Sunday, October 09, 2016

Hypocrisy Goes Both Ways

Here's a question. If Donald Trump, who based on most of his positions that he didn't change for this election cycle could plausibly do so, had run for President as a Democrat and was the current nominee against someone like Indiana's own "Vanilla Ice" Mike Pence, would the media be quite so incensed over this antics past and present? Not hardly.

It is in vogue to point the finger of blame at those who support Trump and blame them for this shameful state of affairs. That is quite appropriate. The problem is that I think those same self-righteous people on the Left who are clucking the loudest about Trump have a substantial percent of the blame for creating the sort of environment where a man can be in a feasible position even today to be President of the United States and yet harbor this sort of juvenile attitude about women, sexuality and personal standards of behavior.

Gee, maybe if you constantly inundate people with sexually charged images where homosexuality and cross-dressing, long rightly understood as mental illnesses, and casual and often meaningless and crude or even borderline violent sexual behavior is celebrated as liberating they might eventually start to live those behaviors out in real life. Movies depict sexual violence from overt rape to quasi-sexual assault to sexual degradation of woman being celebrated as "romantic". As others have pointed out, someone bought those 125 million copies of Fifty Shades of Grey and someone paid over half a billion in ticket revenue to watch the movie version where a rich, powerful guy sexually abuses a young, vulnerable woman (based on the synopsis from Wikipedia, I have never read the book or watched the film). In a culture where men are inundated with sexual images and women are force fed the lie that being promiscuous, even when they dislike it and are ashamed of it, is somehow liberating, it is inevitable that people like Donald Trump take advantage of that behavior. After all, using his power and position to seduce at least one White House intern for sex who knows how many times in the White House and countless others in his political career didn't lower the Left's fawning esteem of Bill Clinton, it seems to have raised his standing among "feminists" and others. Heck, even lying under oath about it, being suspended from practicing law and impeached by the House of Representatives was brushed off as "just sex" even though what got him impeached was not having sex with a 22 year old intern but lying about it under oath. Being a sexual predator gets Clinton invites to speak to august bodies all over the world but tapes of Donald Trump talking about the same sort of behavior has the Left fanning themselves and grasping for the smelling salts in faux outrage. Being a sexual predator is OK for me but not for thee? Please.

While I am at it, how about the fact that tens of millions of Americans will still vote for Trump because the notion of voting for Hillary Clinton is just that revolting. There is more to it than just Hillary being nothing less than evil. An awful lot of people in this country, men especially and the heterosexual, white men even more so, have been constantly pummeled by the cultural opinion deciders, those who by virtue of their position in deciding what is acceptable entertainment and eventually what is an acceptable opinion think themselves better than the rest of us. They are told that being masculine is "toxic" and contributes to the false narrative of a "rape culture". They are told they are to blame for racism no matter what they do. If you are not 100% on board with whatever perversion and deviance the cultural leaders tell you to be, you are not just agreeing to disagree or wrong, you are a cultural enemy who must be silenced and punished. You can only crap on millions of people who just want to live their lives and raise their families without being constantly scolded for being terrible people for so long. Hillary Clinton personifies the forces that are degrading this country. Donald Trump is nothing more than a well coiffed middle finger aimed right at the heart of those who think they are better than the rest of us.

When you intentionally create a toxic culture, you should expect toxic people to thrive in that environment.

The False Dichotomy: American Evangelical Style

He took the candidate that they had elected and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it. And Moses said to Aaron, "What did this people do to you that you have brought such a great sin upon them?" And Aaron said, "Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil. For they said to me, 'Find us a Presidential candidate who can beat Hillary. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' So I said to them, 'Give us lots of "conservative" political candidates to choose from and we will choose a Presidential candidate from among them and he will save us' So they gave them to me, and I threw them all into the fire, and out came Donald Trump."

Exodus 32:20-24, you know, if the Israelite's were American evangelicals

The evangelical ship in this country has been sinking for a long time, which is fine because it has mostly been sailing in circles for decades and inviting anyone who wants on board to join our little club. This weekend the sinking ship got torpedoed, set on fire and crushed about the mid-ship by the kraken. Many people are finally manning the lifeboats and fleeing the S.S. Donald Trump Is Bad But Not As Bad As Hillary but it is way too late. Nevertheless many others are shouting that all is well.

So there is a rather desperate narrative going around this weekend from some people. Here it goes.

There are only two choices Christians have:

One, vote for Donald Trump to preserve religious liberty, save the Supreme Court and preserve America itself.

Two, do nothing.

Ah, I see.

We are nearly two thousand years from the Resurrection.

We are almost 500 years from the start of the Reformation.

In most of that time the church has had very little civic control and even less religious liberty. In fact for much of the first 1500 years of Christian history the state and a false religion actively stomped out anyone who actually expressed the Gospel.

Did that mean that the church "did nothing"? That it stood silently by and watched the world turn mutely? Does the church have no voice, does the church have no witness if we don't have political influence? Does "Be ye not unequally yoked..." only apply to Baptist parents who have a daughter dating a Methodist boy?

If you are so blinded that you cannot imagine how the church can survive and be a prophetic witness to the world without putting our support behind a politician, that is your problem, not mine. It is frankly ignorant of the doctrine of sin, it is tragically ignorant of the reality of human nature and woefully ignorant of Christian history.

The church didn't start in 1776. The public Gospel witness did not first occur when the Bill of Rights was ratified. For those who think that we cannot survive unless the Constitution stays intact and that can only happen if Trump is elected I would first point to something James White wrote on Facebook:

6. Stop fantasizing about the SCOTUS. One word: Obergefell, and that WITH Scalia. That ship has sailed, it is over the horizon. See point 3. Further, the doe-eyed optimism of my fellow Christians that a man like DJT, who has no earthly concept of what “trustworthiness” means, and has lived his life violating covenants and promises (ask his wives and the married women he seduced, proudly), would actually go to the mat to push through even semi-meaningful judicial nominees is further evidence that bearing the name “Christian” does not necessarily endow you with common sense.

Yes to that. Second, I would point out that the Constitution of the United States has been a dead, empty series of words since early in the 20th century and isn't coming back. This nation has gone deep into the desert with no water. It isn't going to survive, at least not in a recognizable sense. We live in a functional totalitarian state, a Bureautocracy controlled by un-elected bureaucrats, self-appointed political elites, the revolving door of big business/big government and an out of control judiciary.

So. What is the church going to do? Continue to support increasingly disgusting people in the certain vain hope that eventually we will stop getting used like whores? Will we bemoan our lack of political power and close up shop?

I don't know about the rest of the church but I do know about me. I am not going to going into mourning if Donald Trump doesn't "win". I am going to keep speaking out, I am going to keep doing what I can to carry out the mission God gave to His Church, not the United States, not the Republican Party, namely the carrying forth of the message of the Kingdom and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I will do so if it costs me dearly, if it means being shunned by the world, if it means losing jobs, if it means imprisonment, if it means death.

There are two certainties for November. Donald Trump is probably not going to win. Even if he does things are not going to change. Faced with that harsh reality, what are we going to do? What are you going to do?

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Our Romans 13 Election?

As the Gipper once said "There you go again". New "shocking" revelations that a man who is notable mostly for being a loud-mouthed buffoon turns out to be a loud-mouthed buffoon who says stuff that would be immature coming from a junior high boy and are vulgar even by the very low standards our society has descended to with a wink and smile. I won't dignify Trump's comments by repeating them, even with the dirty stuff missing letters. Even still. EVEN STILL. There are plenty of pew sitting church-goers who will excuse this. Really, who can blame them when the alternative we have as a nation is a woman who lies like fish swim, a high priestess of the cult of infanticide. Many in the church have placed their practical faith in the world instead of the Savior they claim to follow. As a nation we have backed ourselves into a no-win corner and  have only ourselves to blame. I would like to think that if we could call a do-over and start back with Iowa and New Hampshire again, we would end up with two different candidates.

I like to think that but I know better. 

"Our" candidates are nothing but a reflection of us. For the first time we can't pretend we were fooled. We knew what we were getting. A vulgar blowhard who seems to be running for President as a joke and a power mad harpy who will do anything to achieve her own mad personal quest for power.

Maybe for once we can start to understand what Paul was talking about. Paul who wrote of Caesar as someone the church should not fear but pray for. Caesar was outside of the Kingdom. The church is the Kingdom. Because God is God, we have nothing to fear from Caesar. If Paul cold be imprisoned by Caesar and still pray for the likes of Nero and Caligula what we are worried about? Our loss of "religious liberty"? The church is told to expect persecution and indeed has always thrived in the face of persecution. Do we fear that we will get the wrong Supreme Court justices? "For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." That is true of Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. It is also true for Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy.

Maybe, just maybe we can rely on the power of God, the strength of weakness that is the true might of the believer. Instead of trying to take over and become Caesar we can stand as a clear, contrast to Caesar.

We should strive to do good to everyone and especially the household of faith but we should do it without compromising our calling and becoming unequally yoked with Caesar. In this election we have no real choice that honors God. We can vote for the man who speaks of women like they are all whores. We can vote for a woman who promises to put our infanticide machine on overdrive and is as dishonest as any human being has ever been. We can vote for "principled" candidates who won't win or a long shot who seems more and more stoned as the campaign stumbles tortuously to it's culmination. Or we can turn our focus, our time, talent and treasure to the tasks that God has actually called us to, that have eternal significance.

Our choice has never been more stark. Not a choice between Republican or Democrat, not between liberal or conservative. No, our choice is the power of the world or the power of God and it has never been more clear. Let's not screw this up. The world we are called to serve and love, even people who are hell bound like Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, is watching. More importantly so is our Savior.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Helping Haiti

Social media is awash in stories from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Matthew. In America the impact will be severe in terms of property damage and some loss of life. In Haiti where there is virtually no functioning infrastructure, the results are devastating. As of right now the death toll stands at 800 and I am sadly certain that this is the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

Some might think that Americans should worry about our American neighbors in need and not worry about people in a foreign country. To that I respond that while I understand the sentiment, it is without question that the recovery in America for the average person is far swifter than Haiti. Should I lose all of my food and clothing to a hurricane I could simply drive to the nearest Wal-Mart and replenish, although that would require me to wear super tacky polyester "fashion" clothing which is only marginally better than being naked covered in honey sitting on a fire-ant nest. Haiti simply has no infrastructure, no emergency services, no way for their government to magically create "money" to pay for recuperation. Haiti, although I have only been there once, has a special place in my heart (see my post Why Haiti?) and many, many of my brothers and sisters in Christ are serving our Lord in that so often tragic land.

If you are looking for a way to financially help the people of Haiti, my recommendation is go small and go local. Give to smaller, hopefully more accountable organizations with minimal overhead and who understand the country rather than some giant group that eats up contributions just to raise more money. Two groups are on my rather short list.

The Hope Community Project formerly was the Haiti Orphan Project but after some difficult soul searching now focuses on orphan prevention. That is a less sexy sounding mission statement than running an orphanage in a desperately poor country but it is the right way to go. Helping Haitians to maintain and strengthen communities and families is their mission:

We exist to facilitate the development of healthy communities through partnerships with Haitian churches and organizations to encourage sustainable physical, spiritual and economic health; we desire to communicate Christ-centered compassion as well as respect for the dignity and resources of the Haitian people.

They are good people and I know some of them personally and can vouch for the work they do and the Christ-centered approach they take.

Another group I am familiar with including some staff personally is Christian Aid Ministries. In spite of the rather generic name they are a group mostly made up of conservative Anabaptists and have a strong presence in Haiti. CAM also has the distinction of using more than 97.5% of their funds for direct aid and less than 3% on fund raising and overhead.

There are other groups of course but I encourage you to really get to know the groups you donate to. Too many contributions given in haste are ill spent and the needs are too great around the world to blow your money paying for someone to sit in a cubicle in Dallas raising funds to pay their own salary.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Where Did My Links List Go?

For some reason my links list on the sidebar disappeared. Any ideas why that happened? I can recreate it but it is a hassle.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Real Life Mirrors Good Will Hunting

So our neighbors to the north in Michigan at the academic and athletic powerhouse University of Michigan have decided that students can choose whatever personal pronoun they like to be addressed as on any given day, depending on their mood or something. Anyway the decision comes from an august body at the U of M:

The move is the result of a Pronoun Committee of staff and faculty that met for the past year. The committee was in response to a student petition.

When a "university" invests money, time and authority of any kind in a "Pronoun Committee", it makes a complete farce out of the entire idea of education. Or as Will Hunting says in one of my favorite movie scenes of all time, starting at 3:25 (pardon the language)

See, the sad thing about a guy like you is, in 50 years you're gonna start doin' some thinkin' on your own and you're going to come up with the fact that there are two certainties in life: one, don't do that, and two, you dropped 150 grand on a (f''ing) education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!

Yeah, pretty much that. It is my contention, and one that grows more certain by the day, that unless you are pursuing some sort of specific, vocationally required education that you can only get in a university setting (nursing, accounting, etc.), then the very last place you should go in order to educate yourself is a university. Universities by and large are mostly places where young "adults" are force-fed nonsense and leftist propaganda, meaning that they are woefully unprepared for life outside of the "safe spaces" of a university. While colleges have always been far-left bastions, at least when I was in school you could hold to a dissenting opinion. Now you are required to think only a certain way, meaning that universities are doing the precise opposite of educating.

In a world where information is available to anyone at any time for free at the drop of a hat, the very reason for universities is rapidly evaporating. Do yourself and your kids a favor, teach them to love to read and have an inquisitive mind and skip the $100,000 in debt.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Wells Fargo Debacle Goes Way Beyond One Bank

I rarely talk about my jobs, past or present. I am pretty sure no one cares what I used to do for a living and while I had some casual friends for the most part the memories are pretty unpleasant. Still, as the media coverage of the unethical behavior at Wells Fargo continues unabated I am reminded of my life as a bank manager in the retail banking world that most people are familiar with. I spent about four years working as a bank manager for two banks, the one a massive multi-national bank and one a super-regional bank familiar to people who live where I have and do. The public relations nightmare that is hammering Wells Fargo is a much bigger problem than just malfeasance at one bank.

Every time is read more about this, I think "Yup, that is how it worked". The only thing is, I didn't work for Wells Fargo, instead I managed branches for two other huge banks. The incentive structure at both banks worked a lot of Wells. Bankers, the "personal bankers" rather than the bank managers, the workers who opened most accounts, are heavily incentive driven and they are hounded incessantly for more and more. More checking accounts. More loans. More credit cards. More investment revenue. The pressure was so intense that the really big bank I worked for had a conference call for bank managers only and one of the speakers casually said that the life expectancy of a personal bankers was about 18 months. They bring them in, dangle big rewards in front of them and then ride them into the ground. While the public statements are all about customer service and "doing what is right for the customer", the reality is that the incentive programs for bankers and also for managers often was driving them to do things that hit numbers but were not in the best interest of customers or the bank. Here is an example from the Wall Street Journal:

" In Tucson, Ariz., some bankers met sales goals by using a list of wealthier, existing customers who were preselected for credit cards, according to a banker who was fired last year for what the bank called unethical behavior.

The customers were told in phone calls that Wells Fargo planned to send them a new credit card as a “thank you” for their business. If a customer didn’t want the card, he was told to cut the card when it arrived in the mail, according to the former banker.

She says those customers weren’t told that issuing each new card required a credit check, which can lower a person’s credit score."

Yeah, we were told to do that. My people were supposed to call these customers from lists, rapidly explain that they were getting a new "credit line" for overdraft protection and hang up. As long as the customer didn't actively refuse the card, they got a new one in about a week and the banker got credit for a "sale". The thing is, even if people never used the card or home equity line of credit or checking account, it didn't matter. You still got paid. 

" Former branch manager Rasheeda Kamar says her Wells Fargo office in New Milford, N.J., had a goal of selling about 15 new products or services a day. If the branch didn’t hit the goal, the shortfall would be added to the next day’s goal, she says.

Ms. Kamar says laggards were threatened with termination and sometimes criticized in conference calls. In February 2011, she wrote to Mr. Stumpf in an email: “For the most part funds are moved to new accounts to ‘show’ growth when in actuality there is no net gain to the company’s deposit base.” She says she got no reply."

And that. At one bank, if your branch didn't hit it's sales goal the prior day, and most of us rarely did, we had to come in for an early morning, way before the branch opened, "sales call" to be publicly called out and we had to come up with some ludicrous plan to sell more checking accounts and credit cards that day. This is in a town with less than 6,000 people and a dozen banks, including two branches of the same bank! It would not be unusual for every manager in the district to be on the call and the "plans" never did much to change the results so it basically was a punishment. Hit your numbers or you have to get up super early the next day. It was great when you hit your numbers and got to skip the call so you could be smug for a day. 

I always believed that great customer service would lead to more sales and it often did, not to mention it retained money, but no one cared about that. If you opened 30 checking accounts in a week with $100 each but closed 40 with $1000 each, you got praised for all of the "new" accounts you opened, especially for younger customers who were more likely to overdraw their accounts. Like clockwork you could check your overdraft list on Monday and see lots of younger customers with literally hundreds of dollars in overdraft fees from the weekend. We never reversed those fees even though it was simple to do so because that is a huge source of revenue. Banks used to, and I think this has changed, pay items biggest to smallest so if you had five charges and the money for four of them, they would still run the biggest one first, overdrawing your account and then the next four would also be overdrawn and you would get 5 overdrafts fees instead of 1. Plus they charged extra for each day you were overdrawn meaning people without the money could lose almost an entire paycheck at a low wage job in fees before their next paycheck came in.

I like to think that we didn't do that sort of stuff in my branches but I am pretty sure it was going on. I hated working in retail banking and I am well rid of it. I never felt in any other job that what I was doing was immoral but in retail banking I did. I felt good when we hit our sales goals but it slowly ate away at me. When I quit and went back into retirement plan services, I took a printout of my sales goals and whenever I got irritated about my new job I would open my desk and look at those ridiculous sales goals and it made me feel better.

If you give people an incentive to do the wrong thing, more often than not that is what they will do. If you incentive women to get knocked up and not get married, that is what they will do. If you give guys an incentive to not work because getting a job would mean less take home cash, they will play video games instead. If you give guys in suits an incentive to do the wrong thing and punish them for doing the right thing, guess what most of them will do? People who refuse will get fired and people who do what they are told to will get promoted and showered with praise and money.

Whoever you are, you need to check and see what is really going on with your financial picture. Do you have bank accounts you don't use? Credit cards that you don't remember getting, especially the ones from stores? Are you paying a ton of money in fees for "expert investment advice" from someone you never hear from? Check your credit report, look at your bank statement. Make sure you know where any fees are going and what you get for them. Don't expect people with little or no incentive to do so to watch your back. Most of all, don't think "I don't bank at Wells Fargo so this hasn't happened to me." You might be surprised.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Like Hillbilly Elegy But With Indians

Because I haven't read enough deeply depressing stuff, I just started a new book from Naomi Schaefer Riley, The New Trail of Tears. The gist so far, and I just started it, is that while the academic world focuses on what happened to the various American Indian tribes 100 or more years ago, an on-going crisis is in place that leaves many Indians in this country in far worse conditions than inner-city blacks or the hillbillies of Hillbilly Elegy (my review of the latter is here). I knew Indians were in rough shape but I didn't realize how bad it was, especially in the West. I used to have interactions with an Indian tribe when I was a bank manager in Northern Michigan and while a few well educated Indians did quite well (working for the tribe), a lot were in serious poverty. One really depressing recurrence was the receiving of a lump sum of some sort when Indian youth reached a certain age. I am not sure where the funds came from but it was thousands of dollars and invariably it would get blown in short order on stupid stuff.

This promises to be another crystal clear example of the government claiming to be trying to help people while engaging in policies that make things worse. There are so many examples of the government coming to "help" a people group and just making it worse while throwing wheelbarrows of tax-payer money into the wind. As bad as you think some groups have it, the Indians have it worse and it is showing no signs of getting better.

It is not a super long book so I should be able to knock it out in short order and provide a more complete review but if you have this book at your local library it is worth your time to pick it up.

Sometimes The Simple Answer Is The Correct Answer

If there is anything "church experts" like to talk about these days it is the loss of Millennials from "church", where "church" means attendance and activity at religious services. Since they are the up and coming generation of adults it is causing something of a panic among church demographers because this generation is desperately needed to replace the older, faithful "tithe" payers that keep many local churches solvent.

One factor that keeps cropping up as a reason for the mass exodus of Millennials is that the church is too political. I agree that often we seem to conflate conservative politics with the Kingdom and to a lesser extent progressives do the same thing, they just don't have many people left. But is that why Millennials are not attending church? I don't think so, at least not primarily. While a lot of people think so, like this tweet:

...I actually think the answer is a lot simpler. Most Millennials are unbelievers (so are Gen Xers, Greatest Generation, Baby Boomers, etc.).

Churches in America have been full unbelievers for decades. Being a church-goer was a sign of respectability. A good church going man is someone you can trust to do business with. A girl from a church going family was a respectable choice for a wife. Families that didn't go to church had something wrong with them. In other words, there was a social cost to not attending church and a social benefit for attending church. If you were an insurance salesman or a stock broker, being in church made you seem more trustworthy plus it gave you a bunch of people you could guilt into considering your services. Church for many people was not much different from the Rotary or a bowling league.

Today? That social cost/benefit is evaporating. In some places (the northeast, the coastal West, most big cities, colleges, etc) it is completely gone and the opposite is now true. Being religious makes you an outcast and probably a terrible person. Even in the Bible-belt and the MidWest the social need to be in church on Sunday is about gone. That, more than any other reason, is why they are leaving.

In 2016 being social is very different from being social in  the 1970's. Today people are social online. They think that they don't actually need to be in the same room (or state or country...) as someone else to be social. They call it "social media" after all. People who crave attention don't need to go anywhere to get it, they just need to have lots of "friends" on Facebook or followers on Twitter. Heck, even being an internet troll gets you some interaction without leaving the house. So getting up on Sunday morning, getting dressed at least in clean clothes and going somewhere to be with people that are mostly sitting mutely for an hour before scampering out to the parking lot doesn't hold much appeal. You can stay home in your pajamas and surf social media and get your socialization fix.

As an aside, it also is pretty common that the most politically active people in the church are often also the most active in the life of the body. People who are passionate and highly committed in one area of life seem to be the same way in other areas. I don't think that means we should encourage people to be more politically minded but it also means that people don't have to choose between being highly faithful and politically engaged.

So what that means is something I have been saying for a long time. You don't need to commission a study and do surveys to figure out why Millennials are leaving "the church". They were never part of the church to begin with and they no longer see any need to be obliged to show up on Sunday to sing songs and listen to messages about a God they never believed in. Aside from a chance to be social, and even that is mostly gone as an incentive, what is there in a church service that would appeal to an unbeliever? Not much so we should stop trying to tailor our gatherings to appeal to people who aren't going to come anyway unless they are acted upon by the Holy Spirit.

So if we shouldn't fret so much about the Millennials leaving, what then should we concentrate on? That is the topic for an upcoming post on what Christians are actually looking for and it isn't what many people think.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Buying Eggs From "Free Range" Chickens

If you are egg shopping in most stores, you will be given the option of buying free range chicken eggs. You will be asked to pay a lot more for them but they are supposed to be more humanely raised. After all, instead of being cooped up (see what I did there) all day, they are free to go outside to frolic as only chickens can. There are several of them near us, huge buildings with a fenced in pasture for the chickens. There is only one problem. See below:

It is hard to make out the chickens in the pasture. That is mostly because there aren't very many and the ones that are out are huddled in the shade of the building. I have gone past this place literally a hundred times and never seen a single chicken under the chicken cabanas in the pasture, little matching shelters that has the same color roof as the big barn. I would estimate that I have never seen more than 100 chickens outside at any time. That sounds like a lot of chickens but there are probably 20,000 chickens inside the barn. You see, they seem to like being inside. They have food in there. They have water in there. Places to roost. Fans to keep them cool. In fact given the chance, most of the tens of thousands of chickens prefer to be inside. So why do you pay more for their eggs?

Because you are being sold an image, an idea. You think you are getting much better eggs because the chickens can go outside. 'Cept they don't wanna go outside. But you pay the same for an egg from a chicken that has never gone outside as you do for one that occasionally wanders out. They are still mass raised in a mostly confinement operation, carefully bred to fire off eggs as efficiently as possible.

So if you want to spend more and get eggs from actual free ranging chickens, look for a sign out front and chickens in the yard. Don't spend more for eggs that are basically the same you can get for a buck a dozen.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Sons Of Kohath

I have been making a real effort to read through the Old Testament more. If I have some spare time to read I instinctively open up the New Testament. That is partly the result of having a quasi-Anabaptist view of the priority of the New over the Old and also, if I am honest, because a lot of the Old Testament is a tough slog to read through. I can jump into Ephesians or Galatians or John any time but I need to really make a concerted effort to get into the Old Testament. I have been reading in Numbers and it is easy to sort of read the words without really understanding them but I read something today and then I backed up and read it again. And then again. Read what Moses had to say about the sons of Kohath or the Kohathites (emphasis mine):

The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, "Take a census of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their clans and their fathers' houses, from thirty years old up to fifty years old, all who can come on duty, to do the work in the tent of meeting. This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tent of meeting: the most holy things. When the camp is to set out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it. Then they shall put on it a covering of goatskin and spread on top of that a cloth all of blue, and shall put in its poles. And over the table of the bread of the Presence they shall spread a cloth of blue and put on it the plates, the dishes for incense, the bowls, and the flagons for the drink offering; the regular showbread also shall be on it. Then they shall spread over them a cloth of scarlet and cover the same with a covering of goatskin, and shall put in its poles. And they shall take a cloth of blue and cover the lampstand for the light, with its lamps, its tongs, its trays, and all the vessels for oil with which it is supplied. And they shall put it with all its utensils in a covering of goatskin and put it on the carrying frame. And over the golden altar they shall spread a cloth of blue and cover it with a covering of goatskin, and shall put in its poles. And they shall take all the vessels of the service that are used in the sanctuary and put them in a cloth of blue and cover them with a covering of goatskin and put them on the carrying frame. And they shall take away the ashes from the altar and spread a purple cloth over it. And they shall put on it all the utensils of the altar, which are used for the service there, the fire pans, the forks, the shovels, and the basins, all the utensils of the altar; and they shall spread on it a covering of goatskin, and shall put in its poles. And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die. These are the things of the tent of meeting that the sons of Kohath are to carry. "And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest shall have charge of the oil for the light, the fragrant incense, the regular grain offering, and the anointing oil, with the oversight of the whole tabernacle and all that is in it, of the sanctuary and its vessels." The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, "Let not the tribe of the clans of the Kohathites be destroyed from among the Levites, but deal thus with them, that they may live and not die when they come near to the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in and appoint them each to his task and to his burden, but they shall not go in to look on the holy things even for a moment, lest they die." (Numbers 4:1-20)

One other brief Scripture from a little later:

Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things, and the tabernacle was set up before their arrival. (Numbers 10:21)

Most Christians know Aaron and his sons. Aaron as High Priest and his sons had specific duties when it came to serving as priests. Aaron would go into the tent and perform the tasks enumerated for him and as one would expect he gets a lot of ink, over 300 mentions in the Bible in spite of that unfortunate incident with the gold calf and his sons and their strange fire. I had read about the Kohathites before but it really struck me today. They had an unglamorous job. They didn't handle the most holy of items among the people of God, they just carried them after they were packed up but they had a critically important task. They were entrusted with the most precious possessions of the Israelite's, doing the grunt work that needed to be done.

Not actual sons of Kohath
So what? Here is the so what. We don't have Aaron and his sons around anymore. We don't have human priests to serve as intercessors for us. Christ Jesus Himself intercedes for His people and no human today has been given the right to assume that privilege for himself. There are no longer earthly places where God manifests Himself to His people in spite of the attempts by so many men to create a cage in which to keep and control God and access to Him. It seems to me that we as His people, especially as the winnowing of the merely religious continues to accelerate, serve a similar function as the sons of Kohath. We are not the High Priest, we are not entrusted to carry out the intercessory functions but we have been giving the job of carrying and protecting what is most precious to God: the Gospel of His Son. That is a weighty responsibility. The church today and for some time has stood on the precipice. We are never more than one generation from losing the Gospel. God's purpose and God's church will never be thwarted but as the thousand year despotic reign of Rome shows when we lose the public witness of the Gospel and permit false prophets and wolves among the sheep to rise unchecked, it makes life very difficult for the remnant of His Church.

This is an era when false teachers abound just as they always have but with two major advantages for the wolves. First there is a deplorable ignorance of Scripture and basic theology in the church. By allowing a select few to shoulder the hermeneutic burden for the entirety of local churches (see my post Toward A Community Hermeneutic), many Christians have never advanced beyond the "milk" stage and into the "meat stage" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). Many Christians simply lack the resources and training to recognize false teaching from the true. Second, never in human history has it been as easy to disseminate the truth thanks to the internet. Unfortunately it is even easier to spread lies as unregenerate people will always be drawn to the darkness rather than the light (John 3:19). The most effective lies and the most attractive false teachers are those who tell people to embrace the darkness while convincing them that it is actually the light. With the near instantaneous spread of anything from anyone, many people suffer from information overload and tend to turtle up, only listening to people they already agree with, leading to what I call theological incest where we never are challenged to stretch and grow. Certainly not every opinion is worthy of consideration, in fact most are not, but we still need to be open to learning from other believers.

In these days, the church needs to embrace our role as a modern form of the sons of Kohath. Not in the sense of mindlessly stumbling into and out of pews, content to have a Christian life of "Show up, shut up and pay up". Rather we should allow and delight in the glory all shining on the most precious things, on Jesus Christ and His Gospel, while we march forward tirelessly and courageously carrying His message and protecting His Gospel from any who would seek to pervert it.

I think there is more to be said about the sons of Kohath but that is for another day. Just let me remind you as I reminded myself today that there is no extraneous material in the Scriptures. There are powerful truths to be found everywhere. Even in the mundane, we see God working and God teaching His people. Go to His Word regularly, joyously and drink deeply brothers and sisters. His Word is an endless fountain because the source of His Word is the boundless, eternal Son of God.

This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the 
tent of meeting: the most holy things.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

A New Creation

Crossway posts photos with Scripture verses on their social media and while it seems like a small thing I often find myself deeply impacted by what they post. I pray that I never lose the sense of wonder that Scripture gives me. How can it be that God Himself condescended to communicate to us and preserve what He has communicated throughout the ages so that nearly 2000 years later I have it at my fingertips? Has there been a greater crime against the people of God than those who sought to deny access to the revealed will of God in His Word? Having God's revelation preserved for us is one of the greatest of all miracles.

Today Crossway posted one of the most powerful Scriptures in all of the New Testament, a Scripture that teaches us and reinforces for us one of the most powerful truths in the Bible. When an unbeliever, dead in his sins, is made alive in Christ, something miraculous happens. We are born-again, born not of woman but of the Holy Spirit (John 1:12-13). We used to be one thing, and now we are something completely different. Paul describes it like this:

Christians are a new creation. Everything has changed, some in subtle ways and others in major ways. I wrote on Facebook: Justification is a change in your very nature, not simply a temporary change in your attitude. As I have written before, the doctrine of the new birth, of regeneration, is one of the most neglected and misunderstood of any in the Bible.

I really think if people pondered verses like 2 Corinthians 5:17, in context with the entire New Testament, it would dramatically change how they understand a lot of issues.