Standing for the Flag

I didn't care too much about the NFL kerfluffle over kneeling for the national anthem, until a conversation with a family member made me realize that high schools were following the trend, and school leadership was celebrating or endorsing it.

Call me out of touch for not knowing that, but yes, now I'm finally upset.

Of course, Kaepernick has started something, and he is a role model and will be followed by high schoolers and others in dissing the flag.  I note that originally he sat down on the bench, but now all the rage is to kneel.  Kneeling, you see, makes the whole thing seem nobler somehow.  But you are still refusing to stand out of respect for the symbol of our country.  You are saying you cannot respect our country, her flaws are so deep. 

Kneeling is an easy way to say something loud and strong, and to feel noble while doing it. 
But you are dishonoring our country.  Please stop.  Please stand.

Now, this disrespect is sadly something that Rush Limbaugh and ultra-conservative parents have been teaching their children for a long time.  I'll express my disagreement with those liberals so vehemently that my scorn and disrespect is obvious.  So when the kids grow up, they learn to disrespect a country they have disagreements with.  Hm.

Some believe players have a constitutional right to free speech in this way.  To force them to stand violates their first amendment rights.  This grossly misunderstands the first amendment.  When you are employed as a performer, you waive many free speech rights to do your job as the employer wishes.  Could Disney employees disrespect the flag while performing at Disneyworld?  If Disney allowed it, yes.  But should they?

The NFL and colleges and high schools are culture-shaping institutions that should promote respect for our country and her flag, while also giving some meaningful forum for expressing protest.  Schools for certain should not be promoting students dishonoring the flag.  A rule that any player who doesn't stand for the anthem will sit on the bench during the game would be very fitting.

This is why Mike Pence is also a contrasting role model to Kaepernick, and will also be followed.  This is why his walkout, leaving the game during the anthem when players knelt, was brilliant.  We should not give our support to forms of protest that disrespect and disrupt our country.  MLK's march on Washington was a planned and respectful event, and he exhorted all there to continue such respect.  Today's Antifa and black lives matter claim to be the heirs of such protest, but their actions show a night and day difference.

These institutions like the NFL and school administrations should expect a loss of support and revenue if they allow players to go on dissing the country that has made their significant wealth possible.  I have no problem with players exercising their free speech and finding a way publicly to ally with black lives matter or whatever the cause is.  But the NFL should not allow it during the national anthem.

As usual the media is severely biased, to the point of blatant advocacy for the players.
Al Sharpton compares Jerry Jones to a plantation owner, but Donald Trump gets accused of race-baiting?  Come on.

Finally, of course we should avoid idolizing our nation.  We don't want to say, "I side with my country, right or wrong."  Or, "I stand for the flag because my country is near-perfect and is on the right track."  We should be free to criticize our nation's policies and culture.  (If we never do, maybe idolatry is near.)  But just as older children can give their parents feedback, they should do so respectfully, and may never dishonor them.  Patriotism with proper priorities is pleasing to God.

Kneeling for the flag smacks of ingratitude at God's gift of a good land.
It takes the easy road to loud self-expression at the expense of honoring your country.


Hef // Daughters // Solas

An excellent piece of writing about Hugh Hefner, on his recent death.

This is a good one for dads raising daughters, looking to when the suitors show up.
Shotgun jokes come easy, but building a wall, a spiritually strong daughter, is the name of the game.

John Piper makes an important clarification about the five solas of the Reformation.


Ten Tricks of Temptation // Sharper Sermons // 2 Examples

Sam Storms offers 10 methods of the evil one in tempting us.

David Murray has a couple good articles here and here on crafting shorter and better sermons, which I'm benefiting from this week.

I listened to two really good sermons yesterday.
- Alistair Begg on faithfulness in mid-life, looking to the example of Caleb
- Ben Merkle (from Moscow, ID) on the theme of seed in the Bible.

The desire to be first is a disqualification for Christian leadership. —D.A. Carson


Communism // Reformation // Fathers Exasperating

Doug Wilson has a good screed against communism, because of its direct dependence on envy.

How about a Reformation biography each day for the month of October, leading up to the 500th Reformation Day?  Desiring God fills the bill.

6 ways fathers can exasperate children.  Helpful and short.

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" - Romans 8:18.


Yahweh is LORD // In the Market without the Beast's Sign on You

Here's an important article explaining why, when I read Scripture in church and it says "the LORD," I usually say "Yahweh."  Our English Bibles change the Hebrew Yahweh (a personal pronoun and a name) to the title Lord.

A modest win for religious liberty in Lansing, Michigan, as reported by World Magazine.


Purging and Inviting

1 Corinthians 5:7
"purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened."

Where it is obvious that a member of the church has left the way of the Lord, the church is bound by duty to purge out the leaven.  There is a door, and Christ and God’s favor are inside, and judgment and wrath are outside.  There are only two kingdoms – light and darkness.  The kingdom of the Son and the kingdom of the dark Lord.  If we refuse and turn away from Christ, then we are delivered to Satan, no matter what lies we believe about living our own life.  This is sobering to consider at the table, and we often sing about it: “Lord, why am I a guest?  Why was I made to hear Your voice and enter while there’s room, when 1000s make a wretched choice, and rather starve than come.  The same love that spread the feast sweetly draws us in.”  Let us thank God all the more for bringing us to Him.

Even when the church excludes some from the table, she also calls all to enter the kingdom of God by repenting of their sins and trusting in Christ for forgiveness.  She points to that doorway as a doorkeeper for God’s house.  

We now sit in God’s house as His children, redeemed, cleansed, forgiven, loved and accepted.  

Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 85
Q. How is the kingdom of heaven closed and opened by Christian discipline?
A. According to the command of Christ:
Those who, though called Christians,
profess unchristian teachings or live unchristian lives,
and who after repeated personal and loving admonitions,
refuse to abandon their errors and evil ways,
and who after being reported to the church, that is,
to those ordained by the church for that purpose,
fail to respond also to the church’s admonitions—
such persons the church excludes from the Christian community
by withholding the sacraments from them,
and God also excludes them from the kingdom of Christ.1

Such persons,
when promising and demonstrating genuine reform,
are received again as members of Christ and of his church.2

1 Matt. 18:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:3-5, 11-13; 2 Thess. 3:14-15
2 Luke 15:20-24; 2 Cor. 2:6-11



Isaiah 6:5-7
“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh of hosts.”

Isaiah exclaims that he is undone by his uncleanness in comparison to God’s majesty and holiness.  Without this sense of our personal undoing, we probably lack a true repentance.  It’s a sense of helplessness before holiness, a sense of guilt standing in front of glory.  Do you know God’s displeasure and wrath against sin?  Against your sin?  We must confess and admit our guilt.  Not just the guilt of the people we live among.  Our OWN guilt.  We have unclean lips and lives.

Let us confess our sins to the Lord.



Angels and Demons

I recently had a discussion about how much demons can influence believers, and not-as-recently read through Calvin's Institutes on Angels and Demons with a discussion group, which is excellent.  But there was some lamentation that good resources on this subject are sparse.
Here's a small collection.

Calvin - start in paragraph 3

Alistair Begg did a sermon series on the devil and his work, recently.

Frederick Leahy - Satan Cast Out - published by Banner of Truth
I haven't read this one, only perused it.

War with the Dragon

Revelation 12:17
And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

The same dragon that tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden, that fought with Michael and the angels, that sought to destroy the Christ child at His birth, that tempted Him in the wilderness, that same dragon is making war with the woman and her offspring – that means the church – that means you.

But the accuser has been cast down from heaven.  That’s bad news because he was thrown down to us, to give us trouble.  But it’s good news because his defeat has already come.  The same God who protected His Son at His birth, protects His church.  He prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies.


Sin Leads to Suffering

Psalm 32:3-5
When I kept silent, my bones grew old
Through my groaning all the day long.
4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.  Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

These verses are in the context of repenting and being forgiven, which we will come to in the ass of pard.  But notice first, that when we hold back from repenting, we suffer.  When we cling to our pet sins, we are holding fire close to our chest, thinking we won’t get burned.  That verse is from Prov 6, in the context of sexual sin: none who touches his neighbor’s wife will go unpunished.  He will get wounds and dishonor and disgrace.  And there is a slower, milder burn we get for lesser sins.  Holding on to that grudge and resentment will warp your soul.  When you hold on to your gluttony or drink, it will dry out your soul.  God’s hand will be heavy on you and you will groan inside, even if everything looks fine on the outside.  So confess it to God.



Porn and the Image of God // Augustine on eclipses

Tim Challies has some good thoughts on the inconsistency of pornography, and marriage and God's image in women.

Augustine on solar eclipses, and those who predict them, around 400 A.D.:
(slightly updated language)
"For with their understanding and capacity which You [God] have given them, they search out these things.  And much have they found out and foretold many years before.  The eclipses of those luminaries, the sun and moon, on what day, at what hour, and from how many particular points they were likely to come.

Nor did their calculation fail them, and it came to pass even as they foretold.  And they wrote down the rules found out, which are read at this day, and from these others foretell in what year and in what month of the year and on what day of the month, and at what hour of the day and at what quarter of its light either moon or sun is to be eclipsed.  And thus it shall be even as it is foretold.

And men who are ignorant of these things marvel and are amazed and they that know them exult and are exalted.  And by an impious pride departing from You, and forsaking Your light they foretell a failure of the sun's light, which is likely to occur so long before, but see not their own which is now present.  For they seek not religiously from where they have the ability to seek out these things.

And finding that You have made them, they do not give themselves up to You, that You may preserve what You have made, nor sacrifice themselves to You... nor do they slay their own pride."

Confessions, book V., chapter 3.4


Good Church Members // Charlottesville // Fake News

1.  Good church members
Doug Wilson spurs to us loyalty in our churches.
Not mindless conformity.
Not independence and apart-ness.
Biblical like-mindedness.

2.  Charlottesville
Ben Shapiro denounces the alt right.  And Antifa.  "Condemn violence and evil wherever it occurs."
Doug Wilson likes what Trump said the first time, and so do I.

3.  Dealing with fake news
Tim Challies calls us to read good articles thoughtfully, instead of skimming headlines.


Shepherd and Sheep

After a couple of sermons today on Jesus, the Good Shepherd, here are a couple videos about the cultural context from Ray VanderLaan.


Boaz and Break Rooms

As a full-time pastor, I’m fairly sheltered from the rough and tumble of blue collar work life.  I remember the cool break rooms after the hot afternoon, the crude jokes on the side, the tired muscles, watching the clock, and so on, but it has been quite a while.  Hang on to that thought – I’ll bring it back in a minute.

Ruth 2:14-15
Now Boaz said to her at mealtime, “Come here, and eat of the bread, and dip your piece of bread in the vinegar.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he passed parched grain to her; and she ate and was satisfied, and kept some back. 15 And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, “Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her.

It’s amazing what it will do for you to slow way down in reading the Bible.  I watch a daily video podcast that takes a verse of Hebrew and a verse of Greek and walks through it, analyzing and translating the original text into English.  While you take two minues per verse to think of the grammar and how best to translate, it enriches your understanding of the text.

Right now I’m reading Ruth 2, and I did several verses in a row this morning.  After a brief conversation at church where a member described the daily schedule at his manual labor, summer job, the description of the reapers really popped out at me.

Don’t reproach or humiliate Ruth, Boaz tells his workers a few times.  Out in the field, there is more freedom to engage in crude jokes, probably comparing the women gleaning behind them.  Probably even more so at lunch, when the men and women would eat separately.

Now here's where it gets interesting.

Boaz does a shocking thing that shakes up the mundane lunch break routine in verses 14-15.  He invites Ruth to sit with the reapers (the men workers) instead of eat with the gleaners (the women).  Most people notice the apparent improper act of Ruth going to the threshing floor by Boaz at night, but I’ve never heard a comment about this incident in 2:14-15.  I’ve always understood Ruth going to the threshing floor at night as a bold act out of the blue, forging ahead with little to go on.  And she does certainly take initiative in that.  But Ruth is responding to Boaz’s similar act in 2:14-15.  Boaz also does something that feels improper (having Ruth sit with the men), to accomplish something more important than propriety.

Boaz gets two things done.  First, he acts on his pious words, extending God’s love to Ruth.  He had just called down God’s blessing on her, that He would repay her for leaving her homeland and staying loyal to Naomi.  He wanted the God of Israel to take note and make up her Moabite loss with prosperity in Israel.  So he then does his part to make that happen.  Not only will she get the gleanings of the day from his field, she gets the good food at lunch, and takes some of that home, too.

But the second thing is what caught my eye, related to the rough and tumble of lunch room conversations at work.  By bringing a woman to the table, Boaz rebukes or gently reminds his workers, that they can’t talk their usual way now that she is there.  You know that awkward sense when a group of ladies is talking and it’s bordering on gossip, and then a man walks up?  Or when a group of men are hamming it up, and it’s going a little too far, and then a woman walks within earshot?  Boaz makes that happen.  He invites Ruth to sit with the men.  Maybe he’s changing the culture of his employers, or just reminding them how it needs to stay.  And he is also telling them that she is as important as they are.  It's too easy when the men and women are apart socially all the time for each to start looking down on the other.  He mixes it up to prevent this.

In the end, Boaz did not just give Ruth food, a handout.  He gave her social dignity when she could easily have been maligned, mocked and misused.


When in the Course of Human Events

When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern SecessionWhen in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession by Charles Adams

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When in the Course of Human Events – Charles Adams

Every now and then I’ll pick up a pro-Confederate book and sample the argument one more time.
As a northerner by birth now living in the South, I try to understand the strong sentiment that the South was right and that it will (or should) rise again.

Charles Adams’ take is an extremely one-sided picture of the war. He jumps right in, asserting in the preface that abolitionists were terrorists. This is like calling pro-lifers terrorists. Some extremists shoot abortion doctors, but most reject such violence while advocating for a legal end to abortion. You can’t blame the radical abolitionists for the South’s refusal to free the slaves. Our author actually attempts to assert this. He holds the North’s oppression of the South after the war responsible for the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. These kinds of wild claims made it hard for me to take the book seriously and finish it.

A key thesis that I acknowledge is that there were economic factors at work, dividing the North and the South, apart from slavery. Adams wants to make that the only motive for secession, while many today believe slavery was the only motive for the war. Neither are right.

Slavery was doomed in the 1860s he says and would go away inevitably.
If so isn’t the South still to blame for resisting the pressure in the North to emancipate? They would rather secede than give in to the inevitable emancipation, making it seem much less inevitable. Lincoln’s “extreme position” only went as far as to not let slavery expand, and this was all it took for the South to secede.

Adams asserts that the issue of slavery was a pretext to unify Southerners to fight. Slavery wasn’t in jeopardy, so it wasn’t the reason to secede, he argues. But slavery WAS in jeopardy in territories headed for future statehood. He doesn’t mention this at all. Southerners viewed the abolition of slavery in territories becoming states as the forerunner to abolition in their states.

Adams tries to make parallels in chapter one to secessions from empires throughout history.
The difference is that few of these voluntarily joined as one nation originally; they were annexed forcibly to start with. These United States of America were not a conglomeration of disparate nations, but arose from a unified English culture, more or less.

Adams relies heavily on English opinion of the war, which favored the South. He colors them as unbiased outside observers, but their opinion had economic reasons. Britain was an economic competitor with the North and traded more with the South. It is a mark of Adams’ extreme bias, to the point of dishonesty, that he argues so strongly the North’s economic motive to keep the union, while muting England’s economic motive FOR secession, in siding with the South in their papers. To Adams, the South’s cause was noble; the North’s was malicious.

Why was secession so intolerable for the North? Why not just let the states go? Adams poses this as a rhetorical question, but there is a real answer. Secession produced a double evil: the division of a nation and the continuance of slavery. Political union makes us responsible for each other.

How could it threaten liberty to let the South secede? the author asks. Wouldn’t it advance liberty to give the states the self-determination they should rightly have? Well, to let the South secede would show that America could not bring about liberty for its citizens, the slaves.

Now, I know the North wasn’t pure as the driven snow, either. There was plenty of racism there, too. Adams makes a good case that there was little support for emancipation in the North.
Adams may be right that there was no huge political will in North or South for freedom and equal rights for blacks/slaves. So what was Lincoln to do? This fuller picture is indeed missing from the standard version of the history.

Was it an injustice to free the slaves without some provision of education or training for them?
Yes. But it would have been a greater injustice to leave them in slavery in a new nation, the Confederate States of America.

The lesson to learn from the war is not, as Adams contends, to let the South secede – to let political liberty trump social evils. It is to have the right reasons for any law or war, imposing government will on a people. His charges against how Lincoln conducted the war legally were new to me. If true (don’t know if I can trust Adams’ historical verity), this is a lesson to learn and not repeat.

In the end, both sides can look back and say, this should have gone differently. But they continue blaming each other. North to South: you should have freed your slaves willingly. South to North: this book. You shouldn’t have forced us to stay for your own economic reasons.

Here is a review from Amazon that summarizes the book and my perspective quite nicely.
“In case anyone doubted Garry Wills' argument in A Necessary Evil that the peculiar myths and distortions surrounding the nature, formation, and meaning of the U.S. regularly stir movements committed to myth rather than reality, Adams, a historian of taxation, delivers a polemic that proves it. The Civil War, Adams argues, was not about slavery or the Union; it was about tariffs! The Southern states had a right to secede. Slavery would have ended at some point, but Lincoln did not particularly threaten it. It was, Adams maintains, the "dueling tariffs" of the Union and the Confederacy that caused the war. Within his states' rights argument, Adams maintains secession's legality should have been determined by the courts, and slaveholders should have been compensated for the property they lost through emancipation. Adams relies heavily on the European press; he asserts, but does not prove, that U.S. abolitionists were a fanatical lunatic fringe. The author clearly anticipates controversy; it should not be long in coming.” Mary Carroll

Marilynne Robinson, Givenness of Things. Pgs. 96-97
“I know causes of the Civil War are widely disputed, but I have been reading the speeches and papers of leaders of the Confederacy, and for them the point at issue was slavery. Slavery plain and simple. They drew up a constitution very like the national Constitution, except in its explicit protections of slavery. Their defense of their sacred institutitons means the defense of slavery. Their definition of state’s rights means their insistence on their right to bring this ‘species of property’ into states that did not acknowledge it, and to make these states enforce their claims on such ‘property’ without reference to their traditions, to their own laws, or to their right to protect their own citizens.”

View all my reviews