Showing posts from January, 2017

Thinking Through Some False Assumptions

Tonight I was coming home listening to my customary 25 minutes of drive time radio.  I listened to Janet Parshall and at one point said, Let me turn over to NPR and see if they are talking about Trump.

At first I thought, they aren't.  It was an African woman in Nairobi talking about how she has trouble getting her condoms.  Because of Trump.

That beats all.  He's been in office ten days and the supply of condoms in Kenya has been cut off.  Now, that is power!

OK, forgive the snarky.  I realize this poor woman is probably married and already has a number of children and wants to practice family planning.  Of course she should.  And she should get them from the health clinic.

But . . .

at what point in time did it become the responsibility of the United States government to supply her condoms?  Why doesn't Kenya's government?

Oh, they are too poor, you say.  Really?  Why are they poor?  Too poor to help with health needs as small as condoms?  Apparently yes, and food in…

Thinking about Some Big False Ideas

The United States is not Israel in the Old Testament.  We are a representative democracy, a democratic republic with a constitution. 

We are not obligated to follow the laws of the Old Testament about the aliens and strangers among us.  As a sovereign nation, we are to protect our borders and citizens. 

Christians are not Old Testament Israel either.  Most of the "promises" Christians use from the Old Testament do not apply to us, especially not individually.

In Matthew 16 Jesus said, Upon this rock I will build my church.  That means he was going to start something new--new wine in new wineskins.  He wasn't replacing Israel; he was starting the church.  The church has very clear teaching of its own to follow, called the gospels and epistles.  Every spiritual and moral principle that God wants us to follow from the Old Testament is repeated in the New.

So, where does this lead us to refugees? 
Don't quote Old Testament passages about taking care of aliens and say th…

Fresh Studies in Matthew, Matthew 12:1-8

--> Jesus now becomes, at least according to the text, more obvious and confrontation toward the religious order.I think we overlook the radicality of this text.What amazes me is his line of argument.David and the showbread; the priests on the Sabbath; his identity; the scriptural principle of mercy as coming first.“You would not have condemned the guiltless.” Who is guiltless here?Those who have only broken interpretations of the law, not the real law itself.They had not killed or used the Sabbath for gain—only for grain, one might say.They had fed themselves in a way that caused them to interact directly with the plant. They were not stealing because the real law said to leave grain around the edges for the poor to reap.It’s also the principle of margin—do not hoard for oneself everything, and do not take everything, including time, for yourself. Mainly, though, this is about the Lord of the Sabbath—he created it, he is the fulfillment of it (note he doesn’t say “I’m get…

Fact, Fiction and Hysteria

I find myself in the unenviable position of saying, "Look, I think Trump's a jerk, but let's calm down.  Let's look at what he's really doing and not take the media's and left's hysteria for fact."

This article explains the supposedly "Ban on Muslims" that isn't.

You can also search for the actual text of that order.  The word Muslim does not appear.  The word permanent does not appear.  This is not a permanent ban on Muslims or refugees.  It is a slowing down of the process to vet better.  Still, it seems to have caused an unnecessary confusion that is not boding well for his management style.  No nuance whatsoever.  And possible xenophobia. 

Now, whether it is needed is another issue, but it's not outside of the constitution per se. However, this practice of executive orders may be more the problem than what th…

In Memory, Mary Tyler Moore

I don't usually get too concerned about celebrity deaths, but she was someone I watched a great deal growing up.  All those years of Dick Van Dyke and her own show, which I watched fanatically every Saturday night.  It really is possible that her character was more of a role model than we realized. 


Happiness is my ESL class.  These people are special.  Three Iraqi woman, four Sudanese young men, and one Guatemalan. They are the high point of my week.

One more thing, and I'll stop

It's interesting that only pro-choice women were allowed at that march, when polls show that a very large minority (and perhaps a non-minority) are against abortion.  Pro-life and pro-choice do not translate to everyone the same way.

But, heh, Madonna and Chelsea Handler and Scarlett Johanneson were there, so the women at that march must have been annointed from on high, right? 

Media and Thoughts for January 22, 2017

So starts the four-year fight between Trump and the news media.  Principle 1:  The news media has no compunction about hiding the truth.  They report what they like.  What they report is truthful (or should I say based on fact) but only the truth they want to present, which might then by its very nature be perceived in an untrue way.  Cue the story of the blind men and the elephant. 

I listen to NPR a good bit but roll my eyes a good bit, too.  This past week they said they would be covering the inauguration and fact-checking the speech.  Oh, please.  Did they ever fact check President Obama?  They are so obviously out to "gotcha" on Trump and his administration, some of which seem to be really good people.  I hope they are taking the jobs to help our country through the trial of having him as president. 

However, Trump deserves to be fact checked.  He seems to believe that saying things enough times makes it true.  Magical thinking, maybe?

But I for one don't want ever…

Fresh Studies in Matthew, Matthew 11 continued

Sometimes I think that being a modern, as I call it, has divorced us from the rest of humanity that has been on the planet for thousands of years.For about 150 years we have had quickly evolving technologies that have transformed our ways of thinking and relating.So we come to Scripture with a mindset that is new in human history but we think is the only right one.And we land in Matthew 11.Jesus may seem a little moody or all over the place, a bit up and down here.We are assuming this is directly chronological, like a novel, which may or may not be true.He comforts and judges in the same thirty verses. He comforts John’s disciples, he castigates the crowds for wanting a show, he condemns the surrounding towns for ignoring the revelations they have received, and then he makes a clear declaration of deity, and finish by inviting the weary and oppressed.Comfort, a little sarcasm, and anger, condemnation, and comfort.So, we see the human emotions.Which one of us has not run the same gamu…

Trump is President

Just a few observations.  I am not happy he is president; I still think it's about the weirdest American political thing I've ever seen in my many, many years. But he is, legally.   I am not in despair about it, although there is no sense of satisfaction, since I didn't vote for him and spent the last year blogging and speaking against him when there was a chance.  So my conscience is clear; to quote "Sweet Home Alabama," my conscience doesn't bother me, does yours?

The left is a bunch of sore losers.  Bill Clinton only had 43% of the vote, but won electoral.  That's the way the system works.  If Hillary had won the electoral and not the popular vote, we wouldn't be hearing these arguments.  These folks are living up to the special snowflake insult. 

I have a feeling that a lot of of those protesters were paid to do that yesterday.  Not so much those today, the women, but it's interesting that those feminists did not want the Feminist for Life to…

Fresh Studies in Matthew, Matthew 11:25-end of chapter

These verses bring up the question, what is the relationship between the members of the Trinity/Godhead and what do they know?Jesus said the date of his return is known only the Father (although that may be historical rather than eternal time—in other words, at that particular moment Jesus had been limited from knowing, but not in eternity).However, he also says that “all things are entrusted to the Son, which is echoed in other places, such as in Paul’s writing, specifically in Colossians 1 and 2.The passage implies a coice by God as to who get the revelation.The “come to me” verses—some of my favorites! In this context it is an assertion or claim to power, not just a nice “feel good” promise.After saying that the offer of the gospel is closed to those who are not chosen to have it revealed to them, Jesus offers it to all.In the wider context, we are looking at judgment on cities in that region that have had the blessing of revelation of the Son and have rejected it.They have receiv…

Fresh Studies in Matthew, Matthew 11:7-14

These are probably some of the most poetic but also scathing words of Jesus. Tim Keller has a good sermon (podcast) on this passage. What did you go to gawk at?Jesus asks.  John was far more than you realize. This generation (which means more than a group of people bounded by birthdates) is fickle and childish.They are fussing at each other over trivial and stupid matters, and they are as unsatisfied with an abstemious prophet as they are with a Savior who reaches out to humans in human ways.We don’t want either.We are a child in a bad mood not getting his way and rejecting both options his parents offer him. (I am reminded of liberals and secularists who try to argue their points by appealing to Jesus.They don’t want to follow Jesus but they will cherry pick his words when it suits them.I am sure Jesus is pleased by their condescension and approval.) The fact that Jesus was rejected by some because of his humanity is interesting.Wisdom is vindicated—proved right—by the deeds that co…

Always Read the Book

Recently I downloaded The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes because I was tired of the TV and movie versions and wanted to see what they were really about.

So far I have read A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four.  They are delightful, and the portrayals of Holmes as an absolute jerk are unfounded.  (I really despise Cumberbatch's portrayal, but I don't think he's really supposed to be Holmes.)  He's aloof, unemotional, sometimes arrogant (but capable of admitting mistakes), and sometimes kind and giving; yes, he does take cocaine at times (which was not a huge deal back then), but not every day. 

Always read the original source material.  Movies can be very nice versions of the originals, but usually they get it wrong somehow simply because they are not the same medium.  It's like the difference between a photograph and a painting.  One is more directly the work and intent of the artist and his/her talent; the other has to be mediated through a machine.

(January 17…

Fresh Studies in Mathew, Matthew 11:1-7

--> This chapter is chock full. It begins with the poignant story of John’s doubt.What other religious document has such a human passage as this?John had been at the baptism, and had seen the spectacle of the voice of the Father, the bodily manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and the presence of the incarnate Word in one place.And now he is prison; prison has a way of burning away spectacle and exposing doubt, especially since he was probably able to guess his fate.Jesus answer is patient but clear: I am doing everything a Messiah is supposed to be doing, cousin John.His claims are based on the Old Testament prophecies of what the Messiah would do.But his tone changes in verse 7 and following.John needs one thing; the crowd who gawked at John needed something else.

Fresh Studies in Matthew, Matthew 10

This chapter, or portion, must be taken as a whole and not parsed out like the others.Of course, we could argue that is true of earlier passages.Here he is commissioning his 12 to go out and preach the gospel of the kingdom, pre-cross, and this is not pretty.He addresses opposition, persecution, fear, separation from family, inter-familial conflict, death. What I have missed up to this point is that this chapter immediately follows “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Jesus has looked at the masses and it is clear as one person in a body he cannot minister directly to all of them, so he commissions the 12 disciples (including the one who betrays him!) to go out and reach the masses with healing and teaching.That part holds true today: we are an extension of the body of Christ.The ideals of the gospel, the real essence and mandates of it, so transcend where we are.(In my original reflec…

Fresh Studies in Matthew, Matthew 9:14

In response to a question about why the disciples of Jesus do not fast like John’s, Jesus essentially says, they will, when I am gone.I am with them now and there is no reason to mourn and fast.I found the analogy of the patched garment and new wineskins odd most of my life because I didn’t understand the reality of these items.Sure, I patched garments, but with those patches manufactured ones that don’t shrink!And we don’t make wine in animal skins now.The kingdom Jesus is bringing is new and putting old parts of the former kingdom, with emphasis on law, is not going to work.We cannot mix the law and grace.So much of what he is saying is hearkening back to Jeremiah’s promises of a new way of doing things.

Fresh Studies in Matthew, Matthew 9:9-13

9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.
10 Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’[b] For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”[c]

This is NOT one of the more enigmatic statements of Jesus (not that there were really that many in the first place).Matthew writes of his own call very succinctly.“Jesus came, he saw, I went.” Like the fishermen, there is immediate turning from former vocation; we don’t know if he ever went back to it for a whil…

Fresh Studies in Matthew, Matthew 9:1-8

This is similar to the story in Mark where the roof if taken off; that might be a purposeful omission since it wasn’t important to Matthew’s narrative about power and validation of Messiahship. I didn’t understand this for years, for some reason, because I didn’t understand the “which is easier part?”It is easier to say “Your sins are forgiven” because there is no outward proof.It is much harder to say, ”Rise and walk” because that has to be followed with a healing understood.Jesus did both, not just for himself or the scribes, but for the paralytic man, who apparently had not that being forgiven meant healing of his physical condition.We also do not understand, at first or even after a while, the full meaning of “your sins are forgiven.” We do not forgive ourselves and still let our scruples and Satan keep us in bondage to “not feeling forgiven.” We don’t have a right to be more righteous than God.The scribes are an interesting bunch.Although we see them as the bad guys, they were th…

Art Imitates Art Imitates Art: Sherlock Holmes, Gillette Castle, and Mr. Holmes

My husband and I just finished watching the rather sweet movie Mr. Holmes on Amazon's version of Netflix.  There was a factual error in it, but probably more than one since it's about fictional character commenting on how he is written about by another fictional character who was the unreliable narrator for the real writer, and of course the first fictional character comments on how unreliable the fictional narrator was.  Very meta.

In the movie Mr. Holmes (Ian McKellan ) says that John Watson invented the deerstalker cap, but I beg to differ.

In 2013 my friend and I took a road trip tour of New England. One place we ended up was Gillette Castle in Connecticut, atop a bluff overlooking the Connecticut River.  We took a ferry to get to that side of the river (everything in Connecticut is smaller and closer together than what we are used to in Georgia, but it's a pretty place).  I found the construction a tad odd, but interesting.  We found out that Gillette Castle was built…

Fresh Studies in Matthew - Matthew 8:23-33.

Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. 24 And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. 25 Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!”26 But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”
28.When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes,[c] there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. 29 And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”
30 Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. 31 So the demons begged Him, saying, “If You cast us out, permit us to go away[d] into …

2016 Deaths, Revisited

Of the "famous deaths" in 2016, I would argue two had the most impact on real people.  Fidel Castro and Antonin Scalia. 

Castro's death will change our foreign policy.  While Cuba might seem like a minor country, it was a big deal that President Obama opened up travel and trade with the country.

Scalia is a different matter.  I would argue that Donald Trump would not be president if Scalia had lived.  The one argument bought by millions of conservative voters who were totally unimpressed by Trump was that he would replace Scalia with a constitutionalist.  If Scalia was around and kicking, the urgency would not have been as real. 

Fresh Studies in Matthew, Matthew 8:18

18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 19 Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”21 Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”How do we read verse 20?Is Jesus complaining or fussing or presenting reality.First, this is the same day as the preceeding verses about many healings, and in the evening, clearly, because the next thing to happen is that they are on a boat at night.Simply, “If you follow me, you can’t expect comfort and maybe not security.”Verse 22 is really harsh. Is the potential follower saying, “Let me stay home until my dad dies?”(which could be a long time off and may entail an inheritance?)Or is he in the middle of grieving…

Moving Into 2017

As the Christmas season closes, I post these photos of figures on display at my church,various versions of the Nativity from Africa and other places that have been brought by missionaries. 

I have been slow to use many photos but they enhance the blog experience. These are charming.

Upcoming:  Return to Matthew studies, although they might be out of order for a bit.  My goal is to create a 365 day study in Matthew as an encounter with Christ as He is there.  A big, perhaps pretentious project.  It will only be saved if I see my audience, the person who needs the message of Matthew.