10.21.2020

Another Mascot Canceled?

Holland, Michigan’s school district has set up a committee to consider changing its mascot from the Dutchmen.  Though founded by the Dutch, the argument goes that minorities are now the majority in the school district.

Here were my thoughts:

Having a mascot like the Dutchmen is not racist or even culturally insensitive in any way. It is a way to point residents to the history of the place they live.

What is so offensive about this is the erasing of valuable history to make ourselves feel better about how diverse and sensitive we are.  Probably a bit of white guilt going on, here, too. What is so frustrating is that most will be for this, because the alternative would feel like being mean to non-Dutch people, which is... silly.

The reason for doing this would also require removing the name Holland. And Zeeland. And Drenthe...

History creates inequalities and majorities. Some seek to remove them all. But we do not all have a right to as much income, or "cultural privilege" as everyone else. That's a socialist pipe dream. Some will always be more equal than others. Right now, those setting up this committee have unequal access to the levers of power. It's an Orwellian forced whitewashing of history in the name of equality.

Equal opportunity is a must for all. But whose opportunities are being curtailed by Holland being the Dutch?

10.20.2020

You Can Be Strong // On Voting for Biden // Health Insurance Woes

1. You Can Be Strong

This is a really insightful piece, on Generation Z specifically.  But it applies across the board.

The hubris of my college generation has been replaced with a sense of resigned weakness.

If I needed to hear “you are weak,” my students today increasingly need to hear “you can be strong.”



2. On Voting for Biden

"The pro-lifer who votes against Biden may not keep him from winning. He will, however, at least refuse to join in tolerating a massive violation of human rights for hundreds of thousands of victims of direct and intentional lethal violence."

Robert George and Rommesh Ponnuru - National Review



3. What is health insurance for?  One thing driving up premiums is our own expectations...

10.19.2020

Who to Vote for, If At All?

 Joel Belz’ commentary on World Magazine’s podcast, The World and Everything in It, on October 14 (at the end, 30:00 mark), about who to vote for is a classic case of evangelical Christian naivete, when it comes to politics.

He rightly rules out Biden, as every faithful Christian must, given his ardent support for abortion alone.  But he then goes on to give Trump deniers a righteous sense of rejecting rudeness and being careless with the truth.

Christians have struggled with perfectionism in politics for a long time.  Joel Belz still falls into it.  Your vote is not a valentine for a candidate, nor is it a religious action that before the Lord you believe this candidate has done nothing wrong before God (or even that he is in good standing with the Lord). 

No, your vote is a chess move on a political board.  It doesn’t endorse every imperfection of the candidate, not even unconfessed ones!  Votes should take account of the policies a candidate pursues long term, and the viable alternatives.

Don’t strain out the gnat and swallow the camel.  We’ll take a rough character who effects Christian policies over a nicer-appearing guy aggressively promoting abortion, sodomy, insistence that 8 year-old’s be allowed to transition their gender only on their say-so, and more.  Trump’s immigration policy has been very unhelpful and saddens me, but it pales in comparison to the good judges he has appointed, using the bully pulpit for pro-life, tax cuts, toughness to China, Iran and Russia, and more.

I believe personally that not voting for Trump in this election would be a sin of omission for the Christian.  Faithful Christians can disagree on several things I've listed above, but cannot vote for things God calls an abomination.  (There are three of those above, if you're counting.)  As a pastor, it isn’t something I’m going to go after members for.  Many are caught up in Belz’ perfectionism, and just can't pull the lever for Trump.  Teaching is the need of the day.  

Every non-vote for Trump is a boost for Biden and his wicked policies.  It would be failing to act when you could, to avert serious negative consequences to our country.

10.18.2020

Violent Society // The Left Captured Sports // Bad Shepherds

 1. This is some excellent commentary on where we are as a society today.

"Absence of God beget[s] random violence."



2. Imprimis is consistently good.  Here's one raising a flag of concern about our kids and the sports world.

Highlights:

"Kids shut their bedroom doors, turn on their televisions, laptops, and game consoles, plug in earbuds, open social media apps, and disappear into a world far removed from mom and dad.... They tune out the worldview of their families and tune in the worldview of LeBron James..."

"China... rules the National Basketball Association and its defacto parent company, Nike, the same way it rules Hollywood.... Nike, and not the NBA, controls basketball....  helps explain why Nike pitchmen LeBron James and Colin Kaepernick enthusiastically smear the United States as inherently racist and evil."

"The Leftist mob has forced the National Football League, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the National Basketball Association to take their own knees and pay homage to the dishonest Black Lives Matter narrative on police brutality."



3. Michael Kruger draws lessons for religious leaders from Jesus' interaction with the Pharisees in Mark 3.

10.08.2020

Rejection // Lessons from Acts

1. This is a helpful, short article on rejection.  A personal wound many people struggle with.



2. The experience of the early church proves that underhanded tactics have been around a long time.  When you can’t win by persuasion, resort to lies, prosecution, and violence. 

Acts 6:8-14:“And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.”



3. Saul was cage stage!

Acts 9:29-31 – “And he spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. 30 And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.  31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.”

Saul of Tarsus was too vigorous and disruptive in his aggressive apologetic approach.  He needed seasoning and training to cool down and learn to engage people in a more constructive way.

10.07.2020

Barrett is Pro-Life! // Obergefell's ruinous consequences // Platt on Voting

1. The liberal media acts surprised that Judge Barrett is pro-life.

Then they cover a celebrity’s miscarriage as the loss of their precious baby.

Hmm.

Al Mohler nails this one.


2. Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to sign marriage licenses for same sex couples, is being sued by one of those couples.  She appealed and just lost at the Supreme Court.  SCO1. TUS, following its recent Obergefell decision, refused to hear her appeal.

Justice Thomas' dissent, a small four pages, is worth the read.  His conclusion: "By choosing to privilege a novel constitutional right over the religious liberty interests explicitly protected in the First Amendment, and by doing so undemocratically, the Court has created a problem that only it can fix. Until then, Obergefell will continue to have “ruinous consequences for religious liberty.” "


3. Pretty disappointed in Gospel Coalition for promoting DavidPlatt’s latest on voting.  From the podcast transcript, he seems to advocate a morally equivalent position between Trump and Biden.  That’s crazy.  Interviewer Colin Hansen says, “We see abortion as being a fairly nuanced issue…”  Really?!?!  At least Platt corrected him later: “We’re not nuanced about abortion.”  But Platt still allows room to make abortion a less important factor in deciding your vote.

It’s like they’re mirroring and pandering to their younger, social justice warrior, somewhat-woke audience, instead of leading them out of that cesspool of CNN-think.

Platt refuses to say it is our duty to vote, even though voting and jury duty are the two pillars of citizenship in our nation.  Romans 13, man!

But I was glad to hear Platt say, “The Bible uses justice over a hundred times. Let’s learn what that means…. Part of why we did that was to show the difference between the gospel and God’s Word and critical race theory or what Black Lives Matter as an organization might be promoting that are not in line with a biblical worldview.”

 And he’s frustrated by kneejerk reactions from conservatives, which I understand: “as soon as you mention the word “justice” or “race,” you are automatically labeled and put into certain categories, and people start to assume you’re promoting a worldly idea of justice or race…”

10.06.2020

On the Pastor and Politics

I enjoy the podcast Pastor’s Talk with Mark Dever and Jonathan Leeman.  Leeman’s views on politics are too tolerant for me, but these principles from a recent edition are good.  Here they are, with some commentary of my own.

 

Don’t be a brawler

I appreciate political energy and opinion, but there’s a way to fight that divides and tears people down.  We should fight for God’s ways in the public square, but in a way that helps the body of Christ, not tears it apart.


Don’t panic

AMEN.  Election seasons, like pandemics, expose our real priorities.  And we tend to love too much (idolize) our nation, our own opinions.  We also tend to think we are the captains of our fate, that if we work hard enough we can make life how we want it.  Politics exposes this lie, and it really bothers us.  We are unsettled with the real-world consequences that God is sovereign, not ourselves, not “We the People,” and not the USA as a nation.

 

Speak pastorally and charitably, instead of demonizing the other side

Most talk radio/podcasts fail miserably here.  Ben Shapiro castigates liberals as garbage.  Trump insults his opponents on Twitter.  One reason this is happening is because popular media no longer discusses substantive ideas and policies.  They mostly focus on political processes and races and personalities.  We vote for candidates based on how they look, and how they make us feel.

 

Stay in your area of expertise as a pastor.

This is a tricky one.  I am not a two-kingdoms guy as much as Dever and Leeman.  The Bible addresses politics, medicine, the whole gamut of current events.  But they are on to something to say that pastors are not medical experts, and ought not parrot Fox or CNN talking points from the pulpit.  The key is to be bringing the Word of God rightly to bear on current events.  Not to assume it doesn’t relate to politics.  And not to be carried along by an earthly agenda.

9.30.2020

Forsaking Assembling // Inequality=Racism? // Cuties

Well, the Mortification of Spin guys, Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt, seem to have finally come around on the John MacArthur, Romans 13 issue.  This was a pretty good podcast.  Carl's exhortation to go easy on church leaders at the end (28:00 mark) was really good.


I've been scanning back issues of National Review.  Here's a good quote:

"Progressives deny that the disparity in arrest rates could be driven by any factor other than racism."

July 6, 2020, pg. 20.


A while back Netflix's Cuties was the topic of the day.

Ben Shapiro said that the point of the director was actually to critique the sexualization of young girls.  He watched it and appreciated that point.

Al Mohler said that he wouldn't watch it, but that the depiction itself exploited and sexualized young girls, regardless of the point attempting to be made.

I side with Mohler on this one.  You can work against a thing cinematically without graphically depicting it.  Cuties cultivates pedophilic desire, whether intentionally or not.

9.24.2020

An Incident of Civil Disobedience to Consider

Christ Church of Moscow Idaho has made national news for holding a Psalm Sing in a public space, while not masking or social distancing.  Moscow's mayor recently extended a universal mask mandate until January 1.


Gabe Rench of Cross-Politic and two other church members were arrested during the singing, and detained for a few hours.  Two others were given citations.


Here's Breitbart on it.

Here's the local news.

Here's Doug Wilson's take.

My take:

I'm not sure of the wisdom of this response to civic laws that appear groundless to many.  I'm not against it, because I've been uncertain what the best response is.

Some say we should only resist the civil authorities when we are forbidden from doing what God's Word commands.  That would rule this action a violation of Romans 13.  God's Word doesn't address face masks or social distancing.  The two widely divergent views of the pandemic are both plausible (*see below), so I lean against defying civil authority generally at this point, too.  Though I admit to going into stores without a mask on where I knew the civil authority mandated it.

Where the state is forbidding churches to meet for a long time or indefinitely, I believe the church has grounds to disregard the state, without violating Romans 13.  John MacArthur is right in doing what he is doing.  Mark Dever has pointed out that during the 1918 Spanish Flu, the DC civil authority ASKED churches not to meet, and they agreed and didn't.  Because everyone SAW the emergency.  Today, it's a toss-up.  *Is there a real medical emergency that we are preventing by the lockdowns and mitigation?  (We know a lot more medically now than in 1918!)  Or is the pandemic emergency manufactured for this election season?  Leftist civil authorities have to insist their motivations are medical, not political, so they stick to their guns.  MAGA folks suspect media advocacy and bias, manufacturing a crisis, which is so obviously true that they have a real point.


SOMEBODY needs to call out the leftist civil authorities on the actual data, which doesn't call for such stringent measures at this point.  I'm glad Christ Church did, even as I wonder about the wisdom of the church stepping into the fray in this way.

9.17.2020

Writing My Congresswoman

 I just sent this to my congresswoman, Elissa Slotkin, in response to a letter touting her Congressional service.


Dear Congresswoman Slotkin,

Thank you for your August 30 letter to your constituents, making your case for re-election.

 

I wanted to write and let you know why I will not be supporting or voting for you in November.

 

I appreciate your service to our country, bi-partisan focus on the mission, and desire for decency in politics (which I note as a criticism of our President).

 

Here are my top concerns about your letter.

 

 

1. Health care.  You speak of the need for a solution, but there are many different proposals, and you do not specify what yours is.  Will it involve more government requirements, intrusions and regulations in the private market, or less?  Since you are a Democrat, I fear it is the former.

 

 

2. You speak of returning “$1 million owed to our residents from the federal government.”  I’d like to hear more about this.  I usually suspect this to be code language for pork projects you got for our district, but you give no details.  I disagree with your assumption that it’s a good thing to get Washington to spend more money on us locally.  Congress needs to be spending far LESS overall than it currently is.

 

 

3. What you don’t say: Equality Act.  Your party leaders are pursuing this vigorously, and it threatens religious freedom.  Do you support the aggressive LGBTQ+ agenda which seeks to force cake bakers and other artists to celebrate lifestyles they disagree with?  What if the shoe were on the other foot?  Would you want a politically “progressive” graphic artist forced to take a client who wanted to produce an anti-abortion message?

 

 

4. What you don’t say – abortion advocacy.

Abortion is not about reproductive rights for women, but about life for the child.  In no other ethical case do we say that my right to choose a course of action is justified when it deprives someone else of their life.  We need justice for babies in the womb, who are being killed by the thousands daily with our society’s endorsement.  Thinking less of a person because of the color of their skin is racist and a moral evil.  Destroying a living person in the womb is an atrocity no society should justify.  When will we recover our moral outrage at the great evil of abortion?  Please reconsider your position on this issue.

 

 

Thanks for your service as our Congresswoman,

 

Pastor Steve Hemmeke

9.16.2020

What Did You Learn Last Sunday Morning?

One of the more common questions we hear from parents greeting their kids when they come off the bus, home from school, is, “Did you have fun today?”  More common from the Asian or Indian parent you’ll hear, “Did you learn anything today?”  Because that’s what you’re there for! 

 

Jesus says in His invitation to come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30) to LEARN FROM HIM.  Do we seek to do this, when we go to church?  Are we there with Bible along, open before us, learning?  Or are we having a good time?  This doesn’t have to be a false dichotomy, but what is your main goal in church-going?  What does Jesus call us TO, when He calls us to Himself?

 

Paraphrase of Alistair Begg, from “Be in Christ” sermon, Aug 22, 2020, Truth for Life podcast, around the 10 minute mark

9.15.2020

The Church at a Cross Road

 The American church is at a crossroads and does not know it yet.

 

Focus on the Family produced an audio biography of Dietrich Bonhoffer years ago.  Early on, they have him in America in the 1920s asking a friend, “What if the day comes when I have to choose between my country of Germany, and my Savior?”  His friend laughs it off as highly unlikely, but we in the audience know what’s coming with Adolf Hitler.

 

Our national moment may be less dramatic, or a few years into the future.  But it is coming to most of us, and it is already upon some of us, like John MacArthur.

 

Civil disobedience is now a live option for the church, and may soon become necessary.

 

It won’t do to laugh it off as unlikely.

The PCA might be too cool and with-it in the culture to take such a stand.

The OPC might be too book-of-church-orderly to take such a jarring, out-of-the-ordinary stand.

 

It won’t do to refute Grace Community’s defiance with nuance, “what-about”-ism, and academic niggling.  Brad Littlejohn and others have tried this.

If we do not assert and exercise the church’s authority as separate from the state (Kuyper’s sphere sovereignty), our newly secular rulers will take it away.

 

We no longer have governors, judges, state representatives and Congressmen who have a gentleman’s agreement with the citizenry that they’re generally for the religious and won’t bother them.  We now have rulers in blue states actively hostile to religious activity.  (See the US House of Rep’s Equality Act, which Pelosi will be pushing for, after the election.)  Or at least they see church/mosque/synagogue as a “non-essential” side-luxury of life, not the core of meaning that it truly is for most of their citizens.

 

We now have a BLM movement adopted by all our major media and sports and corporate institutions, shouting out, “Eff your Jesus, Eff the police.”  Their anger is visceral, vulgar and aimed directly at us.  Just ask Rand Paul about it.

 

Forty years of Marxist/leftist teaching in our colleges has born its fruit in rioting rage against God and proper authority.  They only seek pretexts in George Floyd and Jacob Blake and others, to openly shoot policemen in the streets in broad daylight.  Then block the hospital in hope that they die.  This has actually happened in the last few days.

 

How is a society to say “NO” to this raging violence?

 

The ballot box is not a complete solution.  It is tainted by poor choices people make, and the lies of Joe Biden:

- Trump lied (on COVID) so people died.

- the police are out to get black people.

- Biden is for justice – equity for minorities; Trump is in it for his racist, white, rich friends on Wall Street.

 

None of this is true, but the Left will try any tactic, however false, to get Trump out.

 

I’ve said it to several people in the last few days, and I’ll say it here:

A vote for Biden in November is a sinful act, invoking the wrath of God.

Not because Trump is so great, or because we want America to be great again.  

(I’m not saying Christians must vote for Trump.  That’s another discussion, though I personally think they should.)

But because Biden is all in pushing for the law to let the unborn be hacked to pieces in the womb by the thousands every day.

Because Biden is all in to celebrate sexual perversion, as defined by God’s Word.

Because he has hitched his campaign to this cultural (French) revolution that defines racism as unequal outcomes in society, when true racism is judging someone by the color of their skin.

 

 

All that said, politics is not the answer.

 

To say NO to this raging violence, we need personal interactions with integrity by the silent majority.  The rioters on the news are a loud, vocal, and violent tiny minority, seeking a revolution.  Stop demanding absolute equality, or you’ll wind up in the guillotine yourself.  Let’s be gracious to each other and treat everyone with the dignity they should have as image bearers of God.  Do not harbor hatred in your heart for the rioters.  They are on the road to hell and need illumination by God’s Spirit or they will be lost forever.  Pray for them, and for your own heart to be at peace and joyful in God’s difficult providences.  (I realize some of them just believe lies and may be true Christian believers, too.)

 

I plan to vote for a black man to be my senator in November.  (John James, Michigan!)  NOT because of the color of his skin, but because of his positions on the important issues.  Critical race theory treats people unjustly and inequitably, in the name of justice and equity.  It is evil, driven by envy, revenge, and anger.  How about if we judge people by the content of their character, instead of by the color of their skin (MLK’s dream), and admit that such content of character is not always equal?  Society should reward certain behavior and character (producing goods and services and jobs, charity, piety, etc.), and punish others (rioting, looting, invading and threatening gated communities, shooting cops, blocking hospitals, etc.)

 

That shouldn’t be too hard to admit, when we compare 9/11/01 first responders with Target looters and cop killers, should it?

9.14.2020

California Churches, Christian liberty, and Romans 13

John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in California, is a crisis figure for the church today.


I believe this moment is filled with nuance – different states in the USA have varying levels of restrictions and exemptions for churches meeting or not during this COVID era.

 

But one thing Grace Community’s statement and actions make clear:

The state cannot forbid the church to meet long term for health reasons, when similar-size gatherings (protests and riots) happen without state penalty.

 

MacArthur’s statement has come under fire for indirectly rebuking churches that are NOT meeting.  I think he has been gracious in his response to this, while also holding firmly to his position.  To me this remains an issue of Christian liberty, whether one may/must go against civil orders forbidding gathering for worship.  Still, I also encourage meeting where the government forbids it in this context.

 

Why?  Because of my interpretation of the COVID data and the political context.  Since it all hinges on these two things, and not a clear reading of Scripture, I must allow other Christians to see these two factors differently than I do.  The news media that people have trusted for decades have become an advocacy arm for a particular (leftist) point of view on both of these points.  (I believe they seek to inflame fear and an aura of crisis until the election, to remove Donald Trump from the Oval Office, while others believe they are more-or-less accurately reporting the facts.  (I speak of the New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, MSNBC, USA Today, probably your local paper, take your pick.)  Because of this, many people have a wrongly informed conscience about who to vote for, and what health practices to follow regarding worship.

 

MacArthur would not be allowing his church to assemble if he thought it threatened their lives.  He talks about the data as a scientific layman and concludes it is not a threat to 99% or more of his congregation.  He is right about that.  You don’t have to be a Dr Fauci at this point to give an authoritative decree on whether or not churches may meet.

 

But this is my view.  For Christians who have been convinced they need to play it extra, extra, extra, extra safe to keep from killing others – okay.  I’ll go the extra mile with you if you insist. 

 

I just wish people would realize how extra of a mile it is.

9.03.2020

Meditations on Acts - Gospel Facets

In Acts 2-4 Peter’s sermons give the gospel clearly, but not the reduced, simple message we expect.

 

When we think of the basic Gospel, we think Romans Road: “All have sinned.  Jesus died to pay for your sin.  Believe Him and you’ll be forgiven.”

 

But Peter, anointed by the Spirit on Pentecost, knows his unique moment, and the Gospel angle his particular audience needs to hear.  Academics call this contextualizing the Gospel.  Sometimes liberals use that to compromise and water down the message, but it remains true that the Gospel needs to be contextualized.  


Which facet of the Gospel does the person in front of you need to hear?  Which facet do YOU need to hear today?  That sin is awful, you have sinned, and need a torn up and humble heart about it?  That your rescue is only found in the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, who God appointed for your rescue?  That you have the freedom of forgiven sin and a clear conscience because of Christ’s full payment for all your sins at the cross?  That God will give you daily grace anew by His Spirit to help you follow the Lord?

 

Peter’s audience needed to hear the second question in that list the most, and that they had killed that very Messiah:

“Jesus is the Messiah we’ve been waiting for God to send us.  But you killed Him.  But it isn’t too late to fix it, b/c God raised Him from death.  Repent and turn to God and believe in Him.”

 

For Christians today, we assume this point, that Jesus is the One.  But we still need the reminder that we won’t find satisfaction or salvation in money, sex or power.

 

One question to have in mind when you are reading the Bible is this: which facet of the Gospel is shining out here?  Whether it is the horrible offense of our sins in Jeremiah, justification by faith in Galatians, or wisdom for living (working out our salvation – sanctification) in Proverbs or James, every page of Scripture gives you some facet of the Gospel.

9.02.2020

Strengths Reveal Flaws

From my Bible reading…

 

Abraham is known for his faith, but he didn’t always trust God.  He took matters into his own hands and slept with Hagar to produce his way a child God had promised.

 

David is known for his worshipful desire for God in the Psalms, a man after God’s own heart.  But his desires weren’t always upright.  Not when he saw and summoned Bathsheba.  Not when he covered it up with Uriah and killed him.

 

Solomon is known for his wisdom, but he wasn’t always wise.  He amassed horses, women and gold, doing the very thing God warned kings not to do.

 

The best among us, the strongest and most mature, have days when they totally blow it.

 

For a modern day example, Trump’s rhetoric at his rallies in 2016 won him the White House, but the same rhetoric on Twitter the last 4 years may cost him a second term.

 

This tends to really bother us, because we keep looking for a Savior on this earth instead of the One sitting at God’s right hand.  We want salvation and perfection here and now, instead of being content with God’s messier plan.

 

Be careful you don’t run with your strengths in ways that dishonor God.