Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Living in the Big Tech World

Oh my; the curtains have been pulled aside completely and the world is seeing just how sneaky and sinister are Facebook's designs on the culture.  Just take your pick of evils.  For instance, there’s Facebook’s attempt to control the flow of thought with its highly sophisticated but increasingly transparent totalitarian vision.  Freedom and fair play? They don't even try and hide their disdain for those virtues anymore.

Then there is their ham-handed censorship of those political, religious, and social views that are contrary to those pushed by Big Brother. Facebook frequently limits the spread of posts that present contrary views and sometimes "lose" them altogether. Even when such posts are allowed, Facebook is increasingly requiring that they are linked to their own ideas of "corrective" explanations.

And, of course, they are plugged into all the other leftist tech giants (Twitter, Google, YouTube, Wikipedia) in tracking, restraining, exploiting, and manipulating you.

So, what to do about it?

Well, here's the 4-part approach we're taking.  

1) Though we know Vital Signs Ministries' Facebook and You Tube posts are at the mercy of Big Tech's prejudices and powers, we will, for now, continue on those platforms with hopes (and no small amount of prayers) that some of them will break through and still connect with people. We will also do so with some of our personal posts.

2) However, like several of our friends have already done, we are going to experiment with other platforms like Parler. 

3) We will be urging our friends to start bypassing the social networks and instead go directly to Vital Signs Ministries through our website and blogs...and do the same with other terrific sources of news and commentary. 

In this regard I recently answered a question posed by several friends who were bothered about the flood of fake news (from both old guard media and the Big Tech information platforms). They asked me how I keep up with cultural happenings without being overwhelmed by conflicting claims. My answer began with the need to keep one's priorities in place; namely, to live a life for God that centers on knowing the Word, walking in holiness, exercising spiritual disciplines, serving others, and always yearning for the upward call. However, in the specific matter of dealing with the day's news and views, I listed for them the internet sites I most frequent. Here is that part of my note to them.

* The first thing I look at in the morning is the email devotional we get from Joni Eareckson Tada. It's terrific. You can check out samples of that and even sign up for it right here.

The other sites I check in with almost daily?

Power Line

The Federalist

The Stream

Decision Magazine

Others that I frequently find enlightening and helpful are those that send me email updates. No, I don't always open them up. Like you, I've got a lot to do and many days there just isn't time to pursue them. But are they valued sources? Most certainly.  And I recommend them all highly. Those would include Daybreak Insider; Daily Signal (from Heritage Foundation); Live Action; Family Research Council; Bright (which comes through the Federalist); Town Hall;; and a few others.

In fact, you will occasionally find compilation posts over on Vital Signs Blog that utilize these sources and more. Here's a couple of examples of such posts:

Did You Catch These?

This Weekend's "Top of the List" Reads

But please do not overlook this next important part of our living in this "brave new world." It is this. 4) Going really old school by replacing time spent in "social media" for genuine social interaction. And what does that mean? Letters and cards. Phone calls. In person visits. Coffee or tea conversations. Meals together. Bible study and prayer meetings. Doing physical activities together. Even utilizing newer technologies like Zoom for real conversations.

Actually connecting with people? Who knows? It might just catch on!

Yes, Virginia. Despite Big Brother's best efforts to herd you into the corral, you can live life informed, engaged, purposeful, and free. But it will take a little effort.

Did You Catch These?

Looking for some of the best, most relevant articles from the alternative media dealing with the culture wars? Here's a few of my suggestions from recent days.

"Biden climate envoy John Kerry is a lifelong joke" (Editors, New York Post)

"If Americans Can No Longer Trust Our Elections, We’re In Big Trouble" (Willis L. Krumholz, Federalist)

"The approaching storm in US-Israel relations" (Caroline Glick, Jewish News Syndicate)

"Does Supporting President Trump Hurt the Gospel? Andy Stanley Says Yes. Here Is Why I Disagree" (Shane Idleman, The Stream)

"The Atlantic stuns with feature accused of ‘cheering eugenics,’ promoting ‘murder' of Down syndrome babies" (Brian Flood, Fox News)

* "Biden-Harris aim to cripple cops nationwide in name of Black Lives Matter" (Heather Mac Donald, New York Post)

* "5 Reasons Conservatives Should Have Hope For The Future" (Peter Burfeind, Federalist)

Friday, November 13, 2020

Should You Strive for a Balanced Christianity?

It seems that the number of books, articles, sermons and devotionals which extol the “balanced” Christian life are endless.  That’s too bad for, despite their good intentions, they are based upon a false premise, a premise whose source is actually Greek philosophy and not the Holy Scriptures at all.  Indeed, balance is the stuff of Galen, Aristotle and, in a more mystical sense, Plato.  But the Bible presents a much different ideal; namely, spiritual wholeness.  And a grateful, joyful embrace of this truth is a critically important corrective to the confusion, frustration and erroneous division that the pursuit of "balance" inevitably creates.

Let me illustrate the point with an excerpt from one of the sermons I preached at Faith Bible Church several years ago. The sermon was part of a 7-part series I was presenting on  “The Heroic Homemaker,” expository sermons dealing with the poem of Proverbs 31:10-31.  And as I came to verse 26 I took a few moments to show how the heroic homemaker’s life revealed not a balance of divergent (even competing) values but rather a unified, complete and thorough integration of godly virtues.  Here’s the sermon excerpt:

Verse 26 “She opens her mouth in wisdom and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” (NASB)

This verse is connected to the previous one in which the poet described the excellent wife’s adornment as her spiritual strength and dignity.  In other words, it was her godly character that shone through everything she did. Now he continues the same theme, letting us know that when the excellent wife spoke, it too was a reflection of her inner spirituality.  Her true heart for God, her inner beauty and integrity were revealed in the way she lived…including the way she spoke.

Wisdom and kindness are mixed together in her.  That’s true spirituality.  That’s evidence that the Holy Spirit is empowering someone, that their lives are marked by the combination of godly virtues: wisdom and kindness, grace and truth, mercy and justice.  Indeed, these virtues, these characteristics of God must all be present or none of them are!

Christians often suggest that these various characteristics are like counter-weights that need to be finely balanced against one another if you want to live right. In other words, you take wisdom and put it on this side of the scales and then you counter it with the weight of kindness on the other side so that you come up with a spiritual balance. They do the same with grace and truth, mercy and justice, love and holiness, and so on.

But that’s wrong…sadly and critically wrong.  True spirituality does not consist in balancing these virtues.  For crying out loud, they are not in opposition to one another!  Grace isn’t the opposite of truth.  Kindness is not a contradiction of holiness.  The law of God is not an inversion of the love of God.

God is not divided in Himself.  He is not “well-balanced.” Indeed, God is complete.  He is love and truth and righteousness and kindness and grace and holiness and…you get the idea.

These characteristics of God are all together. 100%.  Continual.  Co-existing.  And as the Christian lives by the power of the Holy Spirit, all of these virtues are alive in him. 100%.  Continual.  Co-existing. 

We do not balance one against the other.  We do not encounter situations in which we need to focus on kindness instead of holiness or where we need to tender justice with mercy or where we divide the church up into teams where the "truth guys" go out to do certain jobs while the "love guys" go out to do others.

Verse 26 isn’t implying that the heroic homemaker sometimes spoke wisely whereas, in other situations, she spoke kindly.  No, her speech was wise and kind.  Like the rest of her life, it was a whole thing.  Spiritual.  Infused with the complimentary characteristics of who God is.

Walking in the Spirit is a unified walk.  It integrates fully the fruit of the Spirit – all of them.  And all at the same time. It's not from 9 – 10:30, peace emphasis; 10:30 – noon, concentrate on love; noon – 2, let patience be foremost; 2 – 3:30, go for goodness; and so on.

Remember how we’ve emphasized that the New Testament teaches that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is all these things.  Fruit – singular.  Not fruits.  The single fruit of the Spirit is all of those wonderful things. Once again, let me repeat it. True spirituality is all of the virtues operating. 100%.  Continual.  Co-existing. 

So get away from thinking of spirituality as something that can be measured with scales.  The fruit of the Spirit does not consist of isolated virtues that serve in counter-weights to other virtues.  Remember, that whole balance thing comes from Greek philosophy, not Christianity.

True spirituality is a wholistic thing.  It is walking in the Spirit, empowered by all of His graces  and demonstrating all of His blessings.  We are complete in Christ – not divided, not full of competing values.  When we operate in Christ, we act in wisdom and kindness (both, at the same time) and we reveal love, joy, peace, patience, longsuffering and so on (all of them, all at the same time).

This isn’t merely a matter of semantics.  This is a very important matter.  And many Christians have a lot of problems in their lives and ministries because of misunderstandings in this area.  They are forever living in the tension of competing forces: “How much should love be involved here as compared to righteousness?” “When should I act according to truth and when should I act in mercy?”

No.  God is not divided – ever.  Nor is the person who walks according to His Word, dependent on the Holy Spirit.  We are complete in Christ; liberated to live with all of the fruit of the Spirit enriching our life and blessing the lives of others. So leave the balance business to gymnasts, engineers and accountants. You commit to walk in the Spirit and experience the integration of His virtues in you. 100%. Continual. Co-existing."

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A Marine Prayer (To Commemorate the 245th Birthday of the Corps)

Happy birthday to the U.S. Marine Corps which is 245 years old today!

“The U.S. Marine Corps Birthday celebrates the history, memory of those who served before and rekindles the bond that unites all generations of Marines. It is a celebration of the profound respect for the Marine Corps traditions and reverence of the heritage that distinguishes the Corps of Marines…The birthday itself was formally recognized in 1921 at the behest of Major General John Lejeune, who ordered November 10, 1775 to be officially recognized service-wide as the Marine Corps birthday.” (Courtesy Military Benefits Info)

My friend and pro-life colleague Dick Wilson (the photo above shows him back in the day) proudly served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1956 through 1962 and has been a firm and enthusiastic supporter of the Corps ever since. One of the ways he has done this over the years was by volunteering with the Omaha detachment of the Marine Corps League. This service has long included color guard duty at the funerals of fellow Marines.

A few years ago, while bemoaning yet again the vapid verses that so often adorn the funeral program (greeting card poems that lacked both theological backbone and a manly respect for the unique character of the Marine's service to his country), Dick decided to write something more relevant and meaningful.

I think you'll agree with me that he succeeded. Feel free to pass it around.

A Marine Prayer

Almighty God, Father of the fatherless, now take me home.

I was what others could not be.

I went where others feared to go and did what others failed to do.

I asked nothing from those who gave nothing, but gave hope, security and freedom to all.

I have seen the face of terror; felt the stinging cold of fear and experienced the warm comfort of Your love and protection through it all.

I have enjoyed the sweet taste of life, comrades, love of country, Your guiding hand and word.

I have cried, failed, pained, loved and hoped. I have lived times others would say were best forgotten. But, what we are in life echoes into eternity.

I humbly offer that with Your guidance I have done my duty and lived with the grateful pride of what I am…a United States Marine.

Deep sea and sod for now hold our bodies, but You, O Lord, guard our souls until that final day when all stand before You guilty, and for those who believe, receive the gift of forgiveness and Eternal Life.

Almighty God, Father of Love, through the precious blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ, I pray You now take me home. For You have proven to be “Always Faithful.”

Semper Fidelis