We Can’t Control COVID (Or Much of Anything Else)

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We Can’t Control COVID (Or Much of Anything Else)

In early March, the University of California San Francisco held a panel discussion of infectious disease specialists on a new virus that had, at that point, killed 41 Americans. These experts not only estimated that 60 to 70 percent of America’s population would eventually contract the virus, but that our best attempts to contain it, either through lockdowns or contact tracing, would be, in their words, “basically futile.”…

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Devotional Thought for Today – 12/02/2020

John Newton quote: Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very  clearly...

Something different today, last night in a meeting my cellphone went off (I know bad boy) my ring tone is bagpipes playing Amazing Grace and that reminded me of it’s author John Newton.

Newton story is an amazing one he truly was a great sinner saved by an even Greater Savior. Here are a couple other of my favorite quotes of his: 

“But that we are so totally depraved, is a truth which no one ever truly learned by being only told it.”

“From the time we know the Lord, and are bound to him by the cords of love and gratitude — the two chief points we should have in our view, I apprehend, are, to maintain communion with him in our own souls, and to glorify him in the sight of men.”

“This is faith: a renouncing of everything we are apt to call our own and relying wholly upon the blood, righteousness and intercession of Jesus.”

Here is a link I hope you will enjoy:

“Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound …” – John Newton, William Wilberforce, & the fight to end slavery in the British Empire

Devotional Thought for Today – 11/30/2020

Unshakeable | Clean Your Inner House - With Dr. Mary

AMP and RVR 1960


CONTEXT: In this psalm of confidence (expressing faith in God), the psalmist trusts that God will preserve him in a time of distress. He begins by expressing his confidence in God, who he describes as his rock and salvation (vv. 1–2). He then addresses his enemies and describes their wickedness (vv. 3–4) before reiterating his trust in God (vv. 5–7). He encourages the congregation to put their trust in God as well (v. 8), warning them not to trust in people or in riches (vv. 9–10). The psalmist concludes by showing his confidence in God by noting God’s promises (vv. 11–12).   – FaithLife Study Bible 

v.6 He only is my rock and my salvation; My fortress and my defense, I will not be shaken or discouraged.  is basically a repeat of v.2. If you remember anything from school anytime a teacher repeated themselves it was usually important (and on a test). While this may not be testable in that sense it is very important. for David is making the declaration that there is only one true God and he has and will continue to put all his trust and confidence in Him alone. 

He only is my rock and my salvation. Alone, and without other help, God is the foundation and completion of my safety. We cannot too often hear the toll of that great bell only; let it ring the death knell of all carnal reliances, and lead us to cast ourselves on the bare arm of God. He is my defence. Not my defender only, but my actual protection. I am secure, because he is faithful. I shall not be moved –not even in the least degree. See how his confidence grows. In the second verse an adverb qualified his quiet; here, however, it is absolute; he altogether defies the rage of his adversaries, he will not stir an inch, nor be made to fear even in the smallest degree. A living faith grows; experience develops the spiritual muscles of the saint, and gives a manly force which our religious childhood has not yet reached. – C.H. Spurgeon

Reader, do not fail to remark how quickly the soul of the faithful returns again to the God of his confidence. We may spare a moment to admonish the ungodly, but our own joy must not be long broken in upon; we are to hold fast, and, like the dove of Noah, return back to the ark, even Christ Jesus, the sole joy of our salvation. And, Reader, do observe further, how the expressions of this holy confidence are repeated, and with every pleasing variety, that may denote the comfort of the heart. Pause, and ask yourself, Are such views of Christ, your views of him? Do you know him in those covenant characters? Is Jesus your rock, your salvation, your defense? – Hawker’s Poor Man’s Commentary Psalms 62 v.5-7

Advent in a Time of COVID

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Advent in a Time of COVID

What “Jesus is Lord” Really Means

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Black Friday will be different this year, thanks to COVID-19. Instead of a single day of sleep-deprived consumers trampling security guards for flatscreen TV’s, it’s more a couple weeks of online over-marketing. While the presumed decrease in physical violence is certainly an improvement, the additional appeals to fill the voids in our hearts and minds with material goods isn’t…

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Devotional Thought for Today – 11/25/2020

10+ Dietrich Bonhoeffer ideas | bonhoeffer, dietrich bonhoeffer, dietrich

What led Dietrich Bonhoeffer to prison and writing about “stupid people?” The story begins back in 1933 with the rise of the Nazi party beginning back in 1930 and culminating with Hitler becoming supreme ruler in 1934.  By 1937 all pretense of civility in government had vanished (government officials decided they could better “handle the affairs of the people, sound familiar) and clergy like Bonhoeffer were told to get on board with the Nazi party platform or else.  Bonhoeffer chose the or else and in 1945 was executed.


PSALM 58

A Psalm of Judgment or of Vengeance? 


CONTEXT: 

In response to the Nazi party arresting key church leaders in 1937 Bonhoeffer preached a sermon on Psalm 58 immediately following their arrests. One fact I found interesting was Bonhoeffer a Lutheran pastor did not have Psalm 58 in his Lutheran book of liturgy as it was considered a Psalm of Vengeance and therefore something not to be recited and considered.  

Bonhoeffer was never one to be deterred and ever mindful of the event and evil around him chose Psalm 58 to call upon God not for hateful Vengeance but Righteous Judgement. He made clear that the Psalm calls us to leave vengeance in the hands of God. This he did at Calvary, and Righteous Judgement which is all we can ask for those that oppress us  is God’s work, not ours. Bonhoeffer made this clear for his own church under Nazi oppression:

 

It would mean much if we would learn that we must earnestly pray to God in such distress and that whoever entrusts revenge to God dismisses any thought of ever taking revenge himself. Whoever does take revenge himself still does not know whom he is up against and still wants to take charge of the cause by himself. But whoever leaves revenge in God’s hands alone has become willing to suffer and bear it patiently-without vengeance, without a thought of one’s own revenge, without hate and without protest; such a person is meek, peaceable, and loves his enemies. God’s cause has become more important to him than his own sufferings. He knows God will win the victory in the end. “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will retaliate” (Deut. 32:35)-and he will retaliate. But we are free from vengeance and retribution. Only the person who is totally free of his own desire for revenge and free of hate and who is sure not to use his prayers to satisfy his own lust for revenge-only such a person can pray with a pure heart: ‘Shatter the fangs of the young lions, O Lord, break the teeth in their mouth’.

What a prayer what a blessing to be able to stand before God some day and have Him declare  My cause was more important to you than your own sufferings.  How are you handling adversity today? 


Bonhoeffer’s Sermon on Psalm 58¹

In his sermon on Psalm 58, Bonhoeffer comments that this particular “psalm of vengeance is the prayer of the innocent.”33  Who are the innocent?  Following his strict view of prayer, Bonhoeffer answers this question: “we sinners do not pray this psalm of vengeance, innocence alone prays with this psalm.”34  What, or whom, is this “innocence alone”?  Bonhoeffer reasons that the “innocence of Christ steps before the world and accuses it.  And when Christ accuses the world of sin, are we not ourselves also among the accused?”35  We find answers to these questions in Bonhoeffer’s verse-by-verse commentary of Psalm 58.

          Psalm 58:1 – “Are you then dumb, that you will not speak what is right, and judge the children of men with equity?”  Bonhoeffer focuses upon the word, “children,” and equates the meaning of children in this verse with “the poor and afflicted.”  He does not perform a logic of substitution; he thinks that the verse means children, but it also involves “the poor and afflicted.”  He understands the lack of “equity” as forms of injustice, and all forms of injustice lead to (what he calls) “an evil time.”  In this “evil time,” the unjust remain silent in the face of their own inequities/injustices.  Because the children – the poor and afflicted – are children of God, then God becomes vengeful toward the unjust.36

          Psalm 58:2 – “No; you devise evil in your hearts, and your hands deal out violence in the land.”  Bonhoeffer argues that political authorities tend toward silence concerning injustice while simultaneously continuing acts of violence.  While the rest of us blame political authorities for this problem, all of us are at fault because we continue in our sinful human nature.  The innocence of Christ means that all of us stand under God’s judgment.37

          Psalm 58:3 – “The wicked are perverse from the womb; liars go astray from their birth.”  Bonhoeffer contrasts “the wicked” from the category of innocence, and he explains how innocence responds to “the wicked.”  He claims that only innocence grasps the dark mysteries of the world; only innocence understands how Satan takes hold of human beings in the womb, even before our births; and in “this abyss of understanding,” innocence alone “achieves perfect peace.”  Bonhoeffer’s interpretive strategy for this verse involves making his own contrast between the innocent and the wicked and then commenting upon what innocence achieves and accomplishes in relation to the results of the wicked.  There are two ways to take Bonhoeffer’s interpretive strategy.  First, we might make the judgment that Bonhoeffer misinterprets the verse – that he is not careful exegetically – because he comments upon his forced or invented distinction rather than the content and words of the verse.  Alternatively, we might recognize that Bonhoeffer interprets this difficult verse in light of the virtue of hope.  The verse, on its own, welcomes despair.  Bonhoeffer does not counter the content of the verse; rather, for purposes of a Christian sermon, he displays hopefulness in his act of interpretation.38

          Psalm 58:4 & 5 – “They are venomous as a serpent, they are like the deaf adder which stops its ears, which does not heed the voice of the charmer, no matter how skillful his charming.”  Bonhoeffer’s explanation of these two verses is quite simple: he argues that these verses prove that no human craft or skill can defeat the serpent.  The only practice that humans have that works is the act of prayer.  Through prayer, we call upon God “to take vengeance against the enemies.”39

          Psalm 58:6 – “O God, break their teeth in their mouths; pull the fangs of the young lions, O Lord.”  According to Bonhoeffer, once we call upon the vengeance of God, we necessarily renounce our own quest for vengeance.  How do we know that we seek God’s vengeance and not our own vengeance?  Bonhoeffer writes, “the [person] who consigns vengeance to God alone is prepared to suffer and to endure, without a thought of [their] own revenge, without hatred or recrimination.”  This person becomes “gentle in spirit, peaceable, loving the enemy.”40   

          Psalm 58:7-9 – “Let them vanish like water that runs off; let the arrows they aim break into two.  Let them be like the snail that melts away, like stillborn child that sees the sun.  Before they bear fruit, let them be cut down like a brier; like the thorns and thistles let them be swept away.”  How do we know that the vengeance is God’s and not ours?  Our human strategies and weapons will not work in the ways that we craft and plan.  If we do not fight our enemies in the ways that we arrange and desire, then “God’s anger will not allow the plans of his enemies to come to fruition.”  The “wicked will be swept away with force.” The force might be implemented through us, but it will be “God’s punishment.”41  Lastly, it will come about “more quickly than we anticipate” with our own military strategies and weapons.42

          Psalm 58:10 – “The righteous will be glad when they see the vengeance; they will bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked.”  Interpreting this verse invites immoderate celebration in victory (what we call jus post bellum, standards of justice after war), as well as different forms of self-deception concerning justice and righteousness.  Bonhoeffer’s interpretation attempts to hold off both of these temptations.  He writes, “This [verse] concerns God and his righteousness only.  The wicked must die so that God’s righteousness may triumph.  This does not have to do with human friendship and human compassion.  It has to do only with God maintaining the victory.”  At this point in his interpretation, Bonhoeffer turns to a robust Christological reading of Psalm 58: “God’s righteous vengeance on the wicked has already been achieved.  The blood of the wicked has already flowed.  God’s judgment on death upon godless humanity has been spoken.  God’s righteousness is fulfilled on the cross of Christ.”  He continues, “Jesus Christ died the death of the godless; he was stricken by God’s wrath and vengeance.  His blood is the blood which God’s righteousness required for the transgression of his commandments.  God’s vengeance has been carried out in the midst of the earth in a manner more fearful than even this psalm knows about.  Christ, the innocent, died the death of the wicked, so that we need not die.”  Bonhoeffer concludes his interpretation of this verse with the claim: “Christ bore the whole vengeance of God for all.” For Bonhoeffer, a Christological interpretation of this psalm prevents the self-deception of thinking that we are “the righteous” who “will be glad when they see the vengeance.”  All of humanity remain in the category of “the wicked,” and Jesus Christ – “the innocent” – dies for “the wicked.”  While humanity ought to be glad, through gratitude toward the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, our gladness does not come from our own righteousness.  Instead, it comes from the recognition that even in our wickedness, Jesus Christ died for us.43              

          Psalm 58:11 – “And they will say, ‘Surely, there is a reward for the righteous; surely, there is a God who rules in the earth’.”  Bonhoeffer maintains his Christological interpretation of this verse and says that when we find ourselves doubting “God’s righteousness upon [the] earth,” we should “look upon the cross of Christ: [where] there is judgment, there is pardon.”  Bonhoeffer returns to the question of how this psalm becomes a prayer that Christians must declare and recite.  He writes, “Christ prays this psalm as our representative.  He accuses the wicked, he calls down upon them God’s vengeance and his righteousness, and he gives himself for all the wicked in his innocent suffering on the cross.”  He continues, “And now we too pray this psalm with him, in humble thanks that we have been granted deliverance from wrath through the cross of Christ; in the fervent plea that God will bring all of our enemies under the cross of Christ and grant them grace; in the burning desire that the day may soon come in which Christ visibly triumphs over his enemies and establishes his kingdom.  Thus have we learned to pray this psalm.”44  If Christians believe in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on the cross, then they should pray this psalm, and the psalms of vengeance in general.  Our own insecurities and self-deception prevent us from praying these psalms in our liturgies and our prayer books, because these Psalms bluntly and honestly remind us of “who we are,” who Christ is, and what Christ accomplishes for us.45

¹ = THE JOURNAL OF SCRIPTURAL REASONING

The War on Thanksgiving (and other resources)

The War on Thanksgiving

The War on Thanksgiving

Will Americans still be celebrating Thanksgiving 100 years from now?

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims’ arrival in America. The moment, which deserved wider recognition, was celebrated in an excellent speech by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

“A great American anniversary is upon us,” Cotton said on Nov. 18. “Regrettably, we haven’t heard much about this anniversary of the Mayflower; I suppose the Pilgrims have fallen out of favor in fashionable circles these days. I’d therefore like to take a few minutes to reflect on the Pilgrim story and its living legacy for our nation.”

Cotton delivered a fitting tribute to the Pilgrims and their story of faith and perseverance, which is so intertwined with the Thanksgiving holiday and the values we cherish most.

Perhaps predictably, the speech was attacked by media outlets and Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who hurled an ad hominem attack at Cotton on Twitter...

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OTHER RESOURCES AND NEWS:

Devotional Thought For Today – 11/20/2020

Psalm 52: A Prayer for District 52 – HRA 18AMP and RVR 1960

Olive Tree in the House of God? 


CONTEXT: This Psalm was written during the events described in 1 Samuel 21 & 22.  David having fled from Saul, came to Ahimelech the priest at Nob, and desired bread and a sword of him, (unawares of his true identity) which were given him. Doeg the Edomite being present at the same time was a unscrupulous fellow and when the opportunity arose he came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech. Of course Saul quickly accused all in the house of Ahimelech of aiding and abetting David. When Saul’s guard refused to kill off the house of Ahimelech, Doeg quickly stepped up and did the dirty deed.  In response David pens this passionate expression of grief.

There are only 9 verses in this very powerful Psalm all worthy of reading and repeating but I will comment on only a few:

v.1 Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?  Just an observation but did you ever notice that the most evil people in the world are usually the most boastful. I wonder if is because they are trying to cover up or deflect attention from their real inadequacies and evil intent?

Why doth he glory in malice that is mighty? that is, he that in malice is mighty, why doth he glory? There is need that a man be mighty, but in goodness, not in malice. Is it any great thing to glory in malice? To build a house belong to few men, any ignorant man you please can pull down. To sow wheat, to dress the crop, to wait until it ripen, and in that fruit on which one has laboured to rejoice, doth belong to few men: with one spark any man you please can burn all the crop. . . . What art thou about to do, O, mighty man, what are thou about to do, boasting thyself much? Thou art about to kill a man: this thing also a scorpion, this also a fever, this also a poisonous fungus can do. To this is thy mightiness reduced, that it be made equal to a poisonous fungus! Augustine.

v.5 But God will break you down forever;  The fate of all evil is this, God’s righteous judgement will prevail and in that we can take comfort even in the midst of the very worst of storms. 

When good men die, they are transplanted from the land of the living on earth, to heaven, the garden of the Lord, where they shall take root for ever; but when wicked men die, they are rooted out, to perish for ever. The believer sees that God will destroy those who make not him their strength. -Matthew Henry CC

V.8 But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;  Olives were prized for their oil and other properties in the Old Testament times. Even today one can pay a very hefty sum for quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil. David here uses the analogy the he is like that prized possession in the House of God. 

We have seen that David was enabled, by the exercise of faith, to look down upon the worldly grandeur of Doeg with a holy contempt; and now we find him rising superior to all that was presently afflictive in his own condition. Though, to appearance, he more resembled the withered trunk of a tree which rots upon the ground, he compares himself, in the confidence of coming prosperity, to a green olive… From his language, it appears that he could conceive of no higher felicity in his condition than being admitted amongst the number of the worshippers of God, and engaging in the exercises of devotion. This was characteristic of his spirit. We have already had occasion to see that he felt his banishment from the sanctuary of God more keenly than separation from his consort, the loss of worldly substance, or the dangers and hardships of the wilderness. The idea of an allusion being here made, by way of contrast, to Doeg, who came to the tabernacle of the Lord merely as a spy, and under hypocritical pretexts, is strained and far-fetched. It is more natural to suppose that David distinguishes himself from all his enemies, without exception, intimating that, though he was presently removed from the tabernacle, he would soon be restored to it; and that they who boasted of possessing, or rather monopolizing, the house of God, would be rooted out of it with disgrace. And here let us engrave the useful lesson upon our hearts, that we should consider it the great end of our existence to be found numbered amongst the worshippers of God; and that we should avail ourselves of the inestimable privilege of the stated assemblies of the Church, which are necessary helps to our infirmity, and means of mutual excitement and encouragement.- Calvin 

Toady many Christians are being persecuted for their faith. Like David they are forced to run, hide and put their unconditional trust in God. Just because you are not being chased or physically persecuted does not mean you do not have enemies of the truth around you. With liberalism invading our government, media, and schools we are more and more becoming surrounded by lies and deceit.  The question today is will you be an Olive Tree in the House of God? 

A Fancy Dinner Isn’t a Moral Failure

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview 

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A Fancy Dinner Isn’t a Moral Failure

JOHN STONESTREET WITH MARIA BAER

Earlier this month, when celebrity chef Thomas Keller was interviewed by NPR about his new cookbook, his interviewer wasn’t all that interested in the recipes. Instead, he wanted to talk about the $850-per-plate price tag at Keller’s recently reopened San Francisco restaurant.

With so many people struggling financially due to the pandemic, asked the reporter, is it really “fair” to charge that much per plate? Or is it, to use his words, “tone deaf.”

That an interview, which was likely intended to be a puff piece, turned into a social justice diatribe is further proof that worldview affects everything.

To be clear, I cannot imagine ever spending $850 for a meal, but the reporter’s problem had nothing to do with prudence or financial stewardship. The problem with the price tag, according to the reporter, is not that some people would not have access to food, but that everyone would not have equal access to Thomas Keller’s food. In other words, his was a problem with the free market. And, of course, having a problem with the free market is all the rage these days…

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The Problem with Talking about Right and Wrong

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The Problem with Talking about Right and Wrong

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview

JOHN STONESTREET WITH ROBERTO RIVERA

Perhaps the most helpful framework I know of in wrestling with moral issues comes from T.S. Eliot. Before we can know what to do with something, we must know what that something is for. For example, before we decide what we should do with human life (whether we should take it, make it, or remake it), we should know what human life is for.

The opposing sides of contemporary debates around bioethics, i.e. abortion, doctor-assisted suicide, in-vitro fertilization, and other assisted reproductive technologies, often proceed from very different beliefs about what it means to be human and, therefore, what it means for humans to flourish…

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Devotional Thought for Today 11/17/2020

Psalm 49: Important Lessons About Your Personal Finances

AMP and RVR 1960

Fools Wealth 

I do not remember where I first heard or read this but I has stuck with me, some people are poor all they have is money! The meaning is quite simple that despite their (material) wealth they are (spiritually) poor.

Our text today warns us of becoming such a person v.6 Even those who trust in and rely on their wealth, And boast of the abundance of their riches?  While there is nothing wrong with being a wealthy Christian, it where you have placed your daily trust and confidence that matters. Are you relying on your wealth and others or the LORD to get you through each day?

Folks listen here God will not be mocked, those that think they can deal with God on their own terms as foolishly mistaken. In v.12-13 God has an answer for those that would trust in their wealth over Him; But man, with all his [self] honor and pomp, will not endure; He is like the beasts that perish. 13 This is the fate of those who are foolishly confident, And of those after them who approve [and are influenced by] their words. 

So the question today is simple are you materially rich trusting in self or Spiritually rich trusting in the Lord? 

Heavenly Father, conserver of all mankind, suffer us never to be so entangled with earthly and corruptible things, wherein the children of this world put their trust and assurance, that we fail to acknowledge at all times our own weakness and miseries, lest we through our unthankfulness we be justly spoiled of the fruit of that hope which thy children have in thee only, through Jesus Christ, Amen. From Psalm 49. Prayers on the Psalms, ed. by David B. Calhoun, from The Scottish Psalter of 1595.