Category Archives: Truth

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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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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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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From Below

He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” (John 8:23, ESV)

The eight chapter of John applies to us very nicely, in my opinion. It begins with the religious leaders of the day (the self-proclaimed righteous) bringing a woman to Jesus for judgment. He is told that this woman has been caught in adultery. Now they pose a question to Jesus which none of them could possibly answer. This is not because they wanted to know the truth, but because they knew there were only two ways he could answer, and in their thinking, either answer would be wrong.

So, they present the following dilemma to the Lord of heaven and earth: The Law of Moses required that a woman caught in adultery must be stoned (their phasing of the Law, not God’s). So if Jesus refuses to stone her he is supposedly in violation of God’s Law. However, if he does stone her, he is in violation of Roman law. Aha! They’ve got him!

The first flaw with their trap is a legal one. The Law in Deuteronomy and Leviticus demands that the man and the woman who commit adultery together must die (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:20-24). In this accusation, where is the man? Jesus need not do anything without both defendants. Furthermore, we only have the Pharisees word that she was an adulterous woman but there are no legally required two witnesses. Without knowing it (though they should have) the testers have trapped themselves as not really knowing or applying the Law correctly.

Yet Jesus is not one to let a learning moment go by unanswered. Neither does he fall into a debate with those who have already convinced themselves that they are right. So, Jesus drives home his point silently. He bends down and writes on the ground with his finger. No speculation here is warranted. If God wanted us to know what Jesus wrote, it would have been recorded. Whatever it was, the Pharisees demand an answer and continue to badger him with repeating the question over and over.

Thus, Jesus stands back up and gives an answer that no one, not even the woman expected, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Ouch! Not at all what the expected or wanted to hear. Another human foolish testing of God fails. After they all leave, Jesus graciously addresses the woman and gives her forgiveness. Though I am sure the Pharisees didn’t learn their lesson, I believe she learned hers. It’s what Jesus did repeatedly, cast down the proud and lift up the humble.

But that is only the beginning of the chapter, and though I will not spend time on everything worthy of reflection and study, later Jesus addressed the Jews who had heard him teach and believed in him. “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” (John 8:31–32, ESV)

I have heard the last phrase repeated often in religious and non-religious circles. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I first want to note that I lose patience with those who deny God and Christ and who repeatedly quote him as if all of a sudden they believe. Please stop it.

However, those who confess they believe do something I consider far worse. In the first case, unbelievers only reveal their duplicity and hypocrisy. But believers steal a phrase out of context to justify something they want to be true, even if it is not. The freedom of truth is not unconditional. Jesus gives two conditions to knowing the truth: 1) “If you abide in my word,” and 2) you are my disciples.

None of us can or do know truth apart from the Word of God. While Jesus walked this earth, the Word of God included the Scriptures (Old Testament) and himself! (John 1:1) Now, the Word which is Christ is recorded and kept for us today in the New Testament. The easiest way of stating this is, if you want to know truth, you have to know all of God’s word.

The objection I hear to this is that there are many brilliant people who know much about the world through science, math, medicine, and more, who do not believe in the Bible, God, or Christ. You have no argument with me. God has revealed himself in his word from the very beginning: “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3, ESV) The sciences in their purest form are the study of this world that God created. But the recognition of God through the sciences is another matter altogether. Not only can it be done, but it should be done if one is seeking 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.” (Romans 1:19–20, ESV) Paul doesn’t hedge about the truth, “Professing to be wise, they became fools.” Sounds a lot like the Pharisees in John 8.

Any discipline that does not reveal God and Christ is not the fault of the truth but of the one practicing the discipline with a presupposed believe that there is no God or Christ. This is the problem with all public education and in most universities. They start with a denial of God and then claim to be interested in truth. This is in itself a lie.

The second qualification to truth must therefore be emphasized, “you are truly my disciples.” Abiding in the the word means a constant relationship of word to life, and this is what defines being a disciple. A disciple is a follower, one committed to someone or something.

The issue I have with many social justice issues in general and Black Lives Matters in particular is that they are dishonest attempts to find and apply truth. They are dishonest in that they begin with a position that is prejudicial against all other positions. They are dishonest because they are not open to discussion or debate about the idea or the facts used to make their version of the truth win out. They are dishonest because, knowing they do not have truth on their side, they abandon the truth and fall into the fallacy of name calling destroying their opponents and the destruction of their property and lives.

In America today, it is nearly impossible to have intelligent discussions about abortion, traditional marriage, real discrimination, racism, politics and a whole lot more. It is impossible because one side tends to abandon reason, debate, and logic and defer to outbursts, shouting, overbearing accusations, and more. A most obvious example is the failure of our universities which are supposed to be safe havens for seeking and testing truth but have become impenetrable fortresses of one position and one position only. If you disagree with the agenda, there is no room for debate. Worse, if you are on the wrong side, you are not even free to speak.

Many are upset by the destruction of statues, monuments, etc. honoring people who were instrumental in founding and running America. Such destruction is only a symptom of the real problem: they have already destroyed the principles of government established by the greatest of our fore-fathers.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” (The Declaration of Independence)

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (The Constitution of the United States of America)

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Abraham Lincoln~November 19, 1863

We who are of this world will never be able to resolve the issues that face us until we become disciples of he who is from above. Peace only comes from the Prince of Peace.

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