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Posts Tagged ‘The Gospel’

Pride 2019_Pride Flag Cincinnati

The Pride flag is raised for the first time at Cincinnati City Hall, June 21, 2019.  Photo by: Dwayne Slavey.

“Today is about saying that we are in this fight for civil rights and social justice and that love is love is love is love.”

    – Cincinnati Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard

When I was growing up, way back in the day, the sixth month of the year was known as June. It was a without a doubt one of my favorite months. School ended for the summer – yes, we had to go to school into June – the weather was beautiful and I had three glorious months do pretty much whatever I wanted.

But all that has changed over the years. June has largely been wiped off the calendar and replaced by something called Pride Month. Now when considering just the name itself, Pride Month, this ought to give any Christian reason to be skeptical of it. Pride is not a thing commended in the Scriptures. In speaking of the wicked men of his day, the psalmist wrote, “Therefore pride serves as their necklace.” In Proverbs we read, “Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate,” and, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Luke records for us Mary’s words, “He [the Lord] has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.” Writes the Apostle John, “For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.”

Clearly, pride is a concept at odds with the Word of God. But these passages do not exhaust what the Bible has to say about pride and its related concepts.

Writing to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul said of the enemies of Christ that their, “glory is in their shame.” These enemies of Christ were guilty of doing what the Prophet Isaiah had warned of, calling good evil and evil good, putting darkness for light and light for darkness. In the things of which they should have taken shame, in these they instead found honor, praise and enjoyed an excellent reputation among men.

When thinking about contemporary applications of this principle, that is, taking pride in that which should bring shame, it is hard to find a better example than in the many assertions of pride in the homosexual lifestyle made both by homosexuals themselves as well as by their supporters.

Now it doesn’t exactly take a theologian of the caliber of Martin Luther or John Calvin to understand what the Bible has to say about homosexuality. The Scriptures condemn homosexuality and homosexuals in the strongest terms. There’s really no debating this point, although some have tried.

But despite the clarity of the Bible on the issue of homosexuality, American society’s view of it has undergone such a profound change in just my lifetime that it constitutes a most extraordinary revolution.

To give you just one example of what I mean, consider the quote at the time of this post by Cincinnati Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard. The occasion for her remark was an event held outside Cincinnati City Hall where, for the first time ever, the Pride flag was raised. The event received a good deal of coverage in both the local and national press.

According to this report from a local television station, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, echoing the remarks of Tamaya Dennard, said that life is too short to prevent people from loving each other, the decision to fly the flag by Cincinnati City Council was unanimous, and Pride flags also were flown over six Hamilton County buildings as well as Cincinnati City Hall.

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IMG_0681

Dad and I at the Reds game, 6/17/2017.

“See that yellow foul pole,” dad said to me. “Yes,” I replied. “When Johnny Bench hits his home runs,” dad continued, “they have to stay inside of it.”

Memory is a funny thing. It’s strange what we forget, and perhaps even stranger what we remember with crystal clarity, years or even decades later.

That snippet of a conversation between dad and me took place over 40 years ago. The year, I think, was either 1973 or 1974. I was just a kid and was at the ballpark for my first ever major league game. It was the Reds versus somebody at Riverfront Stadium.

I recall a couple of other things from that day. I remember we sat in the blue seats, just a few rows behind the Reds dugout. I also recollect a foul ball coming pretty close to us, but not quite close enough to catch.

They say baseball has a way of uniting fathers and sons in a way different from other sports. That certainly was true in our case.

Growing up in Cincinnati in the 70’s as I did, I had the privilege of watching the Big Red Machine at its finest. All of us in my family naturally were big Reds fans. So there was that.

Further, there was little league. My dad was either a coach or manager of my team for several seasons, and we spent a lot of time together practicing, especially pitching.

I wasn’t a great natural talent, my brother has all the real athletic talent in the family, but dad taught me how to throw strikes and spot my pitches where I wanted. With his help and patience, I managed to be one of the better pitchers in my league for a few seasons. To this day, I still remember the rush of striking out hitters.

And although my baseball career, such as it was, ended long ago, one thing hasn’t changed. Dad and I are both still big Reds fans.

But baseball lessons we’re the only thing dad taught me. You see, dad was Tim the Toolman long before there was a show called Home Improvement. And as you would expect from any good do-it-yourselfer, he was constantly in need of a gopher. My labor was cheap and available, so as you can probably imagine, I was constantly involved in one of his projects or another.

When I was helping him build a piece of furniture, I remember the painstaking effort he put in to making sure the legs of the table he was building were strong and stable. He expertly cut the joints in the wood, glued them in place and clamped them together so they would dry n place.

But then he did something that puzzled me. He had me help him drill countersunk holes for woodscrews and put in crews to hold the legs along with the glue.

So I asked him, “Why are you bothering to put screws in to hold the legs in place when you’ve already glued them in.” Replied dad, “Because the screws make the joints stronger, and I don’t want this table just to look well-made, but actually to be well-made.”

That made a big impression on me.

To have true quality, it wasn’t enough for something just to look good on the surface, but it had to be thoroughly good, possessing quality both where it is seen and where it is not.

It was no accident that dad believed as he did about his carpentry and other pursuits. For his philosophy of craftsmanship really was just an extension of his faith in Christ.

As the apostle Paul teaches, God’s people are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. And great master craftsman that he is, God is not satisfied with a surface morality that appears good on the outside but is full of rottenness on the inside. No. But when God calls his people to saving faith, he effects a radical change in them from the inside out.

In Christ, God’s people are pronounced righteous at the bar of his perfect justice through faith in Christ alone and sanctified by his Word and Spirit. Christians are not just to look good, but to be good.

So thanks, dad, for a lifetime of lessons. You taught me to throw a fastball and to hammer a nail. Most of all, you taught me in word and in deed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Happy Father’s Day.


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See the article “Immigrants fear changes in U.S. policy” using this link  http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2017/01/08/immigrants-fear-changes-us-policy/96322318/

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moses

For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).

The first chapter of John is a gold mine of theological insight. To paraphrase the apostle himself, if all that could be written on the chapter actually were written, one supposes that the whole earth could not contain the books.

And while it is not the intention of this writer to attempt anything like a comprehensive review of all that John has to tell us, it seems that a look at one small portion of the chapter is not too daunting a task.

In verse 17, John draws an important distinction for us, namely the distinction between Moses and Jesus Christ. The law, John tells us, was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

This brief statement is loaded with implications, a few of which, Lord willing, I will endeavor to point out over the next two weeks.

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jehoiakim-burns-the-scroll

Jehoiakim Burns the Scroll, Caspar Luiken 1672-1708.

What to write?  That’s the question all bloggers must face.  Sometimes the answer comes quickly.  Sometimes it doesn’t. 

With campaign season hitting its big crescendo last week, my mind’s been focused on the election. But now that it has passed, where do I go from here? There’s the series on immigration I’ve been writing. I haven’t forgotten about it. Lord willing, I plan to finish it sometime later this month. But today didn’t strike me as a day to write about immigration.

So back to the question of what to write about. Perhaps due in part to the recently concluded election, the specter of national and civilizational decline is often at the forefront of my thoughts.

Perhaps another reason for this is my Scripture reading. Recently, I’ve been focused on the prophets, Jeremiah in particular. And I never get very far in the prophets before I find myself saying “This could have been written yesterday about America!”

And it’s true, too. Edward Gibbons’ masterpiece of history The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is often cited by writers who want to advance some reason or another for the obvious, ongoing collapse of Western Civilization in our own time.

But there is a far better text to use if we want to gain insight on the problems we face in 21st century America. Of course, I’m referring to the Bible. And in particular the historical books of I and II Samuel,
I and II Kings,
I and II Chronicles and the prophets. Taken together, they could almost be subtitled The Decline and Fall of the Hebrew Republic.

Samuel was the last of the judges and the anointer of the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David. It was during Samuel’s judgeship that Israel made the critical error in asking for a king (big government) in place of the limited, constitutional republic set up by God in the law of Moses.

If we were to summarize the history of Israel under the kings, we could say that the kingdom rapidly grew in power under the rule of David, hit its peak under his son Solomon, then split in two – the northern and southern kingdoms – under Solomon’s son Rehoboam. From there, the two kingdoms followed a centuries long trajectory of decline with the northern kingdom falling to Assyrian in 722 BC, and the southern kingdom to Babylon in 586 BC.

What makes the history of this decline and fall so relevant today is that the reader is not, as he is with secular history, left to decide for himself the reasons behind the disasters that befell Israel and Judah. The Word of God tells him explicitly: the people of Israel refused to heed the Lord and suffered the covenant curses pronounced in Deuteronomy 28.

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300

Thermopylae inscription

Memorial at Thermopylae bearing Simonides famous epitaph: Tell them in Lacedaimon, passer-by / That here, obedient to their word, we lie.   

 

“Come and take them,” retorted king Leonidas to the Persian envoy who had asked him to surrender his arms. Brave words those. Especially in light of the overwhelming odds facing the Spartans. The Persians had an army numbering in the hundreds of thousands. One ancient source puts it at over two million. In any event, the Persian forces vastly outnumbered the small Greek army of about 7,000 men. After two days of heroic fighting, Leonidas and the 300 other Spartan soldiers who were with him were surrounded and killed by the Persians.

 

Those familiar with ancient history immediately will recognize this as a reference to the Battle of Thermopylae, fought in 480 B.C. The Spartans’ stand against the Persians was the stuff of legend, even in ancient times. Simonides, a Greek poet from about the same time, composed a famous epitaph for the slain that reads,

Tell them in Lacedaimon [Sparta], passer-by,

That here, obedient to their word, we lie.

Today, these words are inscribed on a memorial plaque at the site of the battle. In more recent times, interest in the Battle of Thermopylae has been inspired by a graphic novel titled 300 and a movie by the same name.

From the account of their actions at Battle of Thermopylae, it is clear that the Spartans were a remarkable people. What can we say about them? First, they were great warriors. It was often commented that Sparta, unlike most other ancient cities, lacked defensive walls. Spartan lawgiver Lycurgus reportedly explained this by saying, “A city is well-fortified which has a wall of men instead of brick.”

Second, they had a strong sense of honor. Not all the Greek forces at Thermopylae fought to the death. Some surrendered. Others retreated. But Leonidas and his men went down fighting. In ancient warfare, it was considered shameful for a man to drop his weapons and flee. Such was the Spartan love of honor that Plutarch, an ancient Greek writer, quoted Spartan mothers as telling their sons as they went off to battle, “Come back with your shield, or on it.”

Third, they lost. Doubtless they were very brave. And doubtless they were heroic. But in the end, they were all dead. The Greeks went on the win the war, perhaps in part due to the efforts of the Spartans at Thermopylae. But it was the Persians who held the field at the end of the day.

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