Monthly Archives: January 2016

Trumping Civilization.

Civilization is based on a lot of assumptions. If you are willing to break those assumptions, you can Trump civilization. But is this good? I don’t think so. You can’t undermine the ground you stand on, and stand for very long.

This is why Chicago is so uncivilized. As Obama said while campaigning, “if they bring a knife you bring a gun”. He was talking about the political race and defeating Republicans but the same is exacted daily in Chicago. It’s easy to break into a room full of civilized people having a political debate and start shooting. But that’s the old way, civilization has moved past that. If you want to win in our arena, you have to bring the best idea.

This is how terrorism works, the West operates by democracy and debate. The terrorist is trying to bring back cave man rules, because he has no ideas. The ideas of Muhammed were dead 600 years before he ‘thought’ them up, when Jesus the Christ died on the cross and gave us another path. Killing your enemies doesn’t work anymore, because Jesus was killed and he came back. And since that day Christianity has marched across the globe making everything better. Muhammed lost, but he can’t admit it so he throws a fit, to this day. His only power is when we play by the old rules, or allow him to do so. Interesting that I bring up terrorism, since Obama actually launched his political career in the home of a convicted terrorist Bill Ayres.

But there is another candidate playing by the same rules. And his rules work, because the rest of us are playing by another set of rules. We are civilized, compassionate, thoughtful even. It’s easy to walk into a room full of business men who are operating by numbers and force your will on them by charm or any number of other devices. Maybe you could threaten them? Maybe you could threaten to walk out? Maybe you could call them names? But this is not debate, this is not how you get the best ideas to market, this is how you get your ideas to the market. This is how the mafia operates. Or else. Now we understand that we must meet our enemies with force, but is this how we want to determine our internal politics? Do we want to go from the English law tradition of Parliamentary debates to a freak show or a gun show?

The sad part is that society seems to be moving towards his rules, backwards towards the cave man. The media likes Trump because he draws ratings, he draws a crowd. Because apparently many of the American people would rather be entertained than choose the best statesman. Which sounds eerily familiar to the Gibbon critique of the fall of Rome. We need to demand better, if we accept the new rules of Trump which are really the old rules of violence we will soon be governed by them. Do you really want to determine your leaders by putting them on the field to have a sword fight? Humanity has figured out a better system, we have lived in the world of violence, now we have established rules for debate. We have identified fallacies, and structures and systems, because they work better. Of course there are problems with our system, but Trump has never proven he understands them or will make them better.   Don’t throw the whole system away in exchange for some temporary entertainment.

The Pastor’s Kid

I was surprise to find out recently that Barnabas Piper was a professing Christian. I had been led to believe that he wrote a book which was a list of grievances against the church. Even worse I was led to believe this by a pastor, quoting a list of these grievances. Apparently Piper’s intention was to give the church a firm talking-to in order that it might make some positive changes. But this was certainly not how the pastor used it. The selected indicting quotes were in similar to a personal list which I received from him in person. And so, books, words, and events can be made to mean different things for different people. Which is the point.

If you are a pastor collecting a list of grievances against the people you supposedly serve, you are in the wrong business. You belong in the break room of the backbiting business world, huddled around the coffee maker badmouthing Joe from Accounting, because, well just because. Is it really a surprise that people badmouth their leaders or that they do evil things to each other? If the sheep were not clueless they wouldn’t need a shepherd. Your job is to minister to them not to accumulate lists of people you think you are better than. Is it any wonder your kids are too good for Christians, when you have taught them that you are?

I am reminded of the Father Brown stories of G. K. Chesterton. Chesterton was, after his youth, always a great fan of the Catholic church and believed it’s Orthodoxy was the best explanation for man and this world. But, after having discussions with a great many priests he realized that they were in a unique position to understand the human heart, even the criminal human heart. Through countless hours of hearing confessions, priests had heard it all, and were in a great position to solve crimes. Father Brown, the priest, made the perfect detective. He is a priest who turns his experience with the negative side of humanity into a tool to serve humanity. This should be the job of all pastors.

I am a bit like a pastor’s kid myself. My mother was always involved in Women’s ministry and basically started a Christian school. She was the headmaster of the school for 13 years, almost every Christian in the community knows who she is. If you think you have seen the worst in people, try reforming their perfect little children when they don’t necessarily want to be reformed. And so, I have seen and heard about countless situations, of amazing evil. But I also got to see the active wisdom and prayer as she dealt with these situations. For hers was not a class in compiling grievances or self inflicted victim status. It was a workshop for how to serve people, how to minister to their needs and make them better in the process. The countless hours of seeking wisdom from those who have been there, and praying for those who are there now, were very instructive. Of course there are people who would not change and all you can do is laugh. I hear one of them is now a profit in Gateway, but that’s another story. Of course there are people who are inconsolable, who still glare at you in church. And all you can do is heap burning coals of love on their heads. This is the business and this is how you pass on the business. Funny the Muslims and the Hindus and whoever, don’t seem to have a hard time passing on their religions to their kids but the pastors of this nation, of this town, do. Carpenters, policemen, military men, even politicians all pass on their trades. It makes sense you have an inside track on how things work and the language of the trade. Why not pastors? Perhaps more of them should have been trained in those Christian schools. Instead of trying them out for a week, only to find another imperfect bunch of Christians to add to your list.

If you have been given more money than other people in the church, your job is to help others who have need. That’s your part of the body, you are the hand that reaches in the pocket and takes out the wallet. God chose to distribute the money unevenly so those two groups could fellowship, and both be blessed. If God blessed you with the ability to minister to people, that’s your body part. You are to share that wisdom with people who are less wise. You are not to use it to repress people, or create a fan club or a rabble which you can body surf. They are not there for your pleasure. If things are really that bad, it’s probably your fault. How can the teacher blame the people he is responsible for, if they are ignorant? Teach them.

And what of the self-consciousness the church forces on the pastor’s kids? If your basis for measuring your progress or success is found by putting your finger in the air is it any wonder your kids do the same. If you are constantly evaluating what people think or say about you, why wouldn’t your kids? And these things go the other way, if you teach your kids to rely on peer pressure instead of the Word of God, how are you going to teach the church? Evaluating your sermon based on how many people say it was good is like evaluating your life based on Facebook likes. If you are not secure in Jesus, you won’t pass security on to your kids. You might have everyone else fooled but your kids will know the truth. If people hold you to a high standard, meet it, don’t become a victim. If their standard is not based on God’s standard, blow it off.

And really, consider the cost before you go into ministry. If you like to study in an office, go be a theologian. If you are really lazy and just want a fancy title, work for the government. Jesus the perfect man, deserving of no evil, came to give everything to this world. And on the night he was experiencing the worst anguish of any man, he was abandoned by even his closest friends. Then the leadership of the very people he had come to serve killed him. It was either their sin or his life, and they chose what sinful man always chooses. Is it any surprise when the people in the church do this to their pastor? The best we can do is follow in Jesus’ footsteps, that’s what we signed up for. That’s what it means to take up your cross and follow him. If you find joy in doing that, then by all means be a pastor. Otherwise, for the Church’s sake and the sake of your children, don’t do it.


Anointing King Jesus

As I stood in church this week and sang “behold Him seated on the throne” or something, over and over. I wondered how often we treat him like he is actually seated on that throne.

Then an entire sermon about worship, or something. It was interesting that one of the points was how the woman came prepared to anoint Jesus, we should come prepared for worship. I’ve never heard a more succinct definition of liturgy than “coming prepared”, yet liturgy is constantly berated. Though of course we have our own liturgy. Trying to keep things random and pretending you are two different churches, complete with two different pulpits, every other week, isn’t the absence of a liturgy. That is your liturgy, that which you have prepared for worship. Of course some of it becomes routine. So during the days when you don’t feel like it you can go through the motions anyway. Because the motions lead to a right heart. We, in our bohemian evil, fancy that it doesn’t work that way. But how does a spanking reform a heart? God and sensible experience tells us it does. How does bread and wine unite a people? If this isn’t your experience, perhaps it’s because you are using grape juice. Experience and the word of God say it does. The fact remains, every group of people who meet together, have a liturgy. So you might as well have the best one you can.

But I might say it’s not all about the passion. It’s easy to paint the disciples as pure evil in this situation and then assign their behavior to whichever group of people happen to disagree with you in the current day. Oh those disciples were just like the people today who try to say you have to use a certain style. “Ho ho. Shame on you, don’t you know it’s all about the passion and the content doesn’t really matter? Silly person, not like me, how dare you, slink away now.” But I was reminded of a story a couple chapters back which is in stark contrast to this one. No doubt Mark did it deliberately. There was another dinner party and another woman trying to honor another king, with lewd dancing. Family lust was not a new problem for Herod, he had already stolen his brothers wife and now he was prepared to offer her daughter anything she wanted. At her mother’s behest she asked for the head of John the Baptist. But all in all I’m sure Jesus would have been fine if the woman had filled the house of Simon with lewd dancing instead of a fragrant aroma. It’s all about the passion right? But in the other story, the gloomy rain-on-your parade figure was John the Baptist, who spoke up about an immoral marriage. Because God does have standards, and he has standards for worship. It’s not all about the passion.  The what, the actions, the liturgy matters. Both kings accepted the worship. Jesus rewarded this woman with eternal notoriety. Not her passion but her actions, we don’t know anything about her motives nor any of the motives in that room, except for Judas, and Mark omits that detail here because apparently it matters not to his story. Mark emphasizing the kingly role of Jesus, says she poured it over his head, which calls to mind the way kings were anointed. She treated him as king, even when it didn’t look like it. That is true worship, which we can follow. She prepared him for his death, for by it he would become king over all.

No doubt the quest for endless, real, live, passion has caused us to sweep a great many things aside. What would you think of a church that paid people to come to every service? No doubt the church could then pride themselves on the growth and the passionate engagement of the new people. But it’s easy to see that’s not real, they are doing it for the wrong reason, for the money. Now what about a worship leader always adapting the music to what the people want, to what makes them feel good? We might easily write off their feeling as passion, but how do we know it’s not just because we gave them ear candy? This woman bore the cost as she anointed Jesus. Do we bear the cost, do we worship when we don’t like the music? Or do we complain and go to another church? Is it really about the worship or just worship of ourselves and our preferences. As Luther said, ideally the music should be horrible and then you would know the people were there for the right reasons. A people constantly obsessed with the next new thing is a people constantly throwing away. Then it makes you wonder why they threw away the great hymn tradition of Isaac Watts. Was it for good reason, or to fulfill their desire for throwing away? The sad reality is that we miss about 90% of the doctrine of the Psalms and about 90% of the musical complexity our forefathers gave us. We were supposed to be conformed to the scriptures not the other way around. And what better way to practice than by laying aside our preferences for a tradition which has proven itself for hundreds of years? That sounds like real worship to me.

Something we don’t learn during the constant repetitions of certain passages from Revelation, is the result of worship on earth. Worship is warfare. As the people of God worship around the throne, actual events take place on earth. But it’s not just something that happens behind church doors. The church is to be the rally cry for the rest of our lives. Which is why many old hymns were vibrant marches. We sing about Jesus as our King, but then we go out in the world as if we were part of the Ron Paul for President campaign. We think we are right, and more informed than everyone else, but we know in the end we are losers. While we sing the exact opposite, because it’s true, Jesus is King. Whether you believe it or not, that’s the reality. The devil is still pretending he is king, but he has been defeated. He loves it when you pretend he is king too, and lament the evils of this world, or give up and wait for the rapture. Worship is warfare. When you obey the commands of scripture, you plant the flag for your king, Jesus. This is his world and it operates by his rules and so do you!  What good does it do to sing how great he is if you don’t act like it? If you don’t live by his decrees during the week before men? If instead you go out in the world and get tips on music and life and bring them back and alter the church? If you bring lewd dancing back and then claim it’s your worship style? And so we have. And so we have a church that is impotent. We let the world cut off our head and we didn’t even notice.

The Feast of Herod, Peter Paul Rubens, c.1635

The Feast of Herod, Peter Paul Rubens, c.1635

Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee, Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1620 Interesting the he painted the two episodes similarly and titled them both feasts.

Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee, Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1620
Interesting the he painted the two episodes similarly and titled them both ‘feasts’.




Cruz Birthers

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.  -U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 1

This seems pretty simple and reasonable.  We don’t want outside people running our country.  As was the purpose of the entire document, we want real people connected to the country to govern.  By this standard most professional politicians are ineligible. But sticking to the letter, in order to be President of the United States,  you have to be 35, have lived in the country 14 years and be a citizen by birth.  The second clause no longer applies, but was necessary because at the beginning no one was a citizen by birth, so the Constitution automatically qualified everyone.

It get’s a little more complicated because there are ways you can never claim or lose your citizenship.  Let’s say you were born in Kenya and your mother was a Communist, I mean American but she never files the appropriate paperwork, or you don’t spend enough time in the country before you are 18, your claim to citizenship is void.   It would allow you to go to college in America, for free, as an immigrant, but you can’t be President.  And if by some slight of hand, a big mafia hand from Chicago, you did become President, you would be the worst President ever.  Another option is that you could move to a country which doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, like say Indonesia.  If you want to be Indonesian, you must revoke your other allegiances.    Another scenario is if you say,  commit light treason, by I don’t know, stashing national security secrets in a bathroom in Colorado.  U.S. law states that you can no longer hold federal office.

But it’s a little absurd to suggest that going on vacation while you are pregnant puts your child’s citizenship in question.  Or how about men and women serving in the military in another country?  Would anyone suggest that you lose your eligibility?  What about going overseas for another reason?  Again the founders considered it; sure move away, as long as you live in the country for fourteen years before you run.


Further Reading:

social studies

Some teacher got an award the other day, or maybe it was a hollywood actress, all they seem to do is give each other awards.  Anyway, the term social studies came. up.  It’s a total BS term but, you know, I think it actually may be more accurate than say, History or Political Philosophy.  Those terms denote actual classical disciplines, arts, which require much skill and hard work to achieve and communicate actual knowledge, things humanity has learned.  Social studies is what?  It’s the study of how to do well in social situations.

Say you are at a dinner party and the topic of the Civil War comes up, and you begin to discuss the non-slavery causes of the war and states rights, or that sort of thing, you will soon find yourself alone with the dip.  The proper, social studies response, is to bash the South and talk about how sad you are that America started slavery and forced it on the world, and of course racism.  Racism!  Never mind that this isn’t even close to true.   You will soon find yourself the life of the party. You could probably sleep with anyone available and confetti will reign down from a mysterious source, which is strange, since you are actually at a barbecue, outside.  This is the power of social studies, examples could be multiplied a thousand fold.  This is the sad reality of the over degreed children walking around today, without two thoughts to rub together.  Historical facts are replaced with emotions and political correctness.  It’s a lot like a dictatorship, you follow the party line or get kicked out of the, um, party.


To stave off the castrated effects of social studies, read anything by Hilarie Belloc.  It’s hearty, blunt, ever wise, truthful, History.

Joy to the Whole World

joySince hanging out in Presbyterian and repentant dispensational circles I discovered that there was another verse to Joy to the World, which I had always skipped. Still in our hymnal today, three verses are called out and the third is skipped. But this season, as the absence was again brought to mind, I was thinking about it even more deeply.

The hymn was not originally a Christmas carol, it was an adaptation of the second half of Psalm 98. Among his many achievements for the faith, Isaac Watts adapted the Hebrew Psalms in light of the work of Christ. Of course the Psalms were always about Christ, but Watts wanted to make it more explicit. As language and understanding change there will always be an important place for new translations of Scripture. Given the subject matter and the way Watts changed the tense in many of his Psalm adaptations, it became a natural Christmas carol.

I was struck because Watt’s reading of the Psalm includes areas of theology often ignored by the typical Evangelical Christian. But it really is all there in the Psalm.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing.

We like the part about the heart, but what about the earth? The whole earth receiving her king? We tend to skip over the accomplishments of the cross and instead sit around and wait for a dramatic return. But the work has been done, Christ is king, he has conquered sin and death and now sits at the father’s right hand, he has come. From the Psalm:

“For he has done marvelous things. . .

The Lord has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations”

The fact that many people don’t believe this, is their problem. Or rather it’s our problem, that is our task as Christians. We are supposed to be Evangelists, to the whole world telling them of the work that has been done. We shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for the trumpet, we should be sounding it, as verse 6 says

“With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord”

But that’s not our only job and our hearts are not the limit of his redemption of the earth, the hymn continues:

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

Which is right from the Psalm,

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

The whole earth participates in the joyous song. And it’s even more explicit in the third stanza, the forgotten stanza.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

The whole earth is being redeemed, as far as the curse is found. One of the most optimistic and incredible lines of any hymn and we skip over it. Then the hymn ends as the Psalm, Christ is ruling.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.

But this inclusion of all the earth, the rocks and hills and animals isn’t just unique to this Psalm. Hasn’t it always seemed odd that when God told Joshua to enter the land, he called for the destruction of all the people and all the animals(Joshua 6:21)? Because the work of God is not just some metaphysical heart thing it affects every area of life and even our surroundings. God didn’t just send Israel in to kill some random people. It was a judgement, for their evil. They had corrupted the entire land and it had to be cleansed, even the trees(Leviticus 19:23). You think it’s a coincidence that a converted harlot saved the two spies? Most women were probably harlots, just like the rampant homosexuality in Sodom. But even then God gave them a chance to repent as the exploits of Israel’s God proceeded Joshua(Joshua 2:10). And only one woman repented. And her unfruitful harlotry was turned into the ultimate fruit, the ultimate child, the Christ, who would be born to Joseph who was descended from her son Boaz(Matthew 1).

What you believe affects more than just your heart, it affects your body, others around you and the physical world. You can see it on individual and national levels. There are a few Christian insurance companies attempting to be more affordable by only including other Christians. Because the immoral activities associated with the world, are higher risk. It’s a fact. From property damaged to sexually transmitted diseases, to regular diseases. People who obey the word of God don’t have to deal with as many problems. On a national level pagan peoples fall into all sorts of problems. Without a morality based on God’s standard basic relationships break down. Everyone is just in it for their own pleasure. If you can’t maintain basic relationships with your own people or the tribes around you, the result is unfettered war and the environmental destruction that always brings. The Middle East used to look like the West Coast. Lebanon used to have massive cedar rain forests like those in Northern California. The Middle East is today a very dark place as the paganism of ISIS sweeps across destroying everything. Sadly the same is also more evident in California as a new paganism called environmentalism has turned once fruitful fields, into dead barren dust.

And just as pagan godless nations destroy, contaminate and pollute, we as Christians do the opposite. Environmentalism isn’t something most Christians want to have much to do with, because it has gone so far off the rails from stewardship of God’s creation to pagan worship. I am always amazed by the need for the West to defend it’s record on these things. It was Christian nations who pioneered the concept of environmentalism. We clean up our messes better than anyone, we are the first people to do so. We set aside national parks, and cultivate forests and animal populations so that they will thrive and multiply. This is what redemption of the whole earth looks like. The whole earth is under a curse, species are constantly dying off from the dinosaurs to the dodo. But the gospel entering hearts is just the beginning of birth pangs (Matthew 24:8). This world before the gospel was a dark, evil place. Paganism was always about death, savage cruel death. There was little concern for human life when it was convenient, much less the lives of other creatures. But the gospel changed all that. God has always been concerned about that. In Deuteronomy he cautions his godly armies to take care of the trees (Deuteronomy 20:19-20). The common practice was to slash and burn everything. But God’s prescription is not destruction but redemption. Even Christ the great gardner took the time to clear out a fruitless fig tree (Mark 11).

Of course our task as Christians is to point people to Christ, but it doesn’t end there. We have let the world take over many of our tasks and turn them into idols. But this shouldn’t dissuade us from taking them back. Our work is to extend “as far as the curse is found” to all of creation. Our faith must be made to work out into every aspect of creation. As to the lamb lying down wit the lion, we could make it happen, literally. Why not? But these things take work and lots of time, generations even. It’s easy to live in a house that is a constant mess while you talk about how great you are on the inside, but that’s just a lie. The truth is that if your heart is really changed it should affect everything, even the trees in your yard, even the trees in your neighbor’s yard. This is the rich world of medieval Christendom, a world that has been sadly forgotten as we emphasize butts in the seats, and large dramatic conversion services. So I urge you to get up off the couch, fire your gardner,your mechanic and especially your kid’s teachers and put some Christian hands on this fallen creation, Christian hands. It won’t be instant, we have let the world take over and forgotten much of what the church taught us. But as Chesterton said, a thing worth doing is worth doing badly. Do do it.


Further Reading: Simply Jesus, N.T. Wrght

Age of Adaline

adaOurs is a world of rich metaphor upon metaphor, folded back onto itself over and over again.  Things are rarely the same, instead the common themes sometimes look the same with many differences in the intricate details. Reality does this on its own, but also by our observing.  We can add to and build on the metaphors by various arts.  The power of good art is to call attention to an aspect that has become forgotten by familiarity, to reflect.  This is the power of well crafted fantasy, another world slightly different from our own which can help us to appreciate what we find when we fall back through the looking glass.  The other world and its problems are not all that distant, from our own.  It’s like Samuel telling King David the story of a man who has all the flocks in the world, but still steals the one sheep of his neighbor.  A story gives David the perspective he needs to see his own sin for what it is.  Of course some of us are so thick that nothing will ever get through, but we should try to emulate the heart of David and be willing to change and understand(II Samuel 12).

I was a little surprised by this movie The Age of Adaline.  It is just the right kind of fantasy.  It was very well done, Blake Lively is stunning and classy.  I could do without the pseudo science which seems to be required to get most people into a fantasy story these days.  Your grasp of even science is a story, get over it.  So you want to paint a world where the rules are a bit different, it’s ok, don’t feel the need to put in a lame explanation which would make anyone with an actual grasp of anything, roll their eyes.  Though, I always do love a narrator.   And so this is a different world, but only slightly.  I don’t really want to give any of it away, and ruin the magic it might work on you.  Heaven knows there are far to many women who share Adaline’s affliction.  I would love to administer this antidote as I try to administer any of dozens of perspectives on our ever staling state of life, in order that we might find a better way, and live it.  So, go watch the movie and be enchanted.  Then come back and keep reading.


I said go watch the movie, no fair peeking.


Adaline is different from other women.  And this difference, leads her to be insecure.  She is always on the run ever fearful that someone will get too close to her and find out her secret.  This describes every single woman I have ever met.  All women have things about them that they think will freak out potential suitors whether it’s a curiously placed mole or webbed feet.  These things only make you unmarriable if you let them, if you keep running away.  The other aspect is the fear of future pain.  Adaline fears that she will outlive any future husband, so she avoids ever getting to that point, she runs away.  But again, this describes the same possibility of any marriage.  In reality most women do outlive their husbands, but most of them are too wise to care by that point.  It’s still worth it.  Instead for all those years Adaline lives in her intricately constructed system.  I’m surprised she had a dog instead of half a dozen cats, perhaps she is allergic.  This too describes most single women worth knowing.  They are very much in need of allowing a man to mess up their system.  But it’s hard to let go of the familiar.  You tried it before and it never worked.  But did you? Actually try?  Maybe what needs to change is the giving up part,  the running away.

Such wisdom paired with the beauty of youth is irresistible.  And so the more wise, determined, and beautiful the women, who have crossed my path are, the more they tend to follow Adaline’s footsteps.  But if you know Adaline, perhaps you can save her.  Take her through the looking glass, that she might see her reflection and find it lacking grey hairs.  Take her to the movie.

The clock stops for no woman, don't let this life pass her by.

The clock stops for no woman, don’t let this life pass her by.