TLP Op-Ed: 4/21/18

Have You Heard about this One?

Just when we thought that Washington, DC couldn’t get any crazier, DC Councilman Charles Allen has introduced a measure to lower the voting age in the District from 18 to 16. According to news reports, 7 of the 13 Council members have signed on to the proposal; a majority. Mr. Allen says that he was inspired to take this action by the high school students who organized and led the recent “March for our lives” that filled Washington with thousands of people protesting, mostly adults, for something to be done in the wake of the Parkland (FL) school shooting back in February.

Other members echoed Allen’s remarks and expressed their admiration for our young people who are leading the way for social change across America, as have many television commentators in recent weeks.

Should Washington go ahead with this proposal, the city would join others such as Takoma Park, Md and Berkeley, Ca in extending voting rights to children. However, unlike other municipalities that can only change voting ages in their own local elections, adoption of Mr. Allen’s proposal in the District of Columbia would enable 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the 2020 election for president of the United States, and since that would be a violation of Federal Election Law, the whole thing might well be headed for a court showdown.

I can’t help thinking that all of this sounds so very grand, as long as one doesn’t actually use their ability to think. During the whole “March for our lives” business, I was really struck by the number of otherwise intelligent commentators who admired the students for leading and organizing the great event in Washington.

Seriously?

Are we really supposed to believe that a couple of 15-year-olds grabbed their credit cards and started booking bus charters and hotels when, at their tender young age, they are not legally competent to enter into a legally binding contract? Yep, they called the city of Washington and obtained the march permits? They booked the celebrity speakers? Of course not!

Those brilliant commentators were working for news agencies that reported the whole thing was organized by the Women’s March and several other far-left activist organizations that came together to shamelessly exploit the victims of a terrible shooting to promote their own agendas.

Even so, we can take some pride in those young people who choose to become involved in the process of promoting change, for surely change must take place to put an end to the terrible and senseless violence that many of them endured.

As for giving children the right to vote in DC elections… I suppose they really couldn’t do much worse than their parents have in choosing leaders for a city that isn’t really known for being well managed.

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TLP Inspiration: 4/21/18

 

God is My Help

Surely God is my help;
the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Let evil recoil on those who slander me;
in your faithfulness destroy them.

Psalm 54:4-5

It doesn’t sound like David was having a good day when he wrote this; he was under attack from his enemies as it happens. Most of us aren’t on the run from assassins or cut-throats, but there are times in this life when it seems like we are under assault and feel overwhelmed by our circumstances.

One thing we can take from these verses is that David knew where his help would come from, it would come from God. The only problem, was that David didn’t know when God would act or why God didn’t set things right immediately.

But he did know that God would have his back.

Like David, we don’t know God’s timing, nor do we know God’s reasoning for His timing. In fact, other than a bunch of theological abstractions, I can’t even tell you why God allows so much trouble in our lives…

Yet we do know that God has our backs.

In difficult times, God is our Rock, our strength, and in such circumstances our relationships with Him take on a whole new significance for most of us as a source of strength and hope, transcending the problems of this life.

Oh, what an awesome God we have!

Oh yes, and He’s pretty awesome when things are going smoothly too.

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Forgiveness 4

The second greatest commandment

The second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  Matthew 22:37-30

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  Luke 10:27

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:29-31

We all know these verses, most of us know them by heart, but why are they so important? The answer to this question really isn’t so difficult if we remember that God first loved all of us and sent His Son to die for all of us and not just for you or me. That God would want us to share His love with our neighbor makes all kinds of sense, just as a parent would want their child to share the parent’s love for his or her siblings. In the New Testament, this love for our neighbor is carried forward as our love for one another within the church in a special way.

God loved us – We love God – God loves others – So do we

This is the cycle that makes God’s love complete in us. My brother or sister may not always be lovable, but because God loves them and I love God, I decide to love them too, in spite of their faults, for are their faults really that much greater than my own? John makes this entire cycle clear in an amazing passage, 1 John 4:7-21 and I hope you will read carefully omce again. Some of the other verses relating to this are listed below:

John 13:34-35; 14:21; 15:17; 17:23 Ephesians 1:15; 4:2 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17; 3:8; 4:8
Romans 5:5; 8:28, 35; 12:10; 13:8-10 Colossians 1:4; 2:2; 3:14 1 John 2:10; 3:11, 14; 4:7-21
1 Corinthians 8:3 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 4:9-10  
Galatians 5:13-14 2 Thessalonians 1:3  
     

This is a theme that carries throughout the entire New Testament, and it is also the very core of all Christian Theology. If you want to really take a wide view of the subject, it is also the primary purpose of the Church and can be summed up in the words of Jesus: “Make disciples.”

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Ministry, Viewpoints and Aromas

Now when I went to Troas to preach the gospel of Christ and found that the Lord had opened a door for me, I still had no peace of mind, because I did not find my brother Titus there. So I said goodbye to them and went on to Macedonia.

2 Corinthians 2:12-13

After Paul advocated forgiveness for the person or persons who caused all of the trouble in Corinth, he went on in this letter to tell about what he was up to after he left that city. It would seem that he travelled to Troas, expecting Titus to meet him there. Apparently, Titus wasn’t there, even so God opened a door for the gospel in that location, and a number of people accepted His grace upon hearing the gospel from Paul. Yet Paul didn’t stay long in that city, he was very grieved by what had taken place back in Corinth, and at the absence of Titus, and continued on to Macedonia.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

What an unusual way to describe it! Paul breaks into a thanksgiving to God in 2:14 which follows the same structure that he will use in chapter 15 to describe the activity of his ministry, for indeed, this is the introduction to a new section of the letter that continues through 7:14 which is a defense of his apostolic ministry that is seemingly given as a response to his attackers in Corinth.

For many of us, his use of the word “aroma” seems oddly placed in these verses in describing the spread of the knowledge of Christ. That is, until we remind ourselves that “aroma” is used multiple times in the Old Testament to describe sacrifices that are pleasing to God. To put it directly, Paul is describing his work in spreading the gospel as a sacrifice pleasing to God. The spread of the gospel brings life to many, for they respond to the gospel by accepting God’s grace, but it brings death to others who reject God’s offer of grace through faith in Christ. Please note carefully that each made their own choice either to accept or reject Christ, and the blessing or burden of the result of their decision is entirely of their own doing.

Finally, notice that Paul hits his opponents rather hard as he ends the chapter: Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God (2:17). I’d say that is a bit of an indictment, but it’s only the first as he defends his ministry as an apostle, as we will see.

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Forgiveness 3

The Greatest Commandment and Our Response to it

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 John 4:9-12

What an amazing story this is on so many levels; that God loved us so much He sent His Son to die for us. I wonder how often any of us slow down enough to just let that sink in. We weren’t deserving, we hadn’t earned His favor; far from it: We were living in open rebellion against God, and yet He loved us that much.

That wasn’t the end of the story, not by a long shot. Through His great love for us, He forgave our sins, setting them aside entirely and entered into an intimate relationship with us. The real question here is how we should respond to his love.  For those of us who really grasp the significance of what He has done for us, it is only natural that we would develop a deep love for God, yet even that isn’t the end of the story.  We “ought to love one another” is John’s conclusion. Still, there is more at work than we might think at first: when we love one another, God is living in us, and in our love for one another, God’s love is made complete.

How is this so? It really isn’t very complicated, for God loves us and in response we love Him back. God also loves our brother and sister, and when we do the same for His sake, His love dwells within each of us and throughout the entire Body of believers, completing to cycle of His great love.

John states this about as clearly as it can be stated in 1 John 4:19: “We love because he first loved us.” Paul puts it slightly differently: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

That our love for God comes from His love for us would seem to be an established fact in Scripture. Thus, it is the greatest of all the commandments: Love God.

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Paul Advises Forgiveness

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

2 Corinthians 2:5-11

Recently I received a call from a good friend who was having some problems with his pastor. He was seeking some advice on what he should do about certain things that the pastor had said, probably in jest, that my friend had found quite hurtful personally. While I am acquainted with both parties, I really had no more insight into the situation than what I was being told, which sounded pretty bad. Of course, you know how it is, this was only one side of the conversation that I was not a witness to, and often, when you hear the other side, you might have a different impression. My friend was asking what I thought he should do, and there was really only one bit of advice I could offer so I said something like, “Ask yourself how many times our Lord said we should forgive our brother, and I think you’ll know what to do.”

He laughed, and said “Well, I guess about as many times as it takes.”

Essentially, that’s what Paul is saying in these verses about the person who created all of the trouble in Corinth. As I am typing this I recall what President Lincoln told General Grant a few days before General Lee surrendered his army, effectively ending the American Civil War: “Let ‘em up easy General.” It was an amazing thing to say in a time when the entire North was demanding vengeance and retribution for four terrible years of war, especially coming from the man who felt deeply responsible for hundreds of thousands of dead soldiers and their families.

“Let ‘em up easy, General.”

Paul could certainly have wanted to get even for the pain this guy had caused, and in a way, he’d be justified. Yet, what would have been the point of inflicting more pain?

Jesus taught that we should forgive one another and pray for our enemies. While this isn’t always easy to do, Paul gave us a great example of doing just that in these verses, an example we should take careful note of, don’t you think?

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Photo of the Week: April 18, 2018

US Army Captain, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 1863… or pehaps this would be more convincing:

Either way, this was GEttysburg, PA…

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