Show No Partiality As You Hold the Faith
"My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment." - James 2:1-13
October 26, 2021
Be Warmed and Filled
"What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead." - James 2:14-17 (ESV)
October 25, 2021
Joe Biden, John Piper, COVID Vaccines, and Freedom
President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. held a townhall with CNN this past week in which he mocked freedom and said as many as one-third of first-responders should be told to stay home or else lose their jobs if they refuse to be fully vaccinated. In other news, Dr. John Piper wrote and published another winning op-ed in which he defended all our freedom to get vaccinated because we are Christians who love people and don't need to prove anything to our conservative friends and families. You need to read the response to Piper by Dr. James White, available here at Not The Bee. "What Piper has missed, badly, is the role these vaccinations play in a much bigger, much more basic movement into a technologically based, chemically and medically controlled secular totalitarianism. That elephant is intent upon staying, and until we are all intent upon removing him from the living room, he will continue to create soul-destroying havoc for all. Oh that John Piper would stop examining the tip of one of his tusks and help us all with the bigger issue." Boom! Roasted. And cue the mic drop.
October 24, 2021
Jeremiah Burroughs and The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment
The grass is nowhere greener than when we submit ourselves humbly and completely to the plans and purposes of Almighty God. Even just in the title of Jeremiah Burroughs 1648 work, The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, we are told that contentment for the Christian is precious and valuable, and that it is uncommon. For my part, reading through this book took five months, nearly to the day, and inspired a great deal of reflection and meditation on what my attitude toward setbacks, disappointments, and trials says about my heart towards God and what I believe about God. There is a great deal of merit to the questions Burroughs asks throughout this work. Am I more fixed on my afflictions or the mercies God shows me? Do I trust that God is holy, wise, good, and gracious toward me, and do I believe God's grace is sufficient for me? Whether the topic is poor health, professional setbacks, economic woes, political turmoil, conflict with people, or uncertainty about what the immediate future holds, I found in reading this book that I have not before grasped the extent to which contentment is closely related to my faith in the character and promises of the Lord. Yet even in the closing remarks Burroughs leaves off with, in some of the final lines of the book he admits that it is easier to preach about contentment than it is to fully grasp and understand contentment. And that, along with assurances we have in God's Word that he gives more grace and his strength is shown perfectly in our weakness, is a great comfort.
October 23, 2021
Heavy on History - Refreshing the Audiobook Queue
From time to time, I clear out the seven books in my audiobook queue to start fresh. When I do, I enjoy thinking about my selections strategically. Do I want to focus on a given subject, or do I want seven diverse subjects which are only related to one another in very tenuous ways? This time around, I have elected to replenish my currently reading Audible titles with a lot of history spanning the past millennium from the Crusades to the present. As I list the titles and give you their summary, I want also to revisit this idea of seeing the connections between seemingly disparate things by intentionally overlapping and overlaying subjects with common threads and themes.
October 22, 2021
Nearly A Decade Working in the Oil and Gas Industry
This coming May will mark 10-years of my working in the Oil & Gas industry. Allow me to share a few lessons learned, particularly for any young bucks thinking of jumping in to get a piece of the high wages and excitement this sector has a reputation for.
October 20, 2021
The Asian Saga by James Clavell
Yesterday marked the conclusion of over 250-hours of listening over probably 4-years of my going through James Clavell's 6-part historical fiction series known as 'The Asian Saga.' Spanning internally the years 1600 to 1979, and set in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Iran by turns, the stories all add up to one thing - a compare and contrast of East and West, and the beauty and horror of what happens when they meet.
October 19, 2021
Do Not Be Anxious About Anything
With so much in flux at present, it is easy to find our understanding taxed. What has recently been, what is now, and what may soon happen - all is complicated and disputed and controversial. Given this and other related facts, Philippians 4 is on my mind this morning, particularly the fourth to seventh verses. "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Note here how Paul says the peace of God surpasses all understanding. That is, the peace of God is better, fuller, richer, and more valuable to us than our own ability to understand in terms of its capacity to guard our hearts and minds. But this introduces another question. What are our hearts and minds being guarded from? For at least one answer, anxiety. Stress, worry, and fear are mind-killers. Discouragement, despair, and depression can make us fruitless and ineffective in living the life of faithful obedience to God and love for one another which is ours in Christ by God's design. And as Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us, "Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life." That is to say, our very lives depend on our hearts and minds being guarded by the peace of God in Christ Jesus. And part of how this happens practically is that we remember in our thinking that "the Lord is at hand." And besides this, we let our requests be made known to God rather than being anxious. Continuing on further into Philippians 4, we see also that what we choose to fix our attention on in life matters. For this reason, Paul instructs thinking on "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise."
October 17, 2021
Carl R. Trueman and The Failure of Evangelical Elites
Concerning the question of the extent to which evangelical Christianity can be made palatable and respectable to mainstream American culture in our day, there is an oft-played out conflict between those on the one hand who want to winsomely get and maintain as much influence by having as little direct conflict as possible, and on the other hand those who insist we must call sinners to repentance all the more the greater their prideful embracing and affirming of those sins. Exploring this subject as excellently as usual is Carl R. Trueman in the November 2021 issue of First Things. In his piece, 'The Failure of Evangelical Elites' Trueman writes: "Let me put it bluntly: Talking in an outraged voice about racism within the boundaries set by the woke culture is an excellent way of not talking about the pressing moral issues on which Christianity and the culture are opposed to each other: LGBTQ+ rights and abortion." And here we come to the crux of the divide between respectable establishment type evangelical Christians and those who are cast into the outer darkness as deplorables. Bitter clingers are we, with our guns and Bibles, believing in Young Earth Creationism and antiquated ideas of right and wrong, truth and falsehood. On the wrong side of history are we, supposing direct confrontation is the only winning strategy sometimes. Meanwhile, the winsome Evanjelly crowd is able to get and secure respectable positions in academia, politics, and publishing companies. But the cost is twofold: for one, they must keep their peace and hold their fire when it comes to the pressing litmus test issues near and dear to the Left; for another, they must pile on in diatribes - usually subtle, but often enough not-so - against professing Christians who are clearer, bolder, and more courageous. Everyone in American Christendom does the cost-benefit analysis. But some of us conclude that friendship with the world is a poor tradeoff for enmity with God, and we conduct ourselves accordingly. Meanwhile, others conclude that removing all the offense from the gospel can somehow make the gospel message and testimony of the Church better, purer, and more fruitful. Trueman finishes up his piece pointedly. "Harkening to Jesus’s words is not an excuse for sloppy scholarship any more than it is an excuse for indifference to injustice and evil. Nor does it justify treating with contempt those with whom we disagree. Christians who act despicably should not complain when they find themselves despised. But Jesus’s warning surely reminds us that we do not need to take our cultural despisers seriously; still less ought we to side with them against those who actually share our faith. Christianity tells the world what it does not wish to hear. We should not expect to be embraced by those whose thoughts and deeds contradict the truths of our faith. Nor should we seek to make our faith more palatable, lest the salt lose its savor." Amen to that.
October 16, 2021
Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther
Having just finished up Martin Luther's 1525 work, 'The Bondage of the Will,' I am struck by the utter lack of concern that father of Protestantism showed for what we would consider good manners in contending for what he held to be good doctrine. Today we play more pattycake than contending, it seems. But Luther was operating in a very different context, and it is important to mark his bravery in taking his life in his hands disagreeing not a little but a lot and at-length with the Roman Catholic status quo. There is no doubting his erudition and eloquence, nor his boldness. Yet I wonder if he got a little carried away sometimes, and whether his legacy would have been more helpful had he moderated his tone a little. Nevertheless, tedious questions of tone aside, it is hard to disagree with the force of ferocity of Luther's arguments from the Scriptures and from reason regarding God's Sovereign choice versus what so often is called "free will." Does man have this thing? Can he, even? Or must God get all the credit for man having any ability to choose whatsoever, and is that how we must make sense of what the Word says about predestination, election, foreknowledge, and forechoosing on God's part? More because of the strength of Luther's reputation and reasoning than despite them, I am still trying to decide what to make of these things in their particular mechanics and detail. Nevertheless, reading Luther is food for thought which I would recommend to any serious scholar of church history or this question of man's ability to choose.
October 14, 2021
Flying Dinosaurs and What Counts As Imposing
Dovetailing off my last episode, #227 - 'Preparing Our Children to Defend Against Atheism,' let's read some comments left by listeners yesterday and respond to them a bit more fully.
October 12, 2021
Preparing Our Children to Defend Against Atheism
My neighbor two houses down, JP Chavez was recently listening to a different podcast in which William Lane Craig was being reacted to. There was a video clip of Craig – a Christian apologist with a more formally academic and philosophical type bend – being asked about the first eleven chapters of Genesis, and Craig was doubting that the first part of Genesis is to be taken as literally true. The striking thing the reactors pointed out was Craig’s tone, and that he seemed to be trying to appease atheists in academia who point to things like the first eleven chapters of Genesis as why they can’t take the Bible seriously. Science has allegedly debunked the claims about origins made in the Bible, et cetera. Now it does seem as though that kind of atheism isn’t quite as prevalent these days compared with years ago. But there are at least two kinds of atheists. The first kind of atheist I would call the scientific atheist. In this camp belong those who say that modern Science has debunked the claims of the Bible, therefore we must reject the Bible and God as invalid. The second kind of atheist I would call the moral atheist. And in this category are those who say that the God of the Bible is a villain, and that those who believe in God and the Bible are oppressed and oppressive by virtue of their faith. The question JP asks is this, if he will forgive me for paraphrasing him: 'Which kind of atheism do we need to spend more of our time and energy trying to equip our kids to defend against?'
October 10, 2021
Topical or expository - which type of preaching is better? This was among the chief topics of discussion this past week in one of the private message groups I am a part of. In the course of the discourse, from the comments of the other men engaged, and from pondering privately to myself, it seems there is some overlap. On the one hand, every expository message has a topic - even when a sermon is part of a series going through a book of the Bible. The topic just so happens to be chosen by the text itself. On the other hand, even every topical sermon should be expository - literally exposing the original intent of meaning in the passages considered. The question then seems to be one of where the emphasis is placed. And as with so many other subjects, what we stress as of chief and primary importance does in the end turn out to make a great difference. Being overly simplistic, we may be tempted to look at these sorts of things as being either one way or the other rather than both ways. But the challenge is in holding these two things in our hand at the same time in the proper proportion and relationship to one another. And the struggle is the glory.
October 9, 2021
What goes into making silence awkward sometimes?
October 8, 2021
Charlemagne by Johannes Fried
Exactly four months ago, I started Johannes Fried's biography of Charlemagne, the man often referred to as "the father of Europe." Yesterday I finished the work. The man, if not his treatment by Fried, reminded me of Constantine the Emperor by David Potter. And it makes sense to consider these two emperors together. In both Constantine and Charlemagne, we have heads of state who endeavor to combine Christian Church and the governing of the state in ways which stand out in history as transformative. Their legacies echo through the centuries, even though their ways of thinking about themselves and their roles seem so foreign to us in our modern, Progressive, secular humanist context. But it would be overly simplistic to project too much on the likes of Charlemagne from our current mode of thinking and organizing. While it may be inescapable that we interpret him through the hindsight of twelve-hundred-years, we should take care to not throw babies out with bathwater, or relegate his aspiring Christian governance to shrewd political calculation and self-promotion. Charlemagne thought very differently about his responsibilities as king and emperor in large part due to the influence of Augustine's City of God. Moreover, the situation facing Charlemagne was like that which confronted Constantine, one where violent and depraved pagans threatened Christendom with not secularism but a form of rule informed and guided by cruel, capricious, and merciless mythologies. "The father of Europe" was not faced with a choice between sophisticated secularism on the one hand or Christian theocracy on the other - not with Viking raids from the north and Muslim conquests to the south. Moreover, we do well to consider what else a Christian ruler could have done in those circumstances. Perhaps even our forebears saw matters more clearly than we do in our day. When threats from communist China and radical Islam still threaten us, our leaders slough them off on the presumption that godlessness in the West will prevail due to technological superiority, or some innate supremacy in renouncing religion. What if Charlemagne had the right of it, though? At least in some important ways, though certainly not all respects, I think he did. Nature abhors a vacuum, and Charlemagne understood this in light of a Christian faith which was sometimes of questionable sincerity and certain imperfection. And we for our part would be wise to study him to glean lessons from an large-scale attempt to apply Augustine to the task of ruling a people.
October 7, 2021
Where Rights and Responsibilities Intersect
When we find that our freedoms are being challenged and curtailed at every level these days, the cost of objecting comes readily to mind. Too seldom do we consider also the cost of not objecting. To insist on retaining our God-given rights is not conceited or selfish. Rather, in order to fulfill our responsibilities before God, we must retain our rights. The two - rights and responsibilities - are intimately and inseparably codependent.
October 6, 2021
Will Durant and The Life of Greece
Having just finished The Story of Civilization, Volume 2 by Will Durant this week, let's talk about The Life of Greece. Did the Jews make up Ecclesiastes as a way of keeping up with the Greeks and their philosophy? Durant says they did. But the fact that Durant claims such is borne of what C.S. Lewis calls "chronological snobbery," as well as a bias to invalidate the truth of God's Word. If only the self-impressed scholars of the last century would concede that their framework for understanding the ancient past is an impediment. Perhaps then they would be able to consider alternative theories to the prevailing view that the Bible is borrowed from greater, richer, more sophisticated neighbors of the Jews, the Hebrews, and the ancient Israelites. Why can it not be that what we read in God's Word actually happened? And why can it not be that the borrowing and modifying happened in the opposite way to what the likes of Durant suppose? If all ancient mythologies have some kind of global flood myth which resembles the account of Noah in Genesis, it is not the Jews who borrowed from everyone else. Nor is it self-evident that some committedly secular psychological explanation accounts for a bug in the human subconscious which gave rise to such stories in diverse places. We would be wiser to suppose that if all the ancients pointed more or less to events at the outset of human history, something actually happened which they all have some vaguer or clearer memory of. And what if rather than the Greeks borrowing from the Jews, the wisest of the Greeks were like those the Apostle Paul encountered on Mars Hill as having an altar dedicated to "the unknown god"? The truth is that the truth being sought more fully, yet still in some measure of futility, by the Greeks, and later by the Romans, compared with other peoples, was used by the Most High God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to prepare the world for the arrival of the Messiah through God's chosen people Israel, and that the conditions were by design prepared beforehand for the gospel to go forth to all nations at that time.
October 3, 2021
Ron Paul Institute YouTube Channel Accidents
Yesterday, within the course of a day, the Ron Paul Institute YouTube Channel was deleted from the platform. An appeal was made, but automatically rejected. No explanation was given other than "severe or repeated violations of our community guidelines." Dr. Ron Paul, elected to Congress a dozen times, took to Twitter to ask for help. So Chris Pandolfo writes for The Blaze a follow-up story - 'YouTube says Ron Paul Institute's channel was removed by 'mistake,' is now reinstated.' Funny how these "mistakes" never happen to Democrats or those on the political Left in this country.
October 1, 2021
Let No One Despise You for Your Youth
The Apostle Paul's letters to his younger disciple Timothy have been on my mind a lot in recent months. In this episode, I want to ponder and explore a selection from the first epistle to Timothy. 1 Timothy 4:12-16 reads, "Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers." As for many young Christians, this passage has been an encouragement to me since my late teens and early twenties. And it reminds me of Elihu from the book of Job. In Job 32:1-6, we find this gem. "So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, burned with anger. He burned with anger at Job because he justified himself rather than God. He burned with anger also at Job's three friends because they had found no answer, although they had declared Job to be in the wrong. Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger. And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered..." I would encourage you to read the totality of Elihu's remarks in Job. And see if you can find in what follows them when God steps into the narrative to answer Job any rebuke of Elihu for all of what he says or how he comports himself. I could not when I was a young Christian man, married with children in my early twenties a decade-and-a-half ago. That is why Lauren and I named our second son Elihu. Taken together with what Paul tells Timothy, we find that older men are not always wiser for their years. And younger men not only can serve as a good example to all - including older men. They ought to, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. This can lead to conflict. And sometimes when older men feel threatened or challenged by younger men - even just by their example - they act out in confusing and irrational ways. But this is all the more why we do well to heed the wisdom of Proverbs 22:1. "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold."
September 30, 2021
On Whether Perception Is Reality
I have always hated the phrase "perception is reality." Similar to "the customer is always right," it is too flattering, and too easily turns into an excuse to take the path of least resistance when mishandled. Yes, to a certain extent, we can cultivate and shape perception. And we have a responsibility to be clear in communicating in all the ways we possibly can the truth. So if we have been careless about giving the wrong impression, a reminder of the need to rectify that is appropriate. But what worries me is that we all are too content with our perceptions - or moreover feelings - going unchallenged. We are too addicted to being entertained, and quickly. And when all of this is combined with believing that most people are inherently good, that truth is subjective and ultimately unknowable, what we get in the end is a recipe for everyone affirming everyone else's unreality until the jig is up and we destroy ourselves. What would be nearer the truth and healthier would be to say that our initial impressions of a person, place, or thing certainly inform how we perceive additional information as it comes in. But also, we need to grant that a lot of factors can contribute to a poor first impression. This is to say nothing of confirmation bias and groupthink, or the tendency of some people to claim their perception is such and such as a way of masking their real agenda and motives. But all the same, and considering all these things, we as Christians do well to look to the example of Jesus. How much responsibility did Jesus take for the perceptions - or perceived perceptions, if you want to get even deeper - of the teachers of the Law? He confronted them, and warned the crowds about them who came out to hear him teach and to see him heal and forgive. Jesus said they had eyes but did not see, and had ears but did not hear, and that they heard and saw without understanding, all the while claiming they understood. Whether anyone approached Jesus and told him "the perception is" in so many words, Christ did handle that same tendency in the more wishy-washy among us to placate when we should contradict. Sometimes similarly that is what we too must do if we are to fear and obey God rather than men.
September 29, 2021
Why We Beat Around the Bush and How to Stop
"Stop beating around the bush, and just say what you mean." In our current social and political circumstance, this feels harder than ever. People are too easily offended, and the truth is not rightly understood or prioritized. Cancel culture would have us all bowing and scraping and praying to the mob to not destroy our careers and social lives. But the truth must enjoy an unwavering commitment from Christians because we serve and worship a God who commands such. Moreover, Christ our Savior calls himself not only true in some general sense, but "the Truth." Like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah in the Old Testament book of Daniel, we can in our day expect to be plotted against, resented, and persecuted for excellence in word and deed. Yet there is a God in Heaven who sees and rewards those who faithfully serve him, and those who are unwavering in their obedience to the Most High will never be put to shame.
September 28, 2021
Ministry of Reconciliation
"All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." - 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (ESV) This is a direct consequence of the gospel. And reconciliation is predicated on at least one party having been sinned against, and at least one party having sinned against the other. In the case of the macro level gospel message, God is the one sinned against, and we are the sinners who have transgressed the holy standard of conduct. Put another way, we have loved him poorly or not at all. And in having failed to love the Lord as due, the gift of salvation is entirely about God having extended the olive branch to those who were his enemies to make them right - to restore and reconcile us to God in Christ. This being the macro, the implications are inescapable. When we are sinned against and have opportunity to forgive wrongs, we do not only have the option to forgive as we have been forgiven. We have a duty. After all, this is the ministry that has been given to us in Christ - the ministry of reconciliation.
September 28, 2021
Lt. Colonel George F McFarland, 151st Pennsylvania
Lt. Colonel George F. McFarland, my great-great-great grandfather, commanded the 151st Pennsylvania at the Battle of Gettysburg, successfully defending the vulnerable left flank against attack by numerically superior forces from North Carolina long enough to allow for an orderly withdrawal of the First Corps under General Abner Doubleday. As General Doubleday would later attest, "At Gettysburg, they won, under the brave McFarland, an imperishable fame. They defended the left front of the First Corps against vastly superior numbers; covered its retreat against the overwhelming masses of the enemy at the Seminary, west of the town, and enabled me, by their determined resistance, to withdraw the Corps in comparative safety. This was on the first day. In the crowning charge of the third day of the battle, the shattered remnants of the 151st Pennsylvania [...] flung themselves upon the front of the rebel column […] I believe they saved the First Corps, and were among the chief instruments to save the Army of the Potomac, and the country from unimaginable disaster.” To read more of the story, I recommend this article by Marcie Schwartz at The American Battlefield Trust titled 'Trading Rulers for Rifles: The Schoolteachers Regiment: The Story of the 151st Pennsylvania.' Lt. Colonel McFarland was severely wounded in both his legs on that first day of Gettysburg. One of his legs was amputated below the knee as a result, and the other one was permanently disabled though he kept it. The 151st Pennsylvania meanwhile suffered a 72% casualty rate, and the two regiments from North Carolina they squared off against - the 26th and 11th - suffered the first and second greatest total losses of any regiment during the Battle of Gettysburg. That is to say, "The Schoolteacher's Regiment" gave as good or better than they got, despite holding the Union left flank. Due to the heavy losses, the 151st Pennsylvania was mustered out and sent home after the battle. And if that had been the end of George McFarland - holding the line to save the First Corps, the Army of the Potomac, and the Union - that would have been quite enough. But that was not the end of McFarland. After going home, James 1:27 may have been on the good professor's mind, where we read that "religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." Returning to the McAlisterville Academy in Juniata County, Pennsylvania, where he had been the principal prior to raising a company of schoolteachers to form Company D of the 151st, McFarland converted the school into McAlisterville Soldier's Orphan School, and founded a printing company and a nursery. "During this same time, the Pennsylvania Legislature, after many debates passed an act accepting from the Pennsylvania Railroad $50,000 given for the “education and maintenance of destitute orphan children of deceased soldiers and sailors”. The following November of 1864, the academy, at the request of Dr. Burrowes, newly appointed as Superintendent of Soldiers’ Orphans, became the first soldiers’ orphan school effective November 3, 1864." The point of telling you all of this is two-fold: For one, I am fascinated and mesmerized by my ancestor, and I enjoy reading and talking about him. But for another thing, I am struck by what an outsized influence one man can have when he endeavors to take a stand in mind, body, and soul. And even once his legs are shot out from under him, a man can still do great good by not giving up on the purpose of his life.
September 26, 2021
Do Nothing From Selfish Ambition or Conceit
In the ongoing pursuit of being transformed by the renewing of our minds in Christ Jesus rather than conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, I turn now to the question of selfish ambition. What is conceit except for supposing that we are the center of the universe, and that everyone and everything revolves around us? The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Philippi in the second chapter and the third and fourth verses, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Elsewhere, the Lord directs us to "be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." But when in the practice of fearing God rather than fearing men, those around us feel confused and even intimidated by the effectiveness of keeping our heads and maintaining our integrity, we may find ourselves in sticky situations. And as we try to balance being both wise to the schemes of others and also blameless before the Almighty with soberly avoiding anything which might be construed as selfish ambition or conceit, we will find that this is easier said than done. Yet there does seem to be a clarifying detail in that we are told to look to the interests of others. And in that is our test. Are we imitating Christ who sometimes answered entrapping questions with revealing questions of his own? Yet are we imitating the humble obedience to God the Father even where it meant suffering at the hands of wicked, unjust men? If we are, then we can have a good conscience. And are we operating out of a genuine love for those around us - even sometimes our tormenters when we are being tormented? That may not be all smiles and handshakes and "Good mornings" when they are sinning against us. But even where we may confront them, if our motivation is their ultimate good and well-being, then we are free and can have peace in our own minds and hearts. Admittedly, again, it is a tricky thing to be wise as serpents while also doing nothing from selfish ambition. The world would tempt us to strike down Darth Vader only to become the Emperor's next disciple. But Star Wars metaphors aside, a firm reliance on the good Lord coupled with a ready willingness to wait on him and acknowledge him in all our ways will not see us put to shame.
September 25, 2021
Why a Good God Would Allow for Evil and Suffering
The Old Testament book of Job starts with a conversation between God and Satan in which the Lord calls attention to his servant Job. “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8) In what follows, Satan accuses Job of only worshipping God because of all the good things God has given him. God has blessed him, giving him a beautiful family, status, wealth, and health. If not for these blessings, Satan says Job would curse God openly. God next grants permission to Satan to take everything from Job so long as he does not touch his person directly. Before the first chapter is concluded, Job loses his livestock, his servants, and his children. He is distraught, and he mourns. When Job gets the news from three servants in rapid succession that they alone escaped to tell him of these disasters, Job stands up and proceeds to tear his robe and shave his head. But then he falls to the ground and worships God. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return. Yahweh gave, and Yahweh has taken away. Blessed be the name of Yahweh.” (Job 1:21) In the second chapter, Satan attacks Job’s health. And we see a repeat of the scene from the first chapter. God again highlights the righteousness of Job. And again, Satan claims Job will curse God to his face if God removes his blessings – this time keying in on the hypothetical of taking Job’s health away. As with the first time around, God gives Satan permission to test the genuineness of the faith of the Lord’s servant. The only limitation is that Satan is not allowed to kill Job. So Job is struck with sores from head to foot. Next thing you know, Job’s wife is bitterly challenging him. “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:9-10) As a point of speculation more than revelation, I wonder if Job’s wife thought to herself that her husband cursing God and dying would bring an end to their troubles. Maybe she wanted the easy way out. God Reframes The Question Job 38:1-7 (ESV) "Then Yahweh answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"
September 21, 2021
How To Disagree Agreeably
The art of disagreeing agreeably seems lost on most in our day and age. Even to use the word "argument" is taken one way - as describing fighting, bickering, quarreling, and contention. If you do not believe me, you may be living under a rock or on another planet. But if you have access to the internet on that other planet or under that rock, do a quick image search on any search engine for "argument," and that will tell you all you need to know about how most folks understand the term now. But there is an older sense of the word which has everything to do with making a proposal using evidence, reason, and respect. As Merriam-Webster puts it in the first definition - and the one I prefer - an argument is "the act or process of arguing, reasoning, or discussing : ARGUMENTATION; b: a coherent series of reasons, statements, or facts intended to support or establish a point of view." Toward the end of MAGA - Make Arguments Great Again - consider Proverbs 9:7-9. "Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning." Perhaps it should be a relief to us to have not only permission but a command here to not correct scoffers and mockers. To tell a wicked man he is being wicked will inspire him to hurt, abuse, curse, and injure you however he can to dissuade you from doing it again. Correcting wise and good men, however, earns their respect. They will love and thank you for it. And why? Because by being corrected clearly and effectively when they need to be, you give them an opportunity to be wiser and better men.
September 13, 2021
In the third chapter of the Old Testament book of Isaiah, we read a number of things which will never be expressed in Veggie Tales, flannelgraphs, or Illustrated Children's Bibles. For one, the Lord God says he is taking away support and supply from Jerusalem and Judah because they have embraced their sin and flaunted their sin, "defying his glorious presence." Included in the list of things which will no longer be stocked are the following: bread water the mighty man the soldier the judge the prophet the diviner the elder the captain of fifty the man of rank the counselor the skillful magician the expert in charms What the people will get instead is a lot of chaos, confusion, and oppression. "My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths." It is telling here that infants oppressing the people is a sign of judgment. To be oppressed by infants is indicative of spiritual and moral decay, and a loss of the strength of character and qualities which are required to be a good parent and see children as a blessing instead of a curse. Furthermore, to say that women rule over a people reveals that men have grown weak and feckless, and no longer lead their families and homes, much less their communities and nation. By contrast, God tells us that marriage and children are to be a blessing. And we can take comfort in the tenth verse of the third chapter of Isaiah where we are promised, "Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds." In days like these, when America seems ripe for judgment - and moreover, when one could argue with merit that we are seeing evidence of already being under judgment - we do well to acquaint ourselves with passages like Isaiah 3, and to ponder the implications of righteousness for the individual, family, community, city, state, and nation. By God's grace, may we be found faithful in that day. And may it be well with us to the end of eating the fruit of our deeds.
September 12, 2021
Lincoln's Last Trial by Dan Abrams and David Fisher
Just having finished up Lincoln's Last Trial: The Murder Case That Propelled Him to the Presidency by Dan Abrams and David Fisher, I am struck by another thing. For one, Lincoln was a fine lawyer and a great man. For another, the right of self-defense is a tried and true principle of jurisprudence which endures through the ages. When a larger man publicly threatens repeatedly to whip you with the help of his friends, then stomp your face, you can be forgiven for keeping a weapon on your person and being prepared to use it in defense of your person. That is something of the lesson we should take away from the last murder trial Lincoln presided over as a defense attorney. And it is worth noting that Lincoln had something of a reputation for only taking up cases he believed in for clients he could in good conscience plead the case of. I might personally go a step beyond to say that I wonder in reading this how this last case impressed on the man who would be our nation's 16th president the justice and even necessity to defending with manly vigor life and limb when pressed, even as he came to wield in due time authority over a nation which faced an existential crisis from a class and culture of people in the South who would rather see the country torn in two than give up their superiority to some men they regarded as so many cattle. Dare I say it, we find ourselves in a similar predicament in our day - or we may shortly.
September 11, 2021