of education, then I believe it follows that all education is subject to the Word of God. This has implications for those who suggest that the Bible has no place in public education and accreditation tends to force the removal of Biblical education. Maybe it is right that the Bible has no place in public schools, but then that becomes an argument that “public” education is no real education and should be abolished.
  3. If it is true that God created the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, then any education relating to anything must in someway reveal the true nature, sovereignty, and love of God. When we study mathematics we enter the organized reason of God. When we study the arts, we enter the creativity of God. When we study the sciences we enter the vast incomprehensibility of God. When we study history, we enter the providence of God. Furthermore, anytime we study any subject outside of the person of the Creator, Sustainor, and Redeemer of all things, we do violence to him and to his creation.
  4. Finally, can we really fail to take notice that much of the social upheaval today and the irrational fight against reason is being done by liberal college students who have not learned any real truth about the world, not given the tools to discover truth. Education should not be about what to think, it should be about how to think, how to listen, process, discern.

So what does any of this have to do with three goats. Well, they are not just any goats. They are the Three Billy Goats Gruff of the famous Norwegian tale ( yes, the story appears in many of the norther European countries but since I am Norwegian, I will blindly lay claim to the story.)

If you have not heard the story, or forgotten it, there are three Billy Goats Gruff: little BGG, middle BGG, and great big BGG. Crisis befalls them when they realize that they have eaten all the grass on the hillside upon which they live. The only grass left is in a meadow across a river. There is only one bridge across the river and that bridge is guarded by a troll. Bottom line is that the three BGG come up with a plan to get across the river with each one, beginning with the smallest, crossing the bridge by deceiving the troll that the next goat is bigger, fatter, and a better potential meal. When the biggest goat crosses the bridge, he simply butts the troll into the river, who we are told is never seen again.

Life is hard, and it’s even harder if you are stupid. I have searched the internet and asked the question of many, but no one has offered any real answer to my conundrum. Why didn’t the big goat just go first and solve the problem right away? By sending the other two expecting the troll to be more stupid than they are seems to me to be a huge risk. I have concluded that this is not really a good children’s story, though it is a fun one. But the point of the story appears to demonstrate that greed and gluttony are disastrous attitudes in the end, whereas I can’t get beyond an equally valid point that the goats did not use much in the way of reason to evaluate their plan.

Before you say that I am making much about nothing, the goats’ plan was one motivated by the same greed and gluttony we condemn in the troll. Granted that it is easier to judge the troll because he is ugly, smelly, boisterous, and mean. But that doesn’t excuse the fact that the goats are sneaky, deceitful, and willing to take unnecessary risks. None of the characteristics are laudable. The three goats made life harder only to demonstrate quite clearly their stupidity.

My point is that just because someone has a college or higher degree, they are not necessarily smarter than many in our world who do not have the same “proof” of education. My opinion now is ( and you can judge met now) that our country, states, cities, etc. are in a real mess, and part of this mess is because we have blindly accepted the principle that highly educated people know better than the rest of us. They may. I go to a doctor trusting that her education has prepared her to care for me. Yet there are plenty of dishonest, lazy doctors in the world with low morals and high self-interest. This can be said of every profession. What a shame that so many of us work so hard to live harder.

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God Uses All Things

And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Acts 15:36–41, ESV

Sometimes we look only upon the negative side of things. If Christ is the King of the universe seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and if we accept that he created his Church to establish the reign of his Kingdom on earth, then there must be of necessity a positive aspect to everything. I am not suggesting that “every cloud has a silver lining.” I believe that every cloud is a tool in the hands of the King to accomplish his will on earth, even as it is in heaven.

The end of Acts 15 testifies to this, for there a disagreement arises between Paul and Barnabas that ends in the breakup of the team. Luke is careful, though, with his recitation of the event. First, he limits the space in his book to present the situation and its outcome. Second, he does not go into the details of the discussion between them other than that the issue is bringing Mark along on their next journey.

Because we are all tainted by sin, it is normal for us to lean toward sinful things. Gossip is sin, and I don’t think I need to remind anyone that we all want to know all of the juicy details of an argument. Luke refrains from providing for our base desires. We also want to make other people’s troubles greater than they may really be so that our troubles don’t appear to be so bad. This is another attribute of our sin nature. Just because two individuals have a disagreement that leads to a new direction for each does not mean they are split by a fight.

Neither Paul nor Barnabas are presented in any light other than a simple disagreement. We don’t know exactly why they disagreed over bringing John Mark along on this second missionary journey other than Mark left them in the middle of the first. We are not sure why Mark left, but it may be that he became afraid when the journey became too difficult and Paul became quite ill (see Acts 13). Whether this is a correct view or not, It is clear that the events surrounding the conversion of the proconsul at Salamis was not motivation enough for Mark to continue on.

In any event, Barnabas wanted to try working with his cousin Mark on this second journey, but Paul did not want to bring him. I do not deny that the two disagreed sufficiently to go in different directions. I do not believe that the opposition of wills was enough to end a friendship or even their partnership in their gospel ministry. Nevertheless, Barnabas took Mark and Paul took Silas, one of the men sent back with them from the Jerusalem council. The division of labor was sensible in that Barnabas went to Cyprus where he was from. Paul took the other rout through Tarsus to Galatia and Syria.

I have heard it said, and at one time believed that since the church in Antioch sent Paul on his way with the blessing of God’s grace they took his side of the argument. This thinking falls within the fallacy of an argument from silence. Just because Luke does not record a blessing given to Barnabas does not mean it was not given. Furthermore, Barnabas is not mentioned again in the book of Acts which certainly does not mean that God took Paul’s side over Barnabas. All that can be deduced from the failure to mention Barnabas anymore is that Paul is the one whose ministry Luke followed and the rest of the book of Acts records his church planting work including those he discipled all the way to proclaiming the good news in Rome.

This short passage, though, does say a lot about the work of God here on earth. I would not say that the decision of Paul and Barnabas to go separate ways was necessarily a good one. But the worst we can gain from the event is to recognize the frail humanity God has chosen to become vessels of his grace. Every child of God is a minister in his Kingdom. No child of God deserves such a high honor. As Paul wrote,

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’

1 Corinthians 1:25–31, ESV

Repeatedly when we look backward upon events in life, we see God’s handiwork and control. I dare say that when I try to take control, my weaknesses become abundantly manifest by the outcome of my distorted thinking. Yet when I turn to God seeking his will, even those things that I have messed up become Kingdom blessings.

One reason for this, I am convinced, is that I can’t help thinking of myself first and the Kingdom of God second. This is not the priority we are told to observe. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, ESV) Even when I try to seek the Kingdom of God first, I often find that I do so intending to receiving all the things promised to me. How much greater a fool can I be?

God chose the foolish things of this world… For this I am ever grateful. While I was a sinner, Christ died for me. And he died for you, too.

God wastes nothing. He uses all things for his glory. As we look at the confusion of our world we need not fret. God uses all of the mess we have created. There is a thought process that has become more and more popular as humanity has grown farther and farther from God. It is chaos theory and essentially refers to the concept that out of chaos comes order. Chaos theory is necessary if one wants to take evolutionary theory seriously. The experience of life and the world is the contrary: order tends to break down into chaos.

I don’t think I need to go into too much detail to highlight the problem with chaos theory. People do not get better, they get older and die returning to the earth. Environmentalists tell us that we need to take better care of the world to keep it from running down, but the more we try to reverse the situation, the greater the cries for immediate and necessary change. Chaos theory wants to say that sludge became life but it fails to identify the source of the sludge that had within it the capability of becoming life, let alone complex cellular life.

God has chosen the foolish things in this world to confound the wise. The only answers for any questions scientific, social, political, creative, and on and on come from the God who was there before creation, the God who created, and the God who has remained within his creation using all of his word and activity to be glorified.

Whenever you feel frustrated with the way things are, or fearful for the future, or apathetic about the present, be reminded that God uses all things for our salvation and his glory.

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Take Up Your Cross, part two

Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Acts 14:8-23 (ESV)

Paul and Barnabas travel from Iconium to Lystra. They are on a missionary journey preaching the good new of salvation in Jesus Christ. Up to this point, the opposition they have encountered has come from those Jews who are loyal to the teachings from Jerusalem. In Iconium, their difficulty from like Jews came to a point when Paul heard they were to be stoned. Wisdom sent them on their way before this could happen. Nevertheless, many other Jews believed along with many Hellenists.

When the two came to Lystra, they had the same kind of success proclaiming the gospel. The people of Lystra included many Greeks who had their own religions. At the end of this record by Luke, we find Paul was stoned by the manipulation of the traditional Jews and was left for dead. He an Barnabas moved on then made a reverse trip back to Antioch. We are told that during this journey, they re-entered each city and established the churches their by ordaining elders. Luke never forgets to keep his theme in mind: the growth of the Church of Christ.

Here in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas face a very different kind of problem which begins with the healing of a man born crippled. Paul sees the man, tells him to get up, and he does. That’s enough for the Greeks who became excited. To understand what is going on I must take you to the Roman poet Ovid who wrote Metamorphoses. It it he tells the story of Baucis and Philemon, an poor elderly couple living in a town in Phrygia (which was the region just west of Lycaonia in which Lystra sat.

The story goes that Zeus and his messenger Hermes descended Mount Olympus and disguised themselves as common peasants. (Ovid tells it better!) They come to a town and began inquiring for a place to stay and to eat. The townspeople were so wicked that every one turned these two peasants away. Everyone, that is, except this poor elderly couple who invited them into their humble cottage and fed them what they had. During the meal Baucis would repeatedly pour wine for the guests. When she noticed that the level of the wine in the pitcher never decreased, she and Philemon recognized they were in the presence of gods.

Zeus invites them to climb a mountain with he and Hermes but the couple are told that they cannot turn and look back until they reach the top. When they do, they discover the whole town had been destroyed with a flood. But their little cottage had become a golden palace.

This well-known story was surely hovering in the minds of the Greeks in Lystra when they saw a miracle that could only have been done by a god. They were right, of course, but they though of the wrong God. They cry out, “The gods have comedown to us in the likeness of men,” calling Paul Hermes and Barnabas Zeus. Their excitement was that they believed Zeus and Hermes had come down just like they had in their neighboring Phrygia. They were determined not to make the same dreadful mistake made there.

So, the priest in the temple of Zeus gathered bulls and garlands that the people might make sacrifices to these two magnificent gods. Now comes the “cross” part. How easy would it have been to get caught up in their popularity? They could live out their lives in luxury. On the other hand, what kind of fear might they have felt knowing they had to put a stop to the situation at probably get stoned by a disappointed and angry mob? How easy might it have been to simply sneak out a back way and never return?

Paul and Barnabas do not hesitate. No matter what the consequences, they will continue to preach the gospel of truth. Paul says to the crown gathered at the temple, “What in the world are you doing!? We are humans just like you. All we have done is proclaimed the good news that you can and should turn away from these vain things and turn to a living God. This God made you and in the past he allowed the nations to wander in darkness. Even then he left a witness in granting rain and good harvests.”

Paul is not having to think too mach about what to say for he knows the Scriptures intimately, “What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.” (Habakkuk 2:18–19, ESV) Instead of these dead idols Paul brings them the living God, the one and only God. Even his reference to the rain comes from the prophets: “Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are you not he, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for you do all these things.” (Jeremiah 14:22, ESV)

Now is when I turn from teaching to meddlin’, as a friend in Chicago used to say. How are we like the Lyaconians? Or putting the question another way, what are the gods in your life that prevent you from living in the presence of the Father through the Spirit? You see, to take up your cross is to abandon all that is vain and has no substance or value. Replace those things with Christ Jesus. As I have said, this is hard. No one can accomplish this on their own.

What it takes is the Word of God, the Bible, the Spirit of God, our teacher and guide, and the community of Christ known as the Church. God does not speak in dreams and visions because he has spoken once and then very clearly. “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Reading the Bible is good. Memorizing the Bible is better. Studying the Bible is best. If you do the latter, I can guarantee you will accomplish the former two.

However, study must be guided by the Spirit of God. And the the community of the Saints includes all who have gone before, led by the Spirit and preaching and writing what they have learned. The more you submit to Christ, the more you will be able to identify your idols. Don’t be surprised! Idols come in many forms. But there is only one Jesus Christ, Son of God, and Savior of the world.

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Take Up Your Cross, part one

Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

Acts 14:8–23, ESV

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24, ESV)

Many of us have heard these words many times. Take up your cross. Does this mean we are to expect suffering. That depends. If you are a typical American then suffering is a bout of the flu, or a setback in the market, or your car suddenly quits running. If these, and many more like them are considered suffering, then I don’t think that counts as a cross. These things are just life and everyone who has ever lived and will live will experience these minor things.

What I believe Jesus meant was that he discipline of the Christian life is hard. Moreover, standing firmly in the Truth and proclaiming the gospel in our world may, for many, result in physical harm. For those of us in America, this kind of suffering may be closer to reality sooner rather than later. (I am not trying to predict the future, but no one can deny the mob in Portland was intentionally burning Bibles.)

In Acts, Luke gives us a dramatic example recalling Paul being stoned and left for dead in Lystra. I have never experienced this degree of suffering. I hope you haven’t either. Taking up our cross does not need to be a complicated thing, but it is probably the hardest thing one will ever do. Taking up your cross means that Christ becomes the greatest priority in your life. Yes, greater than possessions, time, loved ones, hopes and desires, and yourself. Our relationship to these things can be lived two ways.

First, you can play with God like we did when I was a child. We all got together and had church. The game did not last long, though, before we all got bored. We didn’t know what church was, so we played to entertain ourselves. Enter many churches and nominal Christians today. We choose the church we go to because of the music, or the pastor, or the possibility of anonymity. The basic word for this is humanism: we put ourselves first and forget about anything else.

Much of the turmoil today is rooted in humanism. I deserve to be seen, treated well, fed, housed. None of these things is bad. It’s the word “deserve.” Modern day interpretation, “It’s my right!”

There is an essential flaw with this approach to life. There is no standard to balance one individual’s right against another’s. Those who want to “de-fund” the police seem to think that everyone is essentially good so we can work this out together. Such fantasy is not worthy of reasonable thought. The death and destruction in large cities during the past three months should be a reality check.

Without any standard for balancing differing rights, there is also no standard for morality of any kind. This issue goes deeper into the core understanding of humanity. Thanks to the “science” of evolution, we all came from whatever you want to insert here. The only value is the one natural law of survival of the fittest. If you can’t see the problem here, just imagine that every human being wants to be a god with absolute authority over everything else.

This, too, is not as far as we may want to think. When I can burn you home or store, when I can beat you or even kill you, then I am claiming a right over you that no human has over another. How do I know? Without a moral standard, there would be no progress, no creativity, no development, no education. What would be left is endless fighting and violence. Thankfully, there is another way of living in the world. That is to recognize there is one God who created the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them. He created humanity to be those who care and tend all of the creation which includes caring and tending one another.

All things have been made by the One Eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. All things are created for his glory. Therefore, all things are connected to one purpose which is the glory of the Most High God. Being the Creator, he ordered all things so that they may serve his glory. He gave us moral law because from the first humans, humanism has taken hold of the heart, so we need to know how to love God, how to love one another, and how to love the rest of creation. For me, this is the pursuit of happiness.

And that is what taking up your cross is all about. Without human sin there would be no need of a cross. But there is one, the one Jesus was crucified on. This is the cross we are to take up, the cross of Jesus Christ. Everything in life is about living according to our created purpose. Everything is about dying and if we die with him, we will most assuredly be raised with him.

The suffering of the cross is our suffering. As Paul points out in Acts 14:16, “In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.” The time for that has passed. Now there is a new way, the way of Christ. Let us all pray that we might know and have strength to live in his way.

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The Great Divide

A Sermon

Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, and there they continued to preach the gospel.” (Acts 14:1–7, ESV)

Our world is seriously divided today. The divisions are greater than almost anytime I can remember, though the Civil Rights movement along with the protests against the Vietnam military action (war) were pretty serious too. Yet there was a significant difference. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man of peace and he worked hard to keep the civil rights battle non-violent. He did not sacrifice his principles, and what he was calling for was a specific change. Everyone, especially now, should read again and again that famous speech King made on August 28, 1963. You can find it here.

Today, the violence in our major cities is irrational. How can such destruction, crime, and death result in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? I am afraid that there are some people who in the past, restrained by the Spirit of God, simply want to destroy anything they can see and touch. As in Iconium, their minds have been poisoned by unscrupulous leaders, university professors, politicians, and just plain anti-nomians.

At the same time, the American churches have forgotten the gospel. We have remembered part of it; the part with God’s love and grace. We have preached that anyone and everyone can enter the Kingdom if they would believe in Jesus Christ. But we have forgotten the hard part.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:34–39, ESV)

These words of Jesus are an echo of the prophecy of Micah:

The godly has perished from the earth, and there is no one upright among mankind; they all lie in wait for blood, and each hunts the other with a net. Their hands are on what is evil, to do it well; the prince and the judge ask for a bribe, and the great man utters the evil desire of his soul; thus they weave it together. The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen, of your punishment, has come; now their confusion is at hand. Put no trust in a neighbor; have no confidence in a friend; guard the doors of your mouth from her who lies in your arms; for the son treats the father with contempt, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a man’s enemies are the men of his own house. But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.” (Micah 7:2–7, ESV)

It is frightening how the words from the ancient past accurately describe what we are living today. The basic truth, though, has never changed. All humanity is effectively separated from God by sin. The promise of Christ who would come to bring reconciliation would naturally cause the division between God and humanity to the fore. Those who look to God and Christ for their salvation do find it and experience forgiveness of sin and relationship with the Creator of all that is.

However, from Adam throughout all time, there are those who make the choice to oppose Christ and his salvation. They have a better way. And so, as in Iconium, peace becomes division all because many turned their lives to the one and only God. And division plots violence against God and his people. Haven’t you wondered why Americans tolerate every religion under the sun except Christianity? Could it be because Christians answer to a greater God and have his authoritative word? To make accommodation to any governments of the world is to deny the rule of Jesus Christ.

I am not suggesting that Christians become opposition to the government. Some have taken it this way. But we are to remain apart from the world while respecting the government as an instrument of God preserving life and order while he continues to gather his sheep. And that is the real problem. For decades, we have allowed human ideas to prevail over godly ideals. We have trusted the ungodly to educate our children naively thinking they had no agenda other than reading, writing and arithmetic. Once it became too late, we discovered that all humanistic education was a transforming of young minds slowly, generation by generation, until we arrive to a world that has not taught our children how to reason and think but what to think without reason.

So, in 2020 we have arrived. The great divide between God and man is before us in dramatic fashion. Jesus said it would happen and this is not the first time it is happening. And now can be the Church’s finest hour, or its saddest. We call all people to the gospel. We call them to the love of Christ who died for them. We call them to the grace of God who sent is Son to die for them.

When Jesus said he would bring a division between parent and child, he was not saying the child must stop loving the parent or the parent must stop loving their child in order to love God and become a disciple of Christ. He was saying that there must be a priority of love. “Whoever finds his live will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” The great chasm between God and man has been bridged by the love of God. When the Spirit brings Christ’s reconciliation and applies it to me, I become a different me; one who loves the Lord my God with all my heart, all my strength, and all my mind.

The divide will be closed one day. Jesus will return to the earth for his final judgment. He will separate his sheep from the goats, his wheat from the chaff. It is interesting to me that in Acts 14, what has been translated as “unbelieving Jews” is really “disobedient Jews.” The “Jews” part is not what is important and to be clear, disobedient Jews implies there were obedient Jews. Paul was one. But the interesting part is that disobedience is really the foundation of all unbelief. Opposition to God, oppositions to God ordained government, opposition to the Word of Truth is what we are facing in our world today.

The judgment of God comes in many forms, and the rebellion and irrationality of violence may be one of them. But it is God who judges. We do not bring judgment on anyone. However, as my mother always said, actions speak louder than words, and we can discern those who love God from those who do not by their actions. And seeing so many who have been led astray must break our hearts. Because we have the only answer there is.

Nevertheless, division will remain, and Christian faith will always be a matter of bearing a cross. You can label the division however you like:

  • Democrat versus Republican
  • Conservative versus Liberal
  • White versus Black or Black versus White
  • Educated versus Uneducated
  • Rich versus poor

When all is said and done, none of these divisions, perceived or real, is what Jesus Christ will look for when he returns. There is only one great division from which all others flow: the division between those who believe and those who don’t. Care must be taken by those who believe, for we all know that our faith was not something we could produce on our own. Neither is it possible for the unbeliever to turn from their disobedience apart from the grace of God and the Holy Spirit.

In the meantime, we who believe must pray for peace and proclaim the gospel always and everywhere. It is our calling. The Truth proclaimed is for those who do not believe that they may believe, or that they have no excuse when Christ returns.

Maranatha. Come quickly Lord Jesus. And make us faithful.

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Of Consolation and Desolation, part 2

In my last blog, the focus was on the idea of consolation as proposed by St. Ignatius de Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises. The definition he offers for desolation was as follows:

I call desolation all the contrary of the third rule, such as darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to things low and earthly, the unquiet of different agitations and temptations, moving to want of confidence, without hope, without love, when one finds oneself all lazy, tepid, sad, and as if separated from his Creator and Lord. [1]

To clarify consolation and desolation, there are degrees to which each concept applies. For instance, the darkness of soul need not be total darkness. And though there are times we may feel that low, the ultimate would be unbearable. Think of depression. One who is clinically depressed is most likely unable to bring themselves out of their depression by doing things that bring them out. They live in a darkness that prevents them from doing anything and those who live in the darkest depression have no hope at all. The only action those in such a dark place contemplate is suicide.

But there is also a lighter form of depression, one which everyone goes through at one point or another. A loved one dies, a promotion goes to someone else, a grade given on a paper is an “F”. Sometimes we want to wallow in that depression for a while. In the end, though, we are able through various coping methods to lift ourselves back up to normal. But what is “normal?”

I believe that we all live in some state of desolation most of the time. Yet that is not to say desolation need be a bad thing. Ignatius has more to say about desolation than he does consolation. Importantly, he gives three reasons one is in desolation:

The first is, because of our being tepid, lazy or negligent in our spiritual exercises; and so through our faults, spiritual consolation withdraws from us.

The second, to try us and see how much we are and how much we let ourselves out in His service and praise without such great pay of consolation and great graces.

The third, to give us true acquaintance and knowledge, that we may interiorly feel that it is not ours to get or keep great devotion, intense love, tears, or any other spiritual consolation, but that all is the gift and grace of God our Lord, and that we may not build a nest in a thing not ours, raising our intellect into some pride or vainglory, attributing to us devotion or the other things of the spiritual consolation. [2]

The three may be summed up as Transgression, Testing, and Training. By Transgression, I mean that there is a desolation that is our fault. Desolation is the condition that consolation disappears. If you have ever cried out, “Where are you God,” then you have experienced desolation.

Testing is from God’s hand. He may not and often does not create that which tests us, but he does use things that are happening around us. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV) Another way of looking at it is that God works all things. In either case, the emphasis is that testing from God is not designed to find out how holy we have become. He already knows that. However, we do not know where our faith is. Through trials, we discover how we have grown in our sanctification. We also discover how far we have to go. In fact, Ignatius looks at consolation as a kind of payment for our service to the King in further establishing his Kingdom on earth.  Desolation shows us how we work for Christ without reward which is the purest kind of service.

Then there is Training. What we must learn is maybe the most difficult thing to learn in both head and heart. We must discover that nothing, neither desolation not consolation, our devotion, and our gratitude comes from our inner self but all comes from the gracious hand of God our Father. If we suppose there is any personal source for anything good, it is not really good because it is destroyed by pride.

We have a lot to learn. Ignatius gives his students the gift of wisdom when he outlines a number of “rules” to help us navigate through our times of desolation. Some of them include never change commitments or vows made in times of consolation. This is one of the greatest temptations of desolation. In our race, we come to a hurdle that is too high to jump, a mountain too high to climb. Stick to it no matter how hard or how long it is to do it. So, we should not take any counsel from desolation, because apart from the grace of God, desolation darkens even our ability to think clearly.

Instead of changing our commitments to God, Ignatius tells us to change ourselves. This advice has been used in one form or another by pastors, self-help gurus, and personal coaches. “We can’t change the things around us so we should adapt and we will be happier,” they say. The flaw in this thinking is not in the principle but in the details of the change. The change he suggests is to work toward change “by insisting more on prayer, meditation, on much examination, and by giving ourselves more scope in some suitable way of doing penance.” [3]

Ignatius doesn’t get everything right. But he does give help to any of us who get trapped in the pop-culture of worship. A few years ago, when I had gone back to school, I attempted to “Protestantize” the Exercises and take what is good from them. My project was to test my work by training some small groups in local churches. The project was not a great success because I could not introduce the concepts of reflection on our sin and on the work Christ did on the cross to pay for our sin. “We are past the cross” was all they could say. My answer is that Christ is past the cross, but we are not completely past it. Yes, we are passing it, but if we were completely past, there would never be any desolation. This is why Paul reminds us:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 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.” (Romans 6:3–4, ESV)

But even after this knowledge,

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:14–19, ESV)

Give thanks to God.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24–25, ESV)

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Of Consolation and Desolation

The terms consolation and desolation are used by Ignatius de Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises. I’ll let Ignatius define the terms, though they are briefly presented and not in their fullness.

I call it consolation when some interior movement in the soul is caused, through which the soul comes to be inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord and when it can in consequence love no created thing on the face of the earth in itself, but in the Creator of them all…Finally, I call consolation every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all interior joy which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one’s soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord. [1]

I call desolation all the contrary of the third rule [regarding consolation], such as darkness of soul, disturbance in it, movement to things low and earthly, the unquiet of different agitations and temptations, moving to want of confidence, without hope, without love, when one finds oneself all lazy, tepid, sad, and as if separated from his Creator and Lord. [2]

Remembering that the Exercises were written between 1522 and 1524, the words “consolation” and “desolation” are translations of Latin terms which were translations of Spanish words for Ignatius wrote in Spanish, we can gather that Ignatius did not use them in the manner in which we use them today. Our dictionaries sum it up in the one word “comfort.” Desolation is grief, sadness, and ruin. As I write, I will be using Ignatius’ definitions.

Now it seems to me that the modern-day Church has become enamored with consolation. We want things that are going to feel good, to help us put last week behind us and “fill us up” for the week to come. However, this process can be done through many different means. For instance, attending a concert or play, watching a movie, or going to a sporting event. There are other ways of trying to get the “feeling” of consolation such as drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana. None of these things have anything to do with the Church, worship, or God.

I am empathetic to this weekly attempt to get a spiritual high. I have participated in some churches in my life seeking the same thing. But the high one gets from worship, if one gets anything at all, is very short-lived. It dissipates like smoke in the air. I am also empathetic with pastors who feel the pressure from his or her congregation to be as charming, charismatic, and entertaining as those they hear on the radio or see on television.

However, feeling good is not at all what worship is about. In fact, if worship is properly addressed to God, we might well feel humble, ashamed, and thankful for our salvation. Look again at the definition, “every increase of hope, faith and charity, and all interior joy which calls and attracts to heavenly things and to the salvation of one’s soul, quieting it and giving it peace in its Creator and Lord.” Consolations call us to heavenly things, to salvation, and it is peacefully quiet. Try to accomplish the latter in our contemporary theater-like churches and highly paced music and worship.

Ignatius gives us instruction for times of consolation:

Let him who is consoled see to humbling himself and lowering himself as much as he can, thinking how little he is able for in the time of desolation without such grace or consolation. [3]

Why? Because in this life, consolation is fleeting. We even have the power to psychologically create feelings of consolation that are not consolation at all. They are emotional tricks.

Jesus took Peter, John, and James up a mountain to the top (Matthew 17). When they reached the top, they saw Jesus transfigured. The Greek word is where we get the word metamorphosis. Jesus was changed, and the change was so the three disciples could see him in his glorified state. Now that’s consolation! Peter was so excited that he wanted to stay there. He never wanted to leave the consolation of Jesus glorified. The voice of God interrupted Peter in his excitement. They were not to stay there in their mountain-top high. They had to go back down the mountain and work. And that is where desolation does its work.

I will continue this in my next post.

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Evil Versus Providence

This morning I read an article that everyone should read. You can find it here.

The article reminds us that God’s providence is greater than the evil we endure. Moreover, God uses the evil we encounter to move us to the place, and shape us into the people he wants us to be. It’s fine to speak about Sanctification. The reality, though, is that we have become comfortable in our faith. We are couch potato Christians who wait around for some miraculous effort on the part of the Holy Spirit to do God’s will in us.

The road to sanctification is narrow, steep, and rocky. On it, our Father places obstacles. However, he does not intend for us to stumble over them but to adapt and overcome, to quote the USMC.

Psalm 121(ESV)

A SONG OF ASCENTS.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

How can we deny God’s providence? It is always in action. Yes, there are many who deny the thought of a providential God who even exists. Yet that is the beauty of God’s providence. It’s not about them; it’s about us.

When I was a seminary graduate seeking ordination in the Church, Psalm 121 was assigned to me to use as the foundation for a sermon to be presented and evaluated. I wish I knew then what I know now. But that is God’s providence. All these years later, I have the experiences through which God by his Spirit has led me, taught me, and shaped me. It has not been easy. However, I can say now that I would not have changed a day of pain into a day of comfort, because they brought me to many days of joy.

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:4–5, ESV)

Older is wiser only if you are in the hands of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is no other source of wisdom. The greatest Christian men and women in my life, those I admire as examples of humility and holiness, are the saints who have suffered the most either in quantity or degree or both. I say this not to suggest that we should seek suffering. I say this as an observation of those who have suffered.

What is injustice compared to the providence of God? What is disease compared to the providence of God? What is death compared to the providence of God? Nothing. I pray that every Christian preacher catches the truth of God’s providence and not shy away from preaching uncomfortable sermons. I pray that every congregation gathers to worship not simply to be uplifted, built up, or made to feel good. Instead, the gathering for worship means entering into the presence of a Holy God by a people who are on the path toward holiness.

God is love. God is grace. God is mercy. These things, and others, cannot deny that God is also holy, righteous, and just. He is not these things in the way that we might define them. All of the attributes of God are prior to us. The creation was determined according to God’s plans and providence. Why should we think that the creation could define the creator?

We take comfort in the truth of God, who he is, what he does, and what he has said.

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, That I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119:11, KJV 1900)

And we find comfort in the knowledge that everything we encounter today will, by God’s work, prepare us for tomorrow.

You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!” (Psalm 30:11–12, ESV)

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To Tell the Truth

An article on the Epoch Times today was a bit startling. It began:

FacebookTwitter, and YouTube removed videos of a press conference on July 27 held by a group of doctors, citing violation of their policies. Members of the group, called “America’s Frontline Doctors,” had spoken in support of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in treating and preventing COVID-19, and alleged that there is widespread misinformation about the drug. [1]

I am aware that these “public” formats may remove anything they want. Maybe they should stop calling themselves public. Nevertheless, they do have policies to remove offending information, ad I use the term “offending” very loosely. What bothered me about this article, though, was the reason given for the removal of the post:

A Facebook spokesperson said that it removed the video “for sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19,” and told CNN that it instead will show “messages in News Feed to people who have reacted to, commented on or shared harmful COVID-19-related misinformation that we have removed, connecting them to myths debunked by the [World Health Organization].”

My question is, who are they (the Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube executives to determine what is medically correct or not? What information do they have beyond the early closing of trials by the WHO? There are many studies that contradict the WHO. One example is from the Henry Ford Health System in Michigan.

“Our analysis shows that using hydroxychloroquine helped saves lives,” neurosurgeon Dr. Steven Kalkanis, senior vice president and chief academic officer of the health system, said in a statement. “As doctors and scientists, we look to the data for insight. And the data here is clear that there was benefit to using the drug as a treatment for sick, hospitalized patients.” [2]

Is the doctor lying? Is there malice in either organization? I would think not. I believe that the WHO is sincerely concerned and trying to help in this medical crisis. They gave up early on testing because they were not seeing sufficient data suggesting people with COVID-19 were being helped. However, in my limited knowledge and experience, I thought the scientific method was to present a theory and test it against empirical evidence. If the evidence does not support the theory, does that mean the theory should be abandoned?

“We attribute our findings that differ from other studies to early treatment, and part of a combination of interventions that were done in supportive care of patients, including careful cardiac monitoring,” Zervos said. “Our dosing also differed from other studies not showing a benefit of the drug. And other studies are either not peer reviewed, have limited numbers of patients, different patient populations or other differences from our patients.” [3]

If the theory is not sustained by the evidence, what part of the theory is wrong? some of it? All of it? Science is a tool for learning. It is not the ultimate determination of an idea. Where did the saying “Go back to the blackboard” come from? From errors made that need to be tweaked to discover the truth. If the WHO is willing to give up on the idea of hydroxychloroquine, the Henry Ford Health Center is not. There are many who are not giving up either. If this was the way institutions looked for the cure of cancer, we could have stopped trying. However, those doctors and researchers have not given up and because of that, they have made progress, significant progress.

I am certainly not trying to disparage the WHO. However, the actions taken by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are foolish. Censorship is not conducive to a free society. It is a free society that has paid the employees of these “public” forums. But they are not public. They allow some people to use the vilest language and publish the most hateful messages while censoring others dedicated to helping. My sadness is that the law does not even hold the “platform” responsible for that which is published on it. Their censorship is purely political. Legally they cannot be touched. Morally they are contributors to the condition of our current mess.

COVID-19 is a problem. However, the rioting is more of a problem. If you don’t think that the current attempts to erase history create their own form of hell, you haven’t read George Orwell’s 1984.

The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.” (Psalm 89:11, ESV)

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” (Psalm 33:8, ESV)

The nonsense going on today rejects the idea of YHWH, the creator of all things. It rejects the truth of Jesus the Christ for whom all things were made and by whom all things are sustained. It rejects the reality of the Holy Spirit who has given life to all people, and who can take it away at any time. I am not a doomsday prophet, but the world as we know it is coming to a change that is going to be difficult and painful. If America falls, it will only be because those of us who know how to reason, those of us who have diligently read, studied, and hidden the whole counsel of God in our hearts, and those of us who have the responsibility of bringing the Kingdom of the Most High God to the earth have remained silent. We have failed to tell the truth to this world, to our government, to our leaders and their followers, to every human being we are capable of reaching.

I wonder if we in the Church have hidden our light under a bushel. It’s not their fault that they are confused and bitter. It is ours for not loving them with a true love, a love that refuses to back down, a love that reveals the evil in the schemes of mankind. That means all evil whether Republican or Democrat for there is plenty to go around. Whether white of black for there is plenty to go around. It does no good to hate, destroy, kill, and be killed if there is nothing to build after the revolution.

Psalm 49 (ESV)

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

1 Hear this, all peoples!

Give ear, all inhabitants of the world,

2 both low and high,

rich and poor together!

3 My mouth shall speak wisdom;

the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.

4 I will incline my ear to a proverb;

I will solve my riddle to the music of the lyre.

5 Why should I fear in times of trouble,

when the iniquity of those who cheat me surrounds me,

6 those who trust in their wealth

and boast of the abundance of their riches?

7 Truly no man can ransom another,

or give to God the price of his life,

8 for the ransom of their life is costly

and can never suffice,

9 that he should live on forever

and never see the pit.

10 For he sees that even the wise die;

the fool and the stupid alike must perish

and leave their wealth to others.

11 Their graves are their homes forever,

their dwelling places to all generations,

though they called lands by their own names.

12 Man in his pomp will not remain;

he is like the beasts that perish.

13 This is the path of those who have foolish confidence;

yet after them people approve of their boasts. Selah

14 Like sheep they are appointed for Sheol;

death shall be their shepherd,

and the upright shall rule over them in the morning.

Their form shall be consumed in Sheol, with no place to dwell.

15 But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol,

for he will receive me. Selah

16 Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,

when the glory of his house increases.

17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away;

his glory will not go down after him.

18 For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed

—and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—

19 his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,

who will never again see light.

20 Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

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