The Sifting

“Napoleon is always right.”

You remember obedient Boxer saying that repeatedly in Orwell’s Animal Farm, right? And you remember how obedient Boxer ended, right? Of course you do. He was slaughtered and pressed into glue. A rather unfortunate ending for the obedient.

But he was obedient, obedient even unto death.

All animals were equal, remember? It’s just some animals were more equal than others. Seems to be a neglected unpleasantry of being sheeple in a world system where wolves exercise the control.

But Orwell’s warnings were just for his generation, of course. We would never–in our enlightened, progressive, secular, egalitarian, evolved cultus replete with elites–when we have Silicon Valley and Hollywood (the center of intellectual and classical wisdom, you know?), and Portland and Seattle–when we can Tweet (well, some can … if they tow the line of “Napoleon is always right”) … we would never fall for it. A dated novel like Orwell’s Animal Farm having truth to speak to us? Impossible. Come on, man.

We could never fall into such totalitarianism. We could never wake to discover free speech is disappearing because of it being labeled ‘hate speech’ and, because sheeple want to be kind, above all. No, it could never happen. Napoleon is always right, remember? Just ask Boxer. Oh wait, Boxer is … well … nevermind.

That was just a time period when Lenin and Stalin and Trotsky and Mao and Hitler and Goebbels, et al were rather unkind to a few unfortunates. But their kind words did not sound lupine; they sounded so un-wolflike and good: unity, togetherness, equality, purity, peace.

“Napoleon is always right,” of course. We know better now. We have progressed. That’s a great lesson of history … that man learns and becomes more noble. Your news bears that out, right?

Chicago has become the new Eden, didn’t you hear? If you’ll just step over the bodies, it’s Eden, I tell you. And San Francisco, it is better still. You can not only see Alcatraz as a tourist attraction but you can do so while standing in human excrement and hypodermic needles in Chinatown. The tents of the homeless can often block the view of the bridge but, come on, man, be flexible. We are progressing.

Yeats was surely mad when he penned “The Second Coming“:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

There’s no way we are not getting better. There’s no way a sifting is underway. There’s no way it could be that. Napoleon is always right, didn’t you hear? Come on, man. Paul was surely just having a bad day when he wrote,

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:21-25 ESV).

It is impossible we are being sifted. Flat impossible, I say.

Hey, does anyone else smell the glue?

Diminished?

I learn best by asking questions. Following are ten questions I am trying to think through:

  1. Are we in the West in a state of moral decline?
  2. If so, to what do we attribute the moral decline (destruction of nuclear family; jettisoning of God; historical revisionism and/or ignorance, etc.)?
  3. Are we diminished in our abilities to think critically? If so, why?
  4. Does government schooling have any relation to our level of discourse and/or the (in)ability of many people to think critically?
  5. If walls and guns for citizens are bad, why is D.C. pervaded by walls and guns?
  6. Francis Schaeffer wrote a lot in the 20th century about two of our idols: personal peace and affluence. He meant by these terms radical individualism and unending consumerism. Have those idols remained the main ones in today’s culture?
  7. I hear a lot about “spirituality” vs. biblical Christianity. Why do you think so many identify as “spiritual but not religious”? What do to the terms actually mean? To whom is one accountable in spirituality?
  8. Since America’s courts have legislated that marriage can be between two women, or two men, (and no longer just between one man and one woman), what exactly is prohibiting marriage between people and animals or between adults and children, or polyamory?
  9. Why do you think we are told that masks save lives and we ought to, therefore, wear them in order to save lives? And yet abortion mills run day in and day out and we’re told those are due to “choice”? Does the logic not cut both ways? Why should we supposedly try to protect some lives but simultaneously snuff out children’s lives?
  10. What are the roots of our diminishment/reduction/decline?

Just thinking.

What Kind of States of America?

Illustration: Unprecedented. Unique. Unparalleled. Those are just some adjectives used to describe what is happening in our nation. I don’t watch TV ‘news’ but I do read it online, and it is gut-wrenching. Many of our nation’s own Guardsmen are activated to the capital cities in our states. Nearly 30,000 Guardsmen are activated to Washington D.C., not just within the capital city but to the Capitol building. To see America arm her own citizen-soldiers to protect her from her own citizens reveals a lot about where we are as a nation and as a culture.

 Scripture: America is often described as a post-Christian nation. Most folks want nothing to do with the God of the Bible, nothing to do with the doctrine of God and His holiness, or the doctrine of man and his sinfulness, or of Jesus Christ, the God-man, the sole mediator between God and man. That is not new.

Prophets and truth-tellers don’t win popularity contests. Moses was on the receiving end of national criticism. Joseph was mocked and betrayed by his own family. Abel was murdered by his own brother. John the Baptist was beheaded. Paul was incarcerated and eventually beheaded in Rome, Italy. John was exiled to an island off the coast of Turkey. Peter was crucified. And, of course, Jesus Christ was denied, lied about, betrayed, sold, mocked, spat upon, crowned with briars, flogged, beaten, pierced, and nailed to a tree. No, to speak about biblical things in an accurate way, that is now “hate speech” that needs to be marginalized. This is why the Bible speaks so often about counting the costs of being a disciple. Americans want secularism, and paganism, and commercialism, and non-stop entertainment and distraction. But how is all that working out for us?

There is deep division running through our land. It is not just in Atlanta or Portland or Chicago or Minneapolis or the District of Columbia. No, it runs through the heart of sinners. And at the heart of the issue is whether or not we will acknowledge God as God, or if we will refuse to do that and play gods ourselves. It is the story of Genesis 3 all over again. Did Adam and Eve obey God perfectly? Did they acknowledge that God determines good and evil and defines the standards? No; they believed Satan (Genesis 3). They believed the lie and the father of lies (Genesis 3; John 8:44).

Evidence: In Luke 11:17, when Jesus was still trying to teach recalcitrant sinners, he taught with clarity what was at stake:

But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls.”

The issue was whether they would believe the truth that Jesus is the only Savior, the God-man, the second person of the triune God of the Bible, or if they would believe the lie, just like Adam and Eve did, in Genesis 3. Same story. Who is telling the truth? Would folks believe and follow the truth and evidence, or would they follow the lie?

You know the story: Jesus was rejected. Despite the miracles, the healings, the precise fulfillment of hundreds of Old Testament prophecies, despite his wisdom that baffled the Pharisees’ self-proclaimed wisdom, the hearers largely rejected the Messiah. And what happened to Jerusalem in A.D. 70? She fell. Conquered by invaders once again.

Takeaway: What does this have to do with us today? Everything. We are divided. People are in camps. Now is the day of “identity politics” and “intersectionality.” People claim victim status, and we’ve grown distasteful to ourselves.

Our nation’s soldiers are at the city gate, so to speak, to keep Americans from slaughtering one another. These are serious times, folks. If we are true believers, it is long past time to give ourselves a hard look in the mirror, repent, pray, encourage ourselves in the Lord and in the power of His might, speak truth lovingly but boldly and clearly to all who will hear, and be found faithful.

If we are to ever be united, it will only be because we are united in truth. Christ taught that Satan, the enemy of men’s souls, does this: he lies, steals, and destroys (John 10:10). But Christ came and laid down His life for His sheep (John 10:11). Why? Because He is the Good Shepherd.

The father of lies vs. the Good Shepherd. Satanic deception vs. the Good Shepherd who came for sinners who will respond in repentance and faith.

How is that for clarity of choice?

May God raise up truth-tellers who are faithful regardless of the costs.

Everything for Its Purpose

I was talking with some of my fellow chaplains this week about what they think our near future may hold. Some of them are rolling out to Washington D.C. as part of the Army National Guard’s ready response to our nation’s citizens.

The chaplains have a role unique in military history and unique to America’s troops. The chaplains are on the front lines of providing ministry to all our troops. Our chaplains provide for our troops in accordance with the Constitution’s First Amendment.

I keep a framed copy of our Constitution’s First Amendment on my office desk and a copy of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence in my breast pocket to read regularly. The words, just in the First Amendment alone, are profoundly important and foundational to America:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

I asked one of our chaplains today how he was feeling about the next couple of weeks. “You okay? You feel good about things?” “Oh, I am ready, sir,” he said. “I’m right where I want to be. You know me.”

Yes, brother, I do know you. This is why I am encouraged. You embody the quality of most of our chaplains.

When we spoke, he was driving a van with his soldiers to our nation’s capital, and I saw once again what Scripture teaches with regard to our essence: ” . . . for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45b, ESV). Christ taught what is true of all of us: our words reveal our hearts, our core, our essential nature.

The chaplain was with his fellow soldiers. Do they know what lies ahead for them? No. Not in the immediate sense. But they know their chaplain is with them, walking through the valley of the shadow of death with them, shepherding them.

As we look at all the folly and rancor and outright spiritual suicide our nation seems intent upon inflicting upon herself through various powerful and wealthy industries and forces, may the Lord raise up those who are strong and courageous, knowing that “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (Pr 16:4).

Press on faithfully. Weary not in the doing of good (Gal 6:9). May we remember our foundations.

And for those who are clothed in the righteous robes of the One who mediates between God and man, for those like the chaplain who is even now en route to the political center of our nation’s divided mind, may you be found faithful.

God made everything for its purpose. There is comfort in that truth. May we be found in Him and discharge our duties faithfully.

The Long View

Congratulations! You made it. Finally it is 2021. You persevered through the last 365 eons . . . er, I mean . . . 365 days.

Who knows what’s coming over the following days? Prediction, as the old joke goes, is especially difficult with regard to the future. True story.

I prefer history over prophecy. I find studying history fortifies me better for the future than pundits’ prognostications. My tendency to study history is one of myriad reasons I love the book of Ecclesiastes. Here’s an example of Solomonic wisdom in Ecclesiastes:

What has been is what will be,

and what has been done is what will be done,

and there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there a thing of which it is said,

“See, this is new”?

It has been already

in the ages before us.

There is no remembrance of former things,

nor will there be any remembrance

of later things yet to be

among those who come after (Eccl 1:9-11 ESV).

Solomon is reputed to have been among the wisest men to have ever lived. And Ecclesiastes is one of the wisest books you and I have the privilege to read and learn from.

Illustration: Over the Christmas holidays in 2020, my plans did not go as I had hoped. I began feeling pretty crummy a few days before Christmas–severe headache, loss of taste, loss of my sense of smell, fatigue, etc. Finally I went to the pharmacy up the road for a swab test. The results revealed I was positive for COVID-19. So I spent almost all of ten days either in my bed, in my recliner, or shuffling between the two.

But my wife nursed me back to health by having me rest and follow the recommended regimen: hydrate, take lots of vitamins C, D, zinc, magnesium, etc. I did all of the above. And now I am good to go. But it was not a Christmas holiday season I ever care to repeat.

It was bittersweet to see others’ pictures and videos of Christmas together where their kids were opening gifts around Christmas trees and the stockings hung from the fireplace mantels resembled scenes from some of my favorite Dickens novels.

I had a lot of time to read and reflect. I think that is one more reason I relish the wisdom of Ecclesiastes. As Solomon wrote in the passage cited above, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9b).

Viruses have been around a long time. But wisdom has been around, too. And the world keeps going. It does not stop because a few battle a virus for a week or two.

Encouragement: When I was scrolling my Facebook page one day over the break, one of our neighbors had taken a picture of the lake where we live and shared it for others to enjoy. She had snapped it from her dock. The picture reminded me of the wisdom found in Ecclesiastes.

When life goes topsy-turvy, and we are tempted to scratch our heads and ask, “Why this? Why now? Why me?” or “What’s next?” we can learn from history that “What has been is what will be” (Eccl 1:9a), and that “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease” (Gen 8:22).

Let us press on in wisdom, “for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Gal 1:9).

Eternity in Man’s Heart

Eternity in Man’s Heart

Illustration: Over the holidays I got in some more time on the trails. My old dog, Brewster, knows my favorite trails, so he maintains an aggressive pace at times. I have to call to him occasionally to slow down so I can take in the scenery. I love the seasons in north GA. Regardless of season, there is beauty to behold if you pay attention. But Brewster just likes to splash in the creeks and chase the deer. The creeks were running well due to recent rainfall. Brewster got in, drank, and smelled the wildlife trails that led to the water. I snapped some photos, opened my ruck for my water bottle, and sat on the bank and sipped, watched, and listened. I heard the red woodpecker working away at a rotten white oak over my shoulder from the direction we’d come. I watched small fish dart away from Brewster as he chased them in the creek. The fish left momentary V’s in the water’s surface as they fled from Brewster. I untied and retied the laces on my boots for the next leg of the hike, and called to Brewster. “Come on, buddy; let’s go up.” And we headed up towards the ridge. We knew from experience it would take us almost two hours to make it to the top, but it has always been worth it. The views; the smells of the cool December air; the wildlife. No computer screens, no traffic, no news of politics.

Scripture: Perhaps my favorite book of the Bible is Ecclesiastes. It comes from what is termed the wisdom literature in Scripture (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon). Most folks know a little something from Ecclesiastes 3 due to the hit rock-n-roll song, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by the Byrds. But I love reading Ecclesiastes because of its literary brilliance. God showcases beauty amidst brokenness. Solomon teaches throughout that, yes, this is a broken and fallen world, but there is still beauty in it. And if you pay attention, you will behold it. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart . . . .” (Eccl 3:11, ESV).

Encouragement: Perhaps holidays afforded you the opportunity to unplug a bit from screen time. Perhaps you were not glued to social media. Perhaps you made good memories with your loved ones. Perhaps you took in some of the beauties that God graciously provides in his creation. He made it, the Bible teaches, beautiful. And he made it to attest to its Maker’s glory. Do we pay attention? It’s no accident that everything–from our strands of DNA, to the trout in these creeks, from Saturn’s rings, to Brewster’s sense of smell alerting him that we’re being watched by whitetails on the western ridge—everything bears witness to its Maker. God does not hide. On the contrary, he celebrates himself through what he has made–as evidences of himself, so that we would seek and find him. He put eternity in our hearts.

Brewster played in the creeks; he chased squirrels up into the massive trees that created the majestic canopy; I climbed the granite rocks topped by green moss that reminded me of the green felt on the billiard table I had as a boy. And in my mind kept running the refrain: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart . . . .” (Eccl 3:11).

Off the Grid

How is 2020’s Christmas holiday season going for you? Mine has been different from previous years’ celebrations. Normally my family and I would be with our extended family. But this year I have spent it isolated inside my home, “socially distancing” from my wife and children. Around 23 December, I seemed to have developed what appeared to be a sinus infection. I began sneezing a lot; my eyes grew puffy; I got a piercing headache just above my eyes; my energy level took a nosedive; I lost my sense of taste; I lost my sense of smell. Something was going on, right? I was about to learn what it is like to experience the holiday season off the grid.

I tried to get an appointment at a pharmacy near the house for a COVID-19 test. However, the websites and links to all of them (yes, all of them) near us said, “Due to high demand, we are unavailable to meet your request at this time,” or something to that effect. Not exactly the message I wanted to read when I felt so miserable. On Christmas Eve my pain got so bad I had to drive to a CVS 40 miles north where my wife finally found an opening for me. I was to remain in my vehicle but go through the pharmacy’s drive-thru and take a COVID-19 swab test. So for my 1:30 appointment, I was in one of the scores of vehicles to stage in the CVS parking lot and wait my turn. Finally my time came. I arrived almost an hour early, thinking I could perhaps get my appointment done sooner. But like so much of 2020, it was not to be. Scores of others were in line, too. Even though I was almost an hour prior to my appointment, as I inched my way closer and closer to the CVS drive-thru, I memorized the back of the silver Dodge pickup truck in front of me, and read a book of Shirley Jackson short stories, while we all waited our turn. Finally at just after 2:15 p.m. I was the next vehicle in line.

I pulled up to the nurse practitioner-teller at the CVS. Wearing her gloves and mask and speaking through a speaker and window, she instructed me on what to do. I swabbed my nostrils, snapped off the swab inside the vial, wiped down the bag, verified my name and date of birth, etc. and deposited my info into the receptacle near the window. My clear plastic bag was just one more among many. The parking lot and drive-thru were, as I said, jammed with us. I could tell from her body language that the nurse-practitioner-teller had been doing this all day. Her words had the lifelessness of someone who has said the same thing so often, the words have become programmatic and empty of human connection.

“Three to four days,” were the words that pushed me even lower. That’s what she told me as I was about to pull away. Three to four days is how long it would take to get my official results of the COVID-19 test.

It was a long drive back home. Rain set in. Temperatures dropped to well below freezing. Then the rain turned to sleet. Then it turned to snow. I got home, updated my wife and family on what I had been told, and now, I am still waiting.

So for Christmas, I sat in my library and tried to read. I love to read, but the level of this headache is a match even for my passionate commitment to reading. I even found myself doing what I usually criticize. I watched TV. My wife has an account to one of the movie channels, so I have watched documentaries and adaptations on Edward Snowden and other folks that intrigue me.

I watched a Netflix series on David Koresh entitled Waco. Events the FBI and other U.S. government agencies (in my opinion) exacerbated in 1993 kept me watching. Then I watched episode after episode of Criminal Minds. The characters played by Mandy Patinkin and Matthew Gray Gubler fascinate me. Gideon, the Patinkin character, is intense and laser-focused. His character speaks to me on several levels. The same goes for Reid, the Gubler character. Spencer Reid reads the classics, and it is not uncommon for him to reference Shakespeare or Sophocles, Plato or C.S. Lewis, Arthur Conan Doyle and the Bible in almost every episode. And I track with the way his mind works. It’s comforting for me to see a character in contemporary entertainment who actually has an intellectual life. Most shows are mere vapid plots with laugh tracks and/or canned characters utterly devoid of depth, but not so with Criminal Minds, in my view, and especially not with those characters. Thomas Gibson’s character, too, fascinates me. I mean, you have to respect a man who can see what he and the others saw, and yet still maintain a commitment to trying to rid the world of such criminality, one bad guy at a time.

So while I am off the grid, as it were, while I am hunkered down in my library at the house, I am reading as much as possible when the headaches subside. So far, I have completed John MacArthur’s Nothing but the Truth; a book of Shirley Jackson’s short stories; Jackson’s short novel We Have Always Lived Here, and have begun Foer’s book Everything Is Illuminated, and I am still in Barry’s long book The Great Influenza.

My wife continues to lay up treasures in heaven by putting up with me, the terrible patient. She has rubbed my chest down with things to help me breathe. She has made capsules of zinc and vitamin C and vitamin D and magnesium, etc. She has made sure to keep me hydrated. She has been better than I ever deserved.

I suppose some folks are good at being sickly, but I assuredly am not. I want nothing so much as to be able to go outside, to hike with my dog, to enjoy the outdoors, to go to work, etc. But none of that is to be for a bit longer it seems. I am checking the little CVS app on my phone now for the email that will tell me if I am positive for this virus. Then, if so, I will likely have to do the quarantine thing and miss work and miss some of my duties as a soldier. It will mean more time off the grid. It will mean more time watching documentaries, and trying to read between headaches, and watching others’ sentimental pictures and videos online of the holidays.

And I will continue to learn how being off the grid from my normal may be used to teach me how much I love those in my life who give of themselves when I have nothing to give in return except gratitude. I am thankful I could at least drive to a CVS 40 minutes north and take a test. I am thankful there are ways to kill this virus, if that is what I have. It is not just for me I say these things. When I looked around at all the vehicles that were inching their way through the drive-thru at the pharmacy Christmas Eve, I became well aware that this is not just about me. This thing levels the playing field quickly. I have seen some in my own extended family who have had this and have–thankfully–come through it. I know of many of my fellow soldiers who have gotten it and seem to be pushing through just fine. I am thankful for the calls, texts, and emails from those I shared with that I may have come down with this.

If you are with your loved ones, by all means, enjoy them. Take the selfies. Eat, laugh, nap, and repeat. Don’t take them–or the normal–for granted. I know that you may be tempted to think that “off the grid” sounds brave or authentic or some such thing, but as for me, I would much prefer to return to the grid, and be with my loved ones, leave off the documentaries, and just go back.

God’s Handiwork

Illustration: Yesterday afternoon was beautiful and, as is my custom, I strapped on my backpack, laced up my hiking boots, and headed into the woods and up the hills to hike in order take in as much of nature’s beauty as I could before darkness fell. But it was tonight’s sky that was to be special for a lot of folks. Many took up their cameras, telescopes, and other optical equipment to capture a spectacle in the heavens. Why? Jupiter and Saturn appeared to do a heavenly hug in the firmament. Social media feeds were flooded with pictures people put up of the sight. I saw some people’s pictures that made me fall silent, they were so moving and beautiful. The orbits of Jupiter and Saturn coincided with the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The sky was as clear last night as I have seen in a long time, too; that added to the power of the whole spectacle.

Scripture: This morning when I was reading, I was reminded of how often the Bible speaks of the heavens:

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:14-18).

That was from Moses’ pen in Genesis. But King David wrote, too, of God’s creating the heavens and superintending them in the Bible’s poetry. Why? So that we would see how the heavens trumpet their Author:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

The temptation is to worship the creation rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). I saw this last night. People who claim to be atheists found themselves marveling at the precision of the heavenly spectacle. They used scientifically crafted optical equipment to gaze upon a heavenly display of awe-inducing power, and yet they were oblivious to the fact that all of this design heralds the glory of the Designer (God). This is why the Bible reminds us:

“And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven(Deuteronomy 4:19).

Encouragement: As most of us will try to be with our loved ones over the next few days to enjoy Christmas and some holidays, I wonder if we will give thought to this:

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

The planetary display this week was certainly moving, but it was not as important as the incarnation of God. You see, it was not random that the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn coincided, and that we know with precision when this is slated to happen again.

It was not random that God warned us that we sinners too often want to worship the creation rather than the Creator. It was not random or accidental that Jesus, the second Person of the triune God of the Bible, took on flesh in the incarnation “in the fullness of time,” as Paul wrote in Galatians 4.

No, dear readers, none of it was random or accidental, any more than your cameras, and iPhones, and telescopes were random or accidental. They bespeak of the One about whom the whole creation bears witness: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13).

Merry Christmas.

Some Meanings of the Incarnation of God

For now at least, Christmas is still a national holiday. Holiday is a term originally rooted in Old English from halig (“holy”) + daeg (“day”). Not much is sacred to most Westerners anymore, but if they are employed, they still tend to take off from work for Christmas, a benefit bestowed because of the work and grace of another.

Christians, too, may take off from work, but they will understand the halig + daeg (“holiday”) differently. Instead of just taking a paid day off from work, they will take heart because they know what the incarnation of God means.

Christians, take heart.

Remember the Lord and what He has done. They are indeed great things. Here are just some meanings of the incarnation:

• God exists

• God has communicated His nature

 God took on human flesh in Israel in the 1st century (hence, A.D., Anno Domini, “in the year of the Lord”)

• The eternal God entered time and space

• God has revealed Himself, His nature, and His power, in the person and work of Jesus, the Christ

 Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection are the most researched and authenticated facts of history

• Jesus fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophecies in precise detail

• No one has produced the body of Jesus

• The church endures and the gates of hell have not and will not prevail against it (Mt 16:18)

• Christ has come; Christ has died; Christ will come again

For non-Christians, I know you are probably busy. But would you take the time to think through the significance of these things–that the one and only holy God exists, that He has revealed Himself in creation, in Scripture, and in the incarnation of the Christ, that He (Jesus) lived a perfect life of obedience to God the Father, that Jesus went to the cross and became sin and bore the curse of sin’s penalty for all who will come in repentance and faith to Christ alone, and that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the triune God of the Bible, says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts . . .” (Ps 95:7-8a)?

Merry Christmas!

Of Courage & Cowardice; Warriors & Wimps

I am reading a book that is accumulating a lot of underlining. One such passage is this one:

Turbulent times call for people of courage and conviction who understand the issues at stake and are willing to engage the fight. Underlying the culture war is a great spiritual struggle. On one side are those who believe in universal moral principles, confirmed in Scripture, which should inform and govern our thinking, our speech and our behavior. On the other side are those who prefer to believe that everything is relative, subjective, and merely a matter of personal choice. Although the culture war is often fought in public, the primary battleground is the human heart, and what we see manifested in our society and culture today is merely the visible expression of a titanic struggle between good and evil being waged in the spiritual realm.[1]

I tend to mark up my books. I read with a pencil in hand. I make notes in the margins. I ask questions of the text. I jot down references that occur to me from prior reading and reflection. When I read the above passage I made this diagram:

Universal vs. Relative

Objective vs. Subjective

Rooted vs. Displaced

Fixed vs. Overthrown

Scripture vs. Human opinion

Biblical Theism vs. Atheism/Secularism

Few things are as important as clarity. Illustrating Breshears’ ideas via a “this vs. that” model clarifies the alternatives.

I don’t know many people who don’t sense that the West is undergoing a sea change, a “fundamental transformation,” if you will.

One side wants to conserve; the other wants to transform.

One side wants to recognize that marriage was created and designed to be between one man and one woman; the other side repudiates that and says it (the secular left) has ‘progressed’ and knows better.

One side recognizes God exists, and that men and women are created in His image; the other side sees men and women as autonomous beings in a godless universe wherein gender is now fluid and constructed.

Per Facebook wisdom, for example, its users can select from 71 gender options. Um, folks, this is a new world. One might go so far as to call it quite plainly what it is: stupid.

Some thinkers have written that we are undergoing a second Civil War. But this civil war is about which values we will hold to and base our identity upon.

Will we recognize God; special revelation (Scripture); objective moral values; marriage as the sacred union between one man and one woman; that boys are boys and that girls are girls; that perhaps “fundamentally transforming” the West is veiled language that means destroying Western Civilization and reshaping it into forms with no objective standards but the preferences of the powerful?

There is a ghastly price to be paid for mocking heaven. I know that we are living in a time when the Bible is mocked. It’s somehow “below” many people today. That’s okay. The Bible has been mocked before. Mocking is the default position of the fool. You know how we know that? Brace yourself: It is in the Bible:

Why do the nations rage

and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,

Let us burst their bonds apart

And cast away their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens laughs;

the Lord holds them in derision.[2]

You see, it is not courageous to spit in the wind; it is folly. It is not brave to shake your fist at God and curse heaven; it is folly. God laughs at folly. It does not wound God to mock Him. He is the uncreated Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth, who needs nothing. He is not lacking anything. He is perfect and He is wholly good and holy, holy, holy. So there is no wisdom in being rebels in a foolish cause.

But you see, God is also loving, and He knows what is best for us. Shall He not do what is right, what is “just” (Genesis 18:25)? Yes, He does and He will. He is the Author of Life (Acts 3:15). He is the potter and we are the clay (Isaiah 64:8).

Again, it is a question of clarity. Breshears has it. His book details it with excellence. It is a clarity that demands we be honest, that we count the costs, that we realize the consequences of our ideas. Read his book. Better still, read the Book. Though neglected and mocked by the fools, it abides still and remains what it has always proven to be: the Word of God.


[1] Breshears, Jefrey D. American Crisis: Cultural Marxism and the Culture War: A Christian Response. [Centre Pointe Publishing, 2020], VIII.

[2] Psalm 2:1-3, ESV.