Creation and Creation Order

A Homily for The Geneva School, Wednesday, October 6, 2021

As we walk through this year together in Chapel, we want to lay out for you all the big scope of the Bible, what many people have called “the drama of redemption” from Creation through The Fall, and God’s constant faithful acts of redemption, first freedom from slavery for the people of Israel, with His gracious promises of covenant, and eventually for release from slavery to sin for all mankind through redemption found in Jesus Christ. It’s a beautiful story from Genesis through the Revelation. And fundamentally, it’s why The Geneva School exists, since, by understanding these things, we can seek to inspire students to love beauty, think deeply, and pursue Christ’s calling in all of life.

In our brief time this morning, we want to start at the beginning . . . with creation. In the poetic lines of Genesis 1, we receive from God a portrait of His work in bringing all things into being. You all are growing up in a world where the original sin of Adam is being repeated constantly through the “sovereignty of science” – in our human pride, humans have come to believe we can control our environment, we can understand all things, in fact we can be gods in our own world.  But “science” in the world’s mind too often removes God from the picture. However, before science, philosophy and logic help us.

R.C. Sproul, one of our school’s founders, often said, “For anything to exist at all, something must have the power of being within itself.  If there was ever nothing, . . . there would still be nothing. Ex nihil nihil fit – out of nothing, nothing comes. So something had to BE in order for anything else to come into being. Thus, “In the beginning God . . .” It begins there. If there is no primary “Mover” there is no motion. If there is no “Life-giver” there can be no living thing. It’s just that simple.

And the main thing I want you to grasp this morning is that God creates everything with a beautiful, carefully calibrated, and necessary order. In this order all of life can flourish. Without such design and order, we end up in chaos, random meaninglessness, and nonsense. But by the power of His Word, God created light, then the expanses of water, then He separated them into sky and sea, brought forth dry land, brought forth life (in the skies, seas, and on land) all by the power of spoken Word. After all this, we see that God say, “Let us make man” – and this is qualitatively different. Everything else is spoken into being, then God makes us in His image. Thus we can think, we can create (or as Tolkien wisely said, we can be sub-creators, using the things God has already made). And then we get the first commands – what we call the creation mandate: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it, and have dominion over it.”

Think of it like this: Musicians notice when instruments move slightly out of tune; a good mechanic can hear if the motor is not quite in sync and needs a “tune up”; doctors, based on carefully calibrated blood counts, can tell if someone is well or quite sick. God has made the world, as my pastor recently said, with a “finely-tuned” order in the universe. Change things just infinitesimally, and everything begins to fall apart. If our earthly orbit around the sun were ever so slightly different, life could not be sustained. If the earth’s rotational axis moved ever so slightly, everything would fall apart.

Even the seven-day cycle of creation is part of that order. Only twice in civilized history have people intentionally moves away from this: in 1789 in France, a revolution against God and His order, and in Maoist communist China in the 1940s. Both cultures banished the 7-day cycle for something man-made. And both were disasters that quickly reverted to an unshakeable human necessity of six days of work and one of rest. Is it possible to survive outside this order? For a while perhaps. That successful driven professional who claims to work 24-7-365 will succeed . . . for a while, then probably die from a coronary heart attack long before he might otherwise.

But creation order involves more than mere astronomical facts, figures, and calendars. It also speaks to how we live as human beings, women and men made in His image. We are made to thrive, flourish, and live within a finely tuned order involving everything from day and night to humans being male and female.

But you live in a world sending you countless messages every day that you can do whatever you wish, live however you wish, be whoever and whatever you wish. YOU, the world says, are sovereign in your own life. This may explain why our country has about 5% of the world’s population but 98% of the world’s psychotherapists – people need desperate help when the world under their control is spinning out of their control, yes?

You see, . . . the Original Sin of Adam and Eve was their seeking to be gods; to know all things and do whatever they wished. As Dr. Brodrecht says, we in the post-modern West, live in a day that seeks to sell us a lie (the original lie!) that we can be autonomous selves – laws unto ourselves, determining our own destiny. But this ends in disorder and chaos.

We need ordered lives, ordered society, ordered living.

Here at Geneva we see one small example of the place for order with our own Honor Code – it is an order within which we seek to live and learn together – depart from it and we end up in chaos, conflict, and disorder. But we are living in a tumultuous time when order is being challenge, torn down … with nothing substantial offered as a substitute other than, “do as you please, be happy, think of yourself first and last, whatever make you happy.”

Allow me gently to speak truth in love in just one huge area of confusion in our day. Genesis tells us that God has made us with a beautiful order as men and women, male and female (and the science of chromosomes and DNA confirm that all humanity is binary). But the world says you can be whatever you wish to be and now New York City recognizes some 17 different “gender pronouns” to describe people’s self-identifications. But friends, creation order still says . . . man and woman. Every human being created imago Dei is either male or female. That’s it. Just the two. We cannot change our cellular, skeletal, and muscular systems from one to the other, no matter what the world tells you.

When I say “world” of course, I am referring to that biblical idea of a “rebellious mindset against what God has created and ordered.” This is why we hear the Scriptures say that we are in the world, but we, as God’s people, must not be of the world. We live in this fallen realm, but we live as aliens and stranger waiting for the final redemption of our bodies and souls from the brokenness that surrounds us. As God’s people, as followers of Christ, we cannot buy into a narrative the world seeks to sell us when it is so contrary to the beauty and simplicity of creation order.

You see, Creation Order calls humans to be self-sacrificing for the sake of the creation mandate. Man and woman, in relationship, are designed to fulfill the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply. This is a profoundly counter cultural concept right now. Our culture says any two people can marry – a fundamental change in the meaning of a word that was understood for millennia in every culture. And words are powerful things. Meaning matters and when meanings of words become relative, flexible, and changeable, chaos is the result.

WSJ on Monday reported that the word “woman” is no longer considered appropriate in some circles: “Some politicians [House Democrats] qualified the word woman in a September bill by saying the term reflects ‘the identity of the majority of people’ who might seek an abortion: ‘This Act is intended to protect all people with the capacity for pregnancy—cisgender women, transgender men, non-binary individuals, those who identify with a different gender, and others.’ The White House budget’s neutered term for mothers: ‘birthing people.’” What? I’m confused. “Birthing people”?  Words matter!

But you see, marriage of a man and woman is self-sacrificing for the sake of the next generation. And that is by design. Tragically, two men or two women, no matter how genuine the affection can never fulfill this creation order to being forth children from love. I know, . . . such thinking is considered hateful in many quarters now, but the Scripture speak truth in love and for the flourishing of humanity and the fulfilment of the creation order. A desire for personal autonomy and happiness leads many people to pursue a sad substitute for what God has designed for us all. There may be sincere love in such unions, but according to God’s creation and His finely tuned order, such love is a disordered alternative to what God give for our flourishing.

Think of it like this: When the world loves, pursues, and pushes ideas and lifestyles contrary to God’s created order, this is a result of that rebellious, self-motivated attitude as self-gods against what God has given to humanity for life and goodness. And when the world promotes as good something God says is not good, this should warn God’s people against such things. Admittedly, to believe biblical ideas about creation and the creation mandate is to invite hatred and exclusion from some powerful forces in our culture.

But Jesus said, when the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. Fallen humanity does not wish to bend the knee to God or His beautifully crafted and fine-tuned order for us. God’s people are called to live and thrive freely within the gracious order for life that He gives to us.

Some of us at Geneca recently heard several seniors speak [at a senior dinner] about the joy they found in discovering the harmonies of the universe in the Sci-Rev class – yes! This is discovering facets of God’s creation order.  This is why we exist as a school – to help you all discover goodness, truth, and beauty in God’s world, to think carefully and deeply about it – to weigh the messages you hear from the world against the clear, faithful message from God in His Word. And then, knowing you are deeply loved by God, you can pursue with vigor and great joy the calling God has for you in Christ. All of creation . . . and creation order . . . is a gift when we accept it as such.

In the Beginning God said “let there be light” – may He continue to shed light into all of our souls that we might pursue Him as we follow His first commands to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, subdue it and have dominion over it.  Amen.

Let’s pray.

Oh God, in the brief time we have had, we lack nuance to address so many related concerns and objections to what I just said – but give us grace to see the big picture – all of creation and humanity (we having been made just a little lower than the angels!) – that all these things are evidence of your goodness and power, and evidence of your love for us.  In Jesus name, Amen.

My Thoughts on “Vaccine” Mandates and Christian Conscience

My family has built our lives on faith in God in Jesus Christ which results in a deep and abiding respect for human life created in God’s image. We reject any ideology or product connected to or tainted by the scourge of abortion. The so-called Covid “vaccines” were developed with or were test by using biological tissue derived from human babies murdered by abortion. (I say “vaccines” because this is another example of the post-modern pattern to redefine or misappropriate language — think “marriage” “rainbow” or “gender” for other examples.)

Yes, even the so-called “safe” mRNA injections developed by Moderna or Pfizer used aborted fetal cell materials in the testing for these products. I could never go against conscience to protect my own life (worse, from a threat with a mere 99%+ survival rate!) by using a product tainted by the murderous abortion business no matter how remote the connection. Yes, the connection with abortion is deemed slight by some, but electively aborted (that is murdered) babies contribute to this medical product (see here for instance, or here for a far more nuanced statement from Catholic bishops). Yes, the connection may be remote enough for the bishops to say it is so negligible as to allow people of faith to participate and take the injection. But for decades I have been clear that any medical intervention compromised at any point by abortion would be rejected by me, even if it meant my loss of life. Long ago the medical community touted the use of aborted fetal stem cells as the portent of break through technologies for such things as Parkinson’s (even though stem cells harvested from healthy adults are just as effective and scandal-free). I said then, and say now that I will not — my conscience tells me “cannot” — use such products.

I understand and respect the decisions made by many believing friends and loved ones who see this issue differently than I do. I know many who have participated in the so-called “vaccine” — some for pragmatic reasons of travel or employment, others for the sake of endangered elderly loved ones, still others because they live with compromised immune systems and live at a higher risk. I do not condemn others for their choices made in good conscience. But I hope these folks also understand and respect my deeply held convictions.  Not so apparently Mr. Biden and the forces of progressive government. 

Biden’s scolding and governmental pressure tactics be damned! Some of us have long and deeply-held conscientious objections to such medical products and will not, indeed cannot, participate in his quest for victory over Covid — a victory he seems determined to gain by trampling the rights, liberties, and consciences of millions of Americans like me.  

I will not be cowed. I will not be shamed. I will not be made to fear reprisal or societal marginalization for the sake of conscience and faith. As someone purportedly once said, “Here I stand; I can do no other. So help me God.”

More Good Stuff from WSJ

America’s Covid Groupthink Functioned Like China’s Repression

Marching in ideological lockstep is less forgivable in a society where one has a choice in the matter.

By Gerard Baker

June 7, 2021

What we eventually learn about the origins of Covid-19 may implicate China’s government in failure and falsehood on a grand scale. But before we get too carried away with the endemic failures of the communist order, we should ponder that the episode has exposed layers of rottenness in critical institutions of American civil society that are similarly damning.

China’s officials may well be culpable of a combination of incompetence, recklessness and deceit. But in an authoritarian regime, they might not have had much individual agency in the matter. In this country, scientists, bureaucrats, journalists and executives of Big Tech companies suppressed the story not out of fear of imprisonment or death, but of their own volition, out of ideological or even venal motives. You may well ask: Whose culpability is greater?

It’s not simply that the lab-leak theory was “debunked,” as news organizations repeatedly told us when anyone tried to raise it a year ago. It wasn’t even permitted to be considered. Discussion of the topic was deliberately extinguished on tech platforms, in the respectable scientific journals and in newsrooms.

Some highly influential figures in the “scientific community” were the first to block serious consideration of the thesis that the viral pathogens escaped from a Chinese government laboratory.

Letters in the Lancet and Nature in the early days of the pandemic from an impressive constellation of experts dismissed the lab-leak idea, and in the case of the former, denounced it as a conspiracy theory.

Thanks to a recent release of emails under the Freedom of Information Act, we now know that some of the scientists dismissing the idea had themselves expressed concerns that the zoonotic explanation they were publicly championing might not be right. We also know that in the case of the Lancet letter, some of the correspondents were involved in similar research and had a strong professional interest in denying the possibility of an engineered virus.

Scientists differ in their methods and conclusions—and do so in good faith. It’s possible some believed there was a genuine scientific basis for rejecting challenges to the official Chinese version of events. But this dismissal of the lab-leak idea is of a piece with the politicization of science that’s been a feature of the last few years. The obsession with debunking anything Donald Trump said and the fear of being accused of racism undoubtedly colored the judgment of many whose job is to consider only the empirical evidence.

Last year, many scientists beclowned themselves by bowing to the prevailing political pieties with their absurd assertion that taking part in protests on behalf of Black Lives Matter was literally salubrious, whereas taking part in protests against lockdowns was lethally reckless.

If too many American scientists failed to help us get a proper understanding of the origins of Covid, they seem to have been abetted by like-minded people in the permanent bureaucracy. Emails to and from Anthony Fauci uncovered last week show that while there were some genuinely diligent officials determined to get to the truth, too many in positions of power seemed keen to stamp out a proper investigation.

As Katherine Eban reported in Vanity Fair last week, officials from two separate bureaus in the State Department warned against a proper investigation for fear of opening a “can of worms.”

Again we have good grounds to suspect that officials in a bureaucracy that had already undermined Donald Trump’s presidency with baseless allegations about Russian collusion seemed intent on suppressing any suggestion, however well-supported it might be, that Trump officials might be right about a critical issue of state.

Yet the largest responsibility for the failure to consider in a timely fashion the lab-leak theory lies with the media.

Journalists were once marked by their curiosity. Now the only thing that’s curious about many of them is their lack of curiosity when a story doesn’t fit their priors.

Instead of pursuing the tantalizing suggestion that the official Chinese and World Health Organization account might not be true, they simply signed onto it and dismissed anyone who didn’t as a kook or a xenophobe. Their ideological cousins in Silicon Valley then firmly shut the door on the story by blocking access to articles that didn’t fit the approved version.

In each field—science, government, media and tech—there were surely independent-minded people who did seek the truth. But they were no match for the groupthink and coverup.

It seems increasingly likely that Chinese officials mishandled research and misrepresented and misinformed the public. But they did so under pain of punishment, even death, in a system designed to suppress that kind of information.

In this country, constitutionally protected, free and independent scientists, bureaucrats, journalists and others did the same. What’s their excuse?

An Important Read from WSJ today

It’s a Travesty to Compare the Capitol Siege to 9/11

More than 3,000 children never saw their parents again. On Jan. 6, Congress returned within hours.

By Debra Burlingame

May 27, 2021

Democratic lawmakers want to establish a “9/11-style commission” to investigate the siege of the Capitol on Jan. 6. “I would like to see Jan. 6 burned into the American mind as firmly as 9/11, because it was that scale of a shock to the system,” commentator George Will said recently. The attempt to reconfigure the “domestic terrorist” narrative to fit the horrifying story of Sept. 11 is profoundly disheartening. These two events are fundamentally different in nature, scope and consequences. Mentioning them in the same breath not only diminishes the horror of what happened on 9/11; it tells a false story to the generation of Americans who are too young to remember that day nearly 20 years ago.

My brother, Charles “Chic” Burlingame, was the pilot of American Airlines flight 77. He was murdered in his cockpit at age 51 in a 6½-minute struggle for control of the airplane. Here is what I want these young people to know:

Members of Congress might have had a frightening day on Jan. 6, but on 9/11 some 200 people in the World Trade Center towers chose to jump from 80 to 100 floors above the ground rather than be consumed by fire. A woman waiting at a lobby elevator bank was burned over 82% of her body when jet fuel from the first plane sent a ball of fire down the elevator shaft and into the lobby. She spent three months in a hospital burn unit and was permanently disfigured.

There are countless harrowing stories like this—of death, destruction and heartbreaking loss. More than 3,000 children lost parents. Eight young children were killed on the planes. Recovery personnel found 19,000 human remains scattered all over lower Manhattan from river to river, including on rooftops and window ledges. Victims’ remains were still being recovered years later by utility workers and construction crews. Some families received so many notifications of remains that they couldn’t take it any more and asked for them to stop. More than 1,100 families received nothing. Their loved ones went to work that morning and disappeared.

The attack brought down our nationwide aviation system, shut down the New York Stock Exchange for days, destroyed or rendered uninhabitable 16 acres of Lower Manhattan including underground subway and commuter train lines and destroyed a section of the Pentagon. Rebuilding at ground zero is still incomplete, and U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan.

On Jan. 6, Congress resumed its session that evening.

It is deeply offensive and sad that the brutal and harrowing memories of the worst terrorist attack in American history are being deployed by political partisans. They are using 9/11 not as an example of what the American people endured and overcame together, but explicitly to divide, to stoke hatred and to further a political agenda aimed at stigmatizing the other party and marginalizing ordinary Americans from participating in the political process. That is the real threat to democracy.

It should matter that the vast majority of the people who went to the Capitol protest that day didn’t believe they were there to overthrow the U.S. government, or, it must now be said, to kill anyone.

There have been real terrorist attacks on the Capitol. But those must be forgotten because they came from the political left. In 1971 the Weather Underground, a Marxist-Leninist terrorist group whose goal was the overthrow of the U.S. government through violent, armed revolution, blasted a hole through the ceiling on the Senate side of the complex. It also bombed the Pentagon in 1972 and the State Department in 1975.

In 1954, four Puerto Rican nationalists opened fire with automatic weapons from the House visitors gallery with members in the chamber for a quorum call. Five representatives were wounded, including one, Alvin Morell Bentley of Michigan, who was hit in the chest. The perpetrators received sentences ranging from 50 to 75 years; one was released in 1978, and President Carter granted clemency to the others the following year. One week after the shooting, the House was back to business as usual. That was a time when more members of Congress had served in the military, and with the world still recovering from World War II, one doubts that anyone likened the attack to Pearl Harbor or the Battle of Iwo Jima.

We are living in perilous times. When a modern democracy deploys forces of intimidation—whether government, corporate media or cultural institutions—to promote the ruling majority’s propaganda, it is time for good people to stand up and object. The world-changing attack of Sept. 11, 2001 shouldn’t be used, either as precedent or moral authority, to create a commission whose sole purpose is to turn a straightforward law-enforcement failure into destructive political theater.

Ms. Burlingame is a founding board member and trustee of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum Foundation and a director of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation.

A Homily on Jesus as the True Vine

Homily for The Geneva School

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Jesus is the True Vine

Over 20 years ago now, before the turn of the century in fact, a book came out called Way of the Modern World with a subtitle something like “why it’s tempting to live as if God does not exit.” The author’s contention was that in the Western world of comfort and consumeristic materialism, we can actually live in 21st century America as if God does not exist. Hey, look around you in your neighborhood – there are thousands of people living and walking around with no knowledge of God, Jesus, or the things we speak about here at Geneva. Some of them appear to be doing quite well, yes?  They seem to live quite successfully as if God does not exist.

         In fact, I think one of the crazy things about life in America is this ethos that says, “I got this.” Self-sufficiency has always been considered a virtue in the American work ethic. Perhaps you have heard me say in the past that the opposite of biblical faith is not doubt. Doubt still asks the questions; doubt can still turn to belief and trust. Rather, . . . the opposite of faith is self-reliance. Faith requires that you surrender to another, you depend on another to do for you what you cannot do for yourself.  Self-reliance says, “I control my life, I got this.”  The first and most fundamental act of rebellion is “I will do this myself. I will be my own god.”

         But the Scriptures teach us something different – something, in fact, that remains a huge stumbling block for most people in our Western culture. Scripture teaches us that as created beings, we are profoundly dependent creatures. We cannot survive much less thrive on our own. Yes, there are those legends of the wilderness hermit who lived and survived on his own – but such people are also often severely broken psychologically.  We are made in God’s image. We are made in God’s image as relational beings – and the first and fundamentally essential relationship is that which we have with our triune God, then relationships with family, then with others.

         Jesus captures this idea of our fundamental inter-connectedness when He told His disciples “I am the True Vine and My Father is the Vinedresser.” It is a rich metaphor, with nuances often lost on most of us who have grown up away from any exposure to agrarian life. But it is one of those titles of God, names or metaphors of Jesus, that includes us in the metaphor. He is the True Vine, we are the branches. We have a lot to learn here.

         First, note that Jesus says He is the “True Vine” – which of course implies that there are other vines. I saw this as a kid in my parent’s home town in Pennsylvania. There were well tended winery vineyards – these are the true vines; then you could also find vines in people’s back yards – not as strong a heritage or product, passable maybe; but then you could also find wild grapevines in the woods whose fruit was positively sour and unsatisfying.

         Make no mistake, my young friends, there are many forces in our culture, many false vines, calling for your loyalty, your trust, your connection, and seeking your surrender. Some are rather banal and harmless, others frightfully dangerous and destructive to body and soul. Only Jesus offers true connection, true life, true hope and future.

         Second, note that connection to this vine requires pain and loss. Did you hear it? “Every branch in me that bears fruit he [God, the Vinedresser] prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  Ouch. Some of you have heard me talk about this. I saw this in action as a kid when we lived in that town. In late winter, the vinedressers go into the vineyard and prune away last year’s growth and any parts of the vine not bearing fruit. These are living parts of the vine.  Sometimes God needs to cut away parts of us living parts that are not fruitful. Why? . . . So the essence of us can be more fruitful.  Left to ourselves, we grow all kinds of needless sucker vines, drawing life and richness away from the fruit. God wants our fruit to be rich, deeply satisfying, complex; . . . not watered down, weak, and tasteless.

         But third, and scary, note the other part of vs. 2: “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away.” And then in vs. 6: “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” Again, the vinedressers cut away the unfruitful, harmful parts of the vine to allow the true vine to flourish. And those parts cut off are gathered – we called it “pulling brush” – put into huge piles and burned.

         Now let’s be careful here. Jesus was speaking to His people – those connected by covenant and family to God and His people. And this speaks to many of you here – born and raised in a covenant, believing home where faith is present and real. This is a warning to you – being born in a Christian home does not make one a Christian –it is only by faith in Jesus, God’s Son that saves you, not mom and dad’s faith. The warning is: grow up in such a blessed environment, and a time will come when God looks at the maturing vine to assess its fruitfulness – if it is not bearing fruit (that is, not believing and trusting), it … will be … cut off.

         Some of you right now might be thinking, “Well, my family are not Christians, so what does that mean for me?  Like you, I grew up in a family where faith was not real or meaningful. So God cut me off a wild vine out in the woods and graciously grafted me into His True Vine, the people of God and His Church. Perhaps that can be your story of grace and mercy too!

         But there is more! Fourth, note the offensive part of this passage in vs. 5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” I remember hearing that as a kid in 6th or 7th grade and thinking, “Who does this Jesus think he is? I can do all kinds of things: play guitar, play soccer, I’m smart and pretty good looking, . . .” I really thought such things. I was raised to be self-reliant.

         Friends, we are not independent people; we are not made to be self-reliant. Rather, we are profoundly dependent upon God and inter-dependent upon others. It takes God pruning away your self-righteousness, your pride, and your trust in yourself to bring you to a place of surrendering to Him.  … But that’s when real life can begin.

Geneva’s faculty teach and mentor you all because we care about not only your present success but your future growth into faithful and faith-filled adults. Our collective affection for each of you grows from our deep desire to see you flourish as human beings. That only happens when you are connected to The True Vine. Jesus is our life! In Him we live move have our being. This faculty may have different convictions on many things socially and politically and personally — but on this, there is 100% consensus: Jesus is your only hope in life and in death.  

A sad reality is that some of you may shipwreck your faith.  It happens to some. Worldview, community, mentors in Jesus matter.  Don’t become cut off.  Suckers without fruit get cut off — we are saved by faith in Jesus, and that salvation bears fruit. If there is no fruit, it shows there is no root. We are not saved by what we do. It is by Grace alone through faith in Christ alone!  But what we do, the way we live, demonstrates the reality of Jesus as our life-giving vine. 

The World says, “Do your own thing, find your way, be true to your authentic self” . . . but Scripture says our authentic self runs from God, wants to be its own god, and the fruit it yields is weak, sour, or (at best) tasteless – it will not satisfy!

         Last week Haley Taylor spoke about the necessity of taking a genuine Christian faith with you to college. She said, “without intentionality it is easy to conform to the ways of the world.”  And I would add, without connection to the

True Vine of Jesus, you will inevitably be conformed to the world – the wild, uncultivated essentially poisonous vine. Remember, false vines don’t give life or richness; stability, health, or vitality. But life in Jesus is contra mundum –against the world. Today’s cultural worldview is driven by selfishness and self-centered-ness that erodes into immorality and fruitlessness. “Americans are softening in their practicing Christianity; social issues are recalibrating essential Christian convictions. These are gradual small steps away from historic faith.” Haley said, “With every choice we either move closer to God or father away from him.”

         Some in this room heard a sermon last Sunday where the pastor said the worst possible curse is to be left alone, left to ourselves – but God says He will allow this for those who are ultimately self-reliant and rebellious. Ps. 81 in yesterday’s morning prayer: says, “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts.”  Then Deuteronomy 28:68, “And the LORD will bring you back in ships to Egypt, a journey that I promised that you should never make again; and there you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer.” May God forbid that you are ever left ultimately to yourself with no one who even would want to make you a slave. The opposite of connection to the Vine is utter loneliness.

         My friends, abide in the True Vine. Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” Find life, health, future, hope, fullness of life and contentment in Jesus, the True Vine. Then you will flourish and bear much fruit.  May God give you and me the grace so to do.

An Important Read

More evidence in today’s WSJ against our “friends” at Big Tech — personally, we now seek to avoid Amazon, even at the cost of paying more to use other providers; we are actively looking for a secure, non-google or non-big-tech email server; we have basically left FB, etc. It’s becoming more and more clear that these forces are not neutral — in fact the worldview and operating philosophy behind these organizations seems more overtly anti-Christian than ever before. God bless you all,



Big Tech Censors Religion, Too

There’s no rest for the faithful when it comes to the woke orthodoxy.

By Josh Holdenried March 28, 2021

It’s not only politics. So far this year, religious groups and figures have been silenced by tech companies at a rate of about one a week, according to a new report from the Napa Legal Institute.

Consider LifeSiteNews, a popular religious news website. In February its YouTube channel was permanently banned by Google, which deleted all its videos. Google claimed its action was a response to Covid-19 misinformation but wouldn’t tell LSN which video had offended its standards. The tech giant had flagged LSN for a video of an American Catholic bishop criticizing vaccines developed with fetal cells. The website’s editor in chief said “our best guess is that the channel was taken down for our frank and factual discussion of the controversy around abortion-tainted medicines and vaccines.”

In January, Bishop Kevin Doran, an Irish Catholic, tweeted: “There is dignity in dying. As a priest, I am privileged to witness it often. Assisted suicide, where it is practiced, is not an expression of freedom or dignity.” Twitter removed this message and banned Bishop Doran from posting further. While the company reversed its decision after public opposition, others haven’t been so lucky.

The previous month, Twitter blocked a post from the Daily Citizen, which is run by Focus on the Family, an evangelical Christian nonprofit, and suspended its account. The reason: a tweet that respectfully challenged the underlying premise of transgenderism. Twitter made a similar move against Catholic World Report, though the company later said it had acted in error. Ryan T. Anderson of the Ethics and Public Policy Center saw Amazon ban his book criticizing transgenderism, “When Harry Became Sally.” Amazon shows no signs of changing course.

Books from specific publishers are often targeted, such as Catholic TAN Books. One of its authors is Paul Kengor, who wrote an anticommunist tract called “The Devil and Karl Marx. ” TAN Books can’t advertise his work on Facebook, or that of Carrie Gress, who wrote a book on “rescuing the culture from toxic femininity.” Facebook has also banned ads for Kimberly Cook’s book, “Motherhood Redeemed.” The offending ad called it “a book that challenges feminism in the modern world.”

When posts are removed, ads are blocked, and accounts are banned, public pushback and media criticism often lead tech companies to rethink their actions. Last October, after the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List was targeted by one of Facebook’s third-party fact-checkers for “misleading claims” about Joe Biden’s policy on late-term abortions, the group went on a media blitz, securing both a reversal and an apology.

It seems likely that religious groups and individuals will face mounting threats from tech companies. Their views on marriage, sexuality, life and other moral issues are unpopular among the Silicon Valley set. Religious groups should refuse to silence themselves, change their views, or otherwise back down. Censorship is a symptom of a national collapse in civic culture. Curing the deeper disease will take all the courage and conviction we can muster.

Mr. Holdenried is vice president and executive director of Napa Legal Institute, which educates and protects faith-based nonprofits.


So I have been reading a new book by John Piper: Providence (Crossway, 2021). It may be Piper’s masterpiece. It’s a monster at over 700 pp. and is available right now at only $20 from Westminster Books (in a special introductory offer from Crossway through the end of March) — Get. The. Book!

You can find it here at this 50% off price:

Piper looks at providence from before creation, at creation, in Ancient Israel (multiple historical parts), in the new covenant era, and then from many theological perspectives. It has been a joy to read . . . and to be reminded of the goodness and mercy of God in all aspects of life. It has been a balm to my soul . . . and I am only 110 pp into it!

I could say more, but just buy the book. It is big, yes, but each chapter is accessible, bite-sized, and rich.

Over Spring break, I also began (again!) The Lord of the Rings, and am about to complete Book I (they are making for the Ford of Bruinen) — such a joy to read, remember, and smile. Then there has been some reading in Wilfred McClay’s majestic history of America: Land Of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story. Another book that I highly recommended.

Finally, I stay up until 2:30 am one night finishing my first read through Honor Among Thieves, the first part of the “HeartStone Trilogy” written by the inimitable Jameson E. Beates. Haven’t heard of it? Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s not “out there” yet — but I was privileged to be an early reader. Wow! It was so good I’ll say that backward . . . W.O.W.! I can just say this: when it comes out to the public, you will want to read it. Set in the fantasy genre, the story is in the tradition of Tolkien and Lewis with overt shades of the triadic virtues of classicism woven through out. I found myself engrossed by this writing in ways I have not been in a long time. My first words to Jameson the next day were, “Okay buddy, you better get the next volume written! You can’t leave me hanging like this!” You won’t want to miss Honor Among Thieves when it comes out to the public!

As Solomon said, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Eccl. 12:12b). With that in mind, it’s encouraging to read some enjoyable stuff. Someone else said, “So many books, . . . so little time.” So use your time wisely!

Blessings to you all,


Things I wish I’d written

Finding lots of intriguing stuff these days. These two (one from Colson Center, one from WSJ columnist) are both worth reading today. Blessings to you all,


Colson Center: Rescuing the Victims of the Sexual Revolution: Katy Faust’s Them Before Us

John Stonestreet, 03/8/21

Imagine a young man with every advantage. He’s well-educated, goes to church, lives in a nice neighborhood, able to secure strong employment . . . but he grew up without ever having known his father. Even as he moves into adulthood, his desire to know his father, his sense of loss for what he missed, is somewhere between insistent and consuming.

There used to be a time when fatherlessness was considered a tragedy. Now, raising a child without a father or, in some cases, without a mother is a perfectly acceptable intentional choice. The only thing that matters are the adults making the decision who have desires to meet. The adults are put first; the children, all too often, come in a distant second.

This sweeping social change didn’t happen overnight, or by accident. It’s the logical outcome of the three fundamental lies of the sexual revolution. These lies are now so widely embedded in modern society that we don’t give them a second thought. But it wasn’t always this way.

The first lie of the sexual revolution (and I owe my friend Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse for the wording here) is that sex, marriage, and babies are separable. That these created realities were part of a biological, social and religious package deal, went unquestioned until quite recently. Technological innovations, such as the pill, IVF, and surrogacy, legal innovations such as no-fault divorce, and cultural innovations such as ubiquitous pornography and “hook-up” apps, have all made it increasingly easy to imagine that sex is not inherently connected to childbearing, and that childbearing is not necessarily best placed in the context of marriage.

The second lie of the sexual revolution (thanks again to Dr. Morse for this wording) is that men and women are interchangeable. What we mean by this has evolved to a much more fundamental level. Interchangeability in rights was a good thing. Interchangeability in roles was, at times, good and, at other times, blurred biological distinctions. Today, of course, we talk as if men and women are interchangeable in reality, as if men can bear children and “not all women menstruate,” and as if love can make a second mom into a dad. None of this is true.

The third lie of the sexual revolution is that human dignity derives from autonomy, that our ability to sexually self-determine, not only in our behavior but our identity, is the essence of human dignity. In that equation, those unable to sexually self-determine, or who stand in the way of someone’s “true self” (typically defined by happiness) are excluded from the category of dignity.

These three lies of the sexual revolution were largely justified by a myth, one repeated over and over in different ways, to assuage our collective consciences as we fundamentally violate the created and social order. That myth was “the kids will be fine.”

But, of course, they aren’t fine. Not even close. In her new book, Them Before Us: Why We Need a Global Children’s Rights Movement, Katy Faust documents all the ways the kids aren’t fine, and all the ways their well-being is sacrificed on the altar of adult happiness. This is essential reading, not only so we can take our place in Christian history among those who stood for and defending children from hyper-sexualization, abandonment, abuse, and social experimentation, but also because too many Christians embrace cultural norms about reproductive technologies, sexuality, and marriage. In doing so, the Church is complicit in putting children at risk.

In Them Before Us, Faust begins in a crucially different place than the sexual revolution: the rights of the child, not the happiness of adult. That’s what “them before us” means. Simply put, adults must do those hard things that honor the fundamental right of children to be known and loved by both mother and father.

The results of the sexual revolution are in: Children are the victims of our bad ideas. In response, Christians are called to be agents of restoration in whatever time and place they find themselves. For us, now, that means advocating for children’s rights. As Faust writes, “Our culture and our laws must incentivize and encourage adults to conform their behavior to the needs of their children if we are to have any hope of a healthy and thriving society.”

Meghan and Harry: Aristocratic Victims for Our Times

Our elites parade their grievances before us, demanding sympathy and remorse from the masses.

By Gerard Baker, March 8, 2021

When some future historian, or perhaps some honest parodist of our modern mores, seeks an event that captures the inversion at the core of our continuing cultural revolution, he should examine closely the television spectacle that aired on CBS Sunday evening.

There they were, assembled dreamily in the verdant grounds of a California mansion, poster victims of our irredeemably unjust system: the sixth in line to the throne of the United Kingdom, his wife, a so-so actress who nonetheless enjoyed considerable fortune before she married into the highest levels of the English aristocracy, alongside one of the most successful television celebrities on the planet, bemoaning the injustices that have befallen them in a systemically cruel society.

You’d struggle to find a better metaphor for one of the dominant narratives of our age: our elites parading their grievances and preoccupations for the masses, demanding sympathy, issuing a call for the ordinary people to do better to acknowledge their own sinfulness.

Economic inequality is greater than it has been in decades, and widening still further after a great recession and a global pandemic. The poorest neighborhoods in this country, many of them dominated by ethnic minorities, are beset by levels of violent crime and disorder not seen in a generation. Educational opportunities for those most blighted are drowning in a sea of neglect, ideological rectitude and acquiescence to the demands of teachers unions. All the while, we are forced to listen as chief executives, tenured academics, Hollywood celebrities and now a prince and his wife lecture us about what are supposed to be the real systemic flaws in our society: the terrible legacy of American history; sexism, racism and “transphobia”; the endless stream of microaggressions caused by an errant word, a contentious writer or the illustrations in the Dr. Seuss books.

None of this is to deny that our three figures, up there on their little Californian Calvary on Sunday, have, like all of us, had to bear their crosses.

Oprah Winfrey was there as the facilitator. She is a woman of exceptional talent and character who overcame crushing hardship in early life to achieve deserved success. When she speaks—or in this case facilitates a discussion—about hardship, we are well-advised to listen.

The duke of Sussex—the name provides a clue—had no such misfortune of birth, though he did suffer the unspeakable grief of losing his mother at a young age in violent and public circumstances, an event that surely left the deepest of psychic scars.

Even the duchess, the squeakiest of the wheels, commands some sympathy. The costs of marrying a royal are sometimes overlooked. Whatever their virtues, the Windsors will never be known for an openness of manner or spirit. They seem to have combined in their personalities in fact the relaxed informality of their German heritage and the sunny warmth of their adopted English homeland, so, we can assume Meghan’s distinctly New World style probably went over like supermarket kibble in the corgis’ breakfast bowl. And while claims about a yearning for privacy can be taken with a pinch of salt coming from an actress with a penchant for self-publicity that was notable even by the standards of her profession, it’s also true that the British press can be aggressively intrusive in ways anyone would find painful.

But the personal struggles, real as they are, aren’t the subject matter of the lesson we are enjoined to learn from them. The ex-royal couple have enough wit to understand that their own hardships don’t occasion many tears outside their lachrymose celebrity friends.

Instead they frame themselves as victims of much larger societal evils.

Harry and Meghan have seized the moment to sign on fully to the woke creed, ascribing their trials to that original sin of racism, not just from the royal family itself, but from the British press, feeding the ugly prejudices of the masses. They conveniently forget that the arrival of Meghan was greeted by the same press—and the same masses—with joyous acclaim, that she was portrayed as somewhere between Grace Kelly and Diana Ross.

But that’s the beauty of the new dispensation: You can always blame systemic injustice. Meghan may be pointing the finger at unnamed royals for her victim status, but we know that’s just a proxy for the wider evil that, improbable as it seems, makes her the victim. Even as you sit there in your alabaster palaces, your Silicon Valley boardrooms or your elegantly appointed dressing rooms, you can point to the real cause of society’s inequity: the Trump- and Brexit-voting hordes with their unenlightened views on immigration, crime, the climate, Western history.

And it’s one of the ironies of our leading social-justice revolutionaries, fighting to overturn the social order. When you have on your side the people who control most of the nation’s corporations, newsrooms, universities, celebrities, the federal government—along with a duke and a duchess—can you really be that oppressed?


But then, there’s this that just makes one shake one’s head. Like Duh . . . are you shocked? Really? Were you that deluded? Apparently so:

Some Bad News and Some Good News

So . . . I’m not a conspiracy theorist . . . really. But the last 12 months sure could make someone believe some loopy things. But I don’t think this is loopy — I think it is serious and a strong take on what’s been happening. It’s bad news, but important reading:

Now for some good news. Take a look at this video — I know . . . it’s like 30 minutes, but it may encourage your soul. It’s worth it. See what you think:

Stay faithful . . . blessings to you all,