Still We Rise in Hope of God

Hot air balloon

Still We Rise (Isaiah 40:21-31)

“The old ones remind us that slavery’s chains Have paid for our freedom again and again.” These are the words of the African American poet Maya Angelou, offered at the Million Man March in 1995. Speaking to a huge crowd of black men on the Mall in Washington, DC, she reminded them of their difficult and painful history, and then invited them to focus their lives on joy, courtesy, gentleness and care. She said, “The ancestors remind us, despite the history of pain, We are a going-on people who will rise again.” Powerful words. Hopeful words. Inspiring words. Words which culminate in Angelou’s closing line, “And still we rise.”

This soaring sentiment could be a summary of the struggle for racial justice and civil rights over the past hundred years. The NAACP—the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People—was born in a time of segregated hotels and widespread discrimination in voting booths The NAACP was designed to “promote equality of rights” and to eradicate “race prejudice among the citizens of the United States.”

February 12, 1909 was not an accidental birthday for this organization. The date was picked because it was the centennial of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln, who emancipated the slaves during the Civil War. Just think about the progress made from 1809, when slavery was legal . . . to 1909, when the NAACP was founded . . . to 2009, when we have inaugurated the first black President of the United States. And still we rise.

There isn’t a one of us here tonight who can fathom the problems experienced by African Americans just a few years ago. Having been reared after the Civil Rights Movement, it’s hard for me to fathom that some people couldn’t use a restroom or drink from a water fountain or sit in the front of a bus or go to school simply because their skin is darker than mine.

Yet, the Israelites for whom Isaiah writes tonight’s text knew full-well such difficulties. Isaiah’s prophecy is easily divided into two parts—chapters 1 to 39 contain prophecies for Isaiah’s contemporaries and chapters 40 to 66 are written for the Jews who would be in Babylonian Captivity 200 years or so after Isaiah’s day.

Those exiles had a difficult existence in Babylon. The Babylonians wanted to keep the captives under their thumb, so they placed them as close to the city of Babylon as possible. The exiles served as household servants and slaves to the Babylonians. These were the Judean princes—the leaders, the rulers, the professionals—now doing manual labor and menial tasks as servants under the Babylonians. Everywhere the Jews looked, they would have seen temples to pagan gods—there were 53 pagan temples in Babylon.

Can you even fathom what the Jews must have been thinking as they were in Babylon? Where are all the great promises of God? Aren’t we to be the light of God to the nations? Isn’t the Messiah to come through our father Abraham? It is against this background that Isaiah writes tonight’s text to comfort the people in exile.

The message God gives the Babylonian captives is the same message Maya Angelou gave to the men on the Mall in Washington: “Still We Rise.” As we look around this world and see the immorality, greed, and oppression of fallen man, we, too, may wonder where God is in the midst of all this. This message God gives us through Isaiah is: “Still We Rise.”

But how shall we rise?

The Picture of God, v 21

“Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?”

God here tells his people to check their picture of him—to know who he really and truly is.

Surely, the Israelites had heard from the beginning who God is. It was the responsibility of their parents to teach them about God. Deuteronomy 6:6-7. Notice that God asks, “Has it not been told you from the beginning?”

God had done so much for the Israelites. He had sent plagues upon the Egyptians, allowed the Israelites to cross the Red Sea on dry ground, provided them manna, quail, and water in the wilderness, raised up judges when enemies came against Israel. Was it too much to expect that the God who had done all these mighty acts for his people still had their best interests at heart?

God also says, “Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?” It was God who had created the foundations of the earth: Job 38:4-6. The Israelites—even in Babylonian Captivity—should have known that the God who had created this world out of nothing could create them into a new people.

The Israelites in captivity had no reason to despair—they simply needed to check their PICTURE OF GOD.

How many times do we despair because we forget to check our PICTURE OF GOD? Do we ever feel as though troubles are crashing in around us and forget the God to whom we pray has all power? Do we worry about our current economic situation and forget the God who has promised to supply all his people’s needs? Do we worry about some sin we’ve committed in the past and forget the God who sent his Son to redeem us from all sin?

Tonight, do we need to check our PICTURE OF GOD?

The Providence of God, vv 22-24

“It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble.”

The idea of God’s sitting above the circle of the earth is that he sits upon a high point from which he can watch man. The image is almost like our going to the top of the Empire State Building from whence we could see for miles and miles and miles. From there God is able to watch over man.

In his watching over man, God effortlessly rules over the leaders of the world. God effortlessly rules over world leaders by bringing them to nothing, withering them, and allowing the tempest to carry them off like stubble. The point is that the Israelites in Babylon did not need to worry themselves with the oppression of their captors, for God was ultimately in control of the rules who were there. God, in his providence, allowed just the right rulers to govern Babylon during this period and when they no longer served his purpose, he would pluck them up.

God has always been in control of the leaders of the earth. Exodus 9:16. Pharaoh did not reign over Egypt at the time of the Exodus by birth, but by the will of God. When Mordecai encouraged Esther to go to the king to stop Haman’s plot against the Jews, he says, “And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). The Book of Esther demonstrates how God works behind the scenes in his providence. The word “God” does not even occur in the book, but God is there as an “invisible Worker” to bring about his purpose.

God controlled the leaders of Babylon during the Captivity. The Lord sent Nebuchadnezzar into the fields to live as a wild animal when he was carried away by his pride (Dan 4:28-33). Daniel interpreted handwriting on the wall for Belshazzar: Daniel 5:24-28. That very night Belshazzar was killed and Darius the Mede took possession of the kingdom (Dan 5:30). It’s not clear who Darius the Mede was, for Cyrus, the king who allowed the Israelites to return to Jerusalem, was King of Persia when Babylon fell. There is no reference in the history of Daniel’s time to a Darius the Mede—he may have been either a general of Cyrus or Darius may have been another name of Cyrus. Thus, depending upon whether Darius and Cyrus are the same person, three or four kings reigned over the Israelites during their 70 years of captivity. God raised them up and when they no longer served his purpose, he brought them low.

Therefore, God is the one ultimately in control.

The Power of God, vv 25-28

“To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”

In the Babylonian Captivity, it would have been quite tempting for the Israelites to compare God to the other gods who surrounded them. Those other gods hadn’t led their people into captivity; those other gods weren’t impotent to protect their people from attack of other nations. Surely, as the Israelites looked upon all the Babylonian temples day by day, they believed their God wasn’t all that powerful.

God says, “Wait just a minute! You want to compare me to these lifeless idols?! Look at the greatness of the creation.”

God brings out the host of heaven by number, calls them by name, and through his strength, not one of them is missing. God declares that he has named all the stars. That feat alone demonstrates the great power of God. Scientists estimate that in the entire universe there are over 10 billion trillion stars. That number itself boggles our mind. Who among us could easily recall the names of 1,000 people? Yet, God has named over 10 billion trillion stars. Not a single star is out of place—there isn’t a single star missing from where it’s supposed to be.

The everlasting God is the Creator of the ends of the earth. The “everlasting God” juxtaposes God to the host of idols the captives saw in Babylon. Every one of those idols had a beginning—someone fashioned it—not so God; he is everlasting. Those idols would come to an end—not so God; he is everlasting. The God of Israel created the earth, but the idols the Israelites saw daily were made out of the earth.

God does not faint or grow weary.

  • On one hand, these likely references those who make idols. Isaiah 44:9-12. If those who make the idols become weary, how much can be expected from the idol itself?
  • On the other hand, this undoubtedly references God’s people. A theme in this chapter is how easily humans become faint: verse 30. Yet, their God never becomes weary.

Because God is so powerful, the children of Israel had no reason to worry about their plight in Babylon. God says to them, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God’?” Because of God’s great power, he knew the plight of Israel and it was all part of his plan. Before the Babylonian Captivity, the Israelites struggled greatly with idolatry—over and over they were carried away by it. Yet, after that captivity, idolatry was no longer a problem—this affliction cleansed them of that sin.

People often discuss the meaning of Romans 8:28: “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” As I’ve said before, verse 29 tells us what the good is that all things work toward: being transformed into the image of God’s Son.

I believe this text serves as an example of that. The captivity wasn’t a pleasant experience for the Israelites, yet it served the purpose of moving them closer to what God wanted them to be. God did so through his great power. Shall we rise through the POWER OF GOD—through trusting God’s power to providentially transform us into Jesus’ image?

The Patience of God, vv 30-31

“Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

The Israelites needed to wait for the Lord. Waiting on the Lord refers to a patient expectation that God will act in his time for our benefit. In the midst of the Assyrian threat upon Judah, Isaiah says (Is 8:17). Isaiah 40:1-2.

The point is that God doesn’t always use our timeline to do what we want him to do. God, in his power and sovereignty, knows the best time to act for both our discipline and our defense. God acts according to what is best.

Shall we rise in THE PATIENCE OF GOD? Shall we know that God does all things well and that he acts how and when it is best? Shall we patiently wait for him?

Bible app banned as Muslim extremism surges

National policy of religious tolerance facing headwinds

A decision to prevent citizens of Indonesia from being able to access a Bible application for cell phones and mobile devices is sparking arguments amid that nation’s openly tolerant campaign to allow people to choose their own faith and practice it.

The worldwide Christian ministry Barnabas Fund is reporting that the Bible application for the Minangkabau people was removed from the Google Play Store for residents of Indonesia following a demand from Irwan Prayitno, the governor of West Sumatra.

He claimed it was causing discomfort in the Minangkabau people who are living in his province, the majority of whom are Muslim.

Only about 1.43% of the people there, about 69,000, are Christian.

The Indonesian Ulema Council supported the censorship by the nation’s Communication and Information Ministry, with a statement of secretary general Anwar Abbas that said, “The guidance of the Minangkabau people is not the Bible. Hopefully there will not be a Bible [published] in the Minangkabau language.”

“The decision to ban the Minangkabau Bible App failed to take into account the rights of Minangkabau Christians,” the Barnabas Fund reported.

And the decision was criticized by the chief of the nation’s longtime Agency for Pancasila Ideology Education, which advocates for tolerance.

That agency’s opinion is that holy books could be translated into any language as long as they were not misinterpreted.

The chief of the agency said, “Every individual is given the freedom to observe their beliefs as long as they do not cause disruption in the public. And, of course, some of the residents of West Sumatra are also Christian, and the governor himself is governor to everyone, not a certain ethnicity or religious belief.”

Pancasila is a formal doctrine instituted in Indonesia to encourage tolerance for religions – and discourage extremism. It prevailed for many years, with Christians and Muslims living as equals. That started changing only a few years ago.

Then, Barnabas Fund reported, the nation saw “a rise in hard-line Islamic ideology in recent years. A generation ago, Muslims and Christians lived peaceably as equals in accordance with Pancasila.”

“In 2019, the government took several steps to counter the spread of fundamentalism by urging members of the public to report extremist content posted online by civil servants and taking action to replace school textbooks deemed to contain radical material.”

That battle against “hard-line Islamist ideology” includes requests to the public to “report extremist content posted online by civil servants and taking action to replace school textbooks deemed to contain radical material,” Barnabas Fund said.

Indonesian Communications Minister Johnny G. Plate said the intention was “to bring together and improve the performance of our civil servants, as well as to foster higher levels of nationalism.”

Indonesia has the world’s biggest population of Muslims, and reports suggest that 19% of civil servants and 3% of military personnel favor an Indonesia under Islamic rule. About 18% of private employees and 23% of students share the view.

Bible app banned as Muslim extremism surges

“Cycle of Abuse”

By Mary Mattison

“Children sleeping in Mulberry Street” by 19th Century reformer Jacob Reis (1890) (PD)

The history of child abuse in all its forms would astonish many.  It leaves little hope to be vanquished, considering in many countries it is deemed “culture”.  Although we can not stop child abuse in its entirety, we do have the power to help save one child at a time in America, and hope for humanitarian efforts to continue their fight for children around the world.

The life of Mary Ellen Wilson started an increased awareness for the need to protect children.  She was born in 1864.  When her Mother became  widowed, she sent Mary to boarding school, but could not continue the payments.  By the age of two Mary Ellen was placed in foster care, suffering the abuse for eight years.  Although neighbors heard the cries, and saw the condition she lived in, they did not come to her aid, but thankfully one concerned woman could not forget her.

In 1874 a Methodist missionary, Etta Angell Wheeler, was asked to check on Mary Ellen, since she made frequent visits to the poor tenements.  After seeing the badly bruised and neglected child, she set out to take legal recourse and remove her from the home.

A court case ensued, and the judge placed Mary Ellen with a loving family.  She went on to lead a productive life, and some have deemed her a “dandelion” child, which are children who seem to thrive and do rather well, despite living through horrific experiences.  Sadly not all cases have such a happy ending.

There have been many changes in child welfare since 1874, yet the circumstances that left Mary Ellen in an abusive home for years are still much the same.

With all the recent effort to decide who will fund woman’s reproductive health, four children die every day from abuse.  This is only an estimation, and fatalities are rising.  Each state has a data base, and the numbers are heart wrenching.  See, for example, https://dcs.az.gov/news/child-fatalities-near-fatalities-information-releases .

Child Protective Services stood to receive 3.3 Billion dollars in 2016 to fund their programs.  The bleak reality is, there is not enough money, or man power to stop the abuse and neglect of children.  Valuable time is wasted investigating false claims, while serious cases of abuse and neglect go unreported.  In some cases children are placed in poorly screened foster homes where the abuse continues.

Would it not be more economical to address the social issues?  The lack of moral values, compassion for human life, and self-seeking behaviors that are behind the suffering of innocent children?

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3: 14).

Like Etta Angell  Wheeler, Mary Mattison is a woman with a loving heart.  She blogs at Anchor Thy Soul https://anchorthysoul.wordpress.com and Pennies for Dreams https://penniesfordreams.com.

FOR MORE OF MY ARTICLES ON POVERTY, POLITICS, AND MATTERS OF CONSCIENCE CHECK OUT MY BLOG A LAWYER’S PRAYERS AT: https://alawyersprayers.com

https://avoicereclaimed.com/2017/12/03/cycle-of-abuse-by-mary-mattison/


The Power of God in His People

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ephesians-1-23-his-body-the-fulness-of-him-brown.jpg

ON  BY FRANCESROGERS

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
 may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation
 in the knowledge of him,
having the eyes of your hearts enlightened,
 that you may know what is the hope 
to which he has called you,
what are the riches 
of his glorious inheritance in the saints,” 
and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power
toward us who believe,
according to the working of his great might.
which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead 
and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, ”
 Ephesians 1:17-18

As with most of Paul’s phrasing in his letters, his prayers are long, also. He desires for the church the same revelation of Christ that has been given to him, and so he speaks of his prayers for them in the first and third chapters of Ephesians.

            He always gives thanks for the believers in the early churches and prays that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory would give them: 

“The spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him;”
Ephesians 1:17

Under this one heading, he explains how the Spirit by which the believers have been sealed (1:13) works wisdom and revelation in them. First, he prays that the eyes of understanding be enlightened so that they may know three things about God, the Father. 
            He builds on each one to bring the believer to see Christ in his glory and the church as the fullness of him here on earth. (1:23)

“The eyes of your hearts enlightened that ye may know (these things)”

1.  the hope to which He has called you.
2.  the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
3.  the immeasurable greatness of his power toward those who believe

1. The hope to which He has called you.       
Paul has written earlier in this chapter of the dispensation of the fullness of time (1:10) when God shall gather together in one all things in Christ, “having chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” (1:4). As new Christians, they were still learning what it meant to be adopted into God’s family (1:5). They did not yet know the wonder and glory of this supernatural birth through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They needed to know and grow in their new birth.

2. The riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.   
This adoption (1:5) that Paul speaks of, brings with it an eternal inheritance. As a recipient, he knows the riches of the glory that God the Father gives to His children. He has experienced this inheritance already. He has spoken of this inheritance in verses eleven and fourteen and is praying that they experience more and more the riches of this spiritual inheritance that they received when they heard the word of truth, and trusted in Christ. They needed to understand this inheritance that begins here in their own life.

3.  The immeasurable greatness of his power toward those who believe.
Now comes the crescendo of Paul’s prayer as he is explaining how revelation, faith and believing, the calling, and the inheritance, are by the greatness of God’s mighty power. This power he explains, ~ “that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.” Verse 20.

  
It is a lengthy explanation that spreads over two chapters.  Paul’s prayer begins in verse fifteen to the end of the chapter, without a period.  
            The same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at His right hand is the mighty power that quickens the sinner who is dead in trespasses and sin (2:1, 5). This is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward those who believe, our eyes enlightened by this power for salvation. 

Paul could have inserted a parenthesis in verses twenty to twenty-three in which the roles and purpose of Christ and the church are revealed, but it all fits together. It is a matter of wisdom and revelation, and requires study and meditation, for believers to understand how we are related to Christ and the church; and how we get there. 
            Christ having been raised and seated at the Father’s right hand, is far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Verses 21-23         
            The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, is the only one who can reveal Himself to us. He does this when he opens our eyes to see his Son, head over all things, and given to the church. His body of believers that He brings to life by the power of His Holy Spirit continues to experience His filling, the inheritance in the saints.

Dear Father, thank you for this prayer that you inspired Paul to write, not just to the early churches, but also for us. We pray this prayer for your people everywhere, that we will experience this filling, and together, this fullness of Christ. Pour out your Spirit upon us for new revelation, for we shall never have all the wisdom and knowledge here on this earth. Prepare us for your glory. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

(Excerpt from PRAYERS That Bring the House Down)

https://godsgracegodsglory.com/2021/04/14/the-power-of-god-in-his-people/

Prisoners of Hope

To be incarcerated physically I’m told is difficult to deal with. Locked up for hours per day, cut off from loved ones and surround by darkness and evil. Do you know that many of us are in prison in our minds. What about you? Are you in an emotional prison right now? You may not have thought about it that way, but if you are holding unforgiveness or bitterness toward someone who has wronged you — whether it was five, ten or thirty years ago — that is an emotional prison.  

God’s Word promises that if you’ll step out of that prison and become a prisoner of hope, He will restore back to you double for your trouble! That means if someone wrongs you, instead of getting negative and bitter, your attitude should be, “they just did me a favour. They just qualified me for double!” That’s the attitude of a prisoner of hope.  

Today, lock into an attitude of victory that says, “I won’t be defeated! Things may look impossible, but I know God can do the impossible. I may have been treated wrongly, but I’m not worried. I know God is my vindicator. It may be taking a long time, but in due season, I know I will reap if I just don’t give up.” Stay strong and in the place of hope today, knowing that you will come out with double! Hallelujah! 

“Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you.”(Zechariah 9:12, NKJV) 

Let’s Pray 

Yahweh, today I choose to release those who have wronged me. Father, I refuse to live in an emotional prison, please change my mental location. God, I know You are my vindicator and redeemer. Make me a prisoner of hope and I receive Your promise today that You will give me back double for all my trouble, in Christ’s Name! Amen

https://godinterest.com/2021/02/18/prisoners-of-hope/

VIDEO Hold On to Memories

Posted on  by Joe Rodriguez

Take the ones you love
And hold them close because there is little time
And don’t let it break your heart
I know it feels hopeless sometimes
But they’re never really gone
As long as there’s a memory in your mind

Hold On to Memories” – Song by Disturbed

Lighthouses were built to last. They were made to withstand the fiercest of storms. With the help of dedicated maintenance crews, many centuries-old lighthouses are still standing, but many have also succumbed to neglect and the inevitable calamities of nature such as erosions, earthquakes, and fires. But even so, their beauty can still be appreciated in photographs and/or paintings and the life-saving stories that made them famous can be relived through publications.

Memories! Memories are what keep not only the images but also the emotions of the things we care for alive long after they are gone. Sure, there may be memories of things we rather forget that pop up once in a while, but if we have truly repented/forgiven, accepted, and moved on, they shouldn’t hold us captive to feelings of guilt and/or regret. We must learn to focus more on the memories of things that put a smile on our face and perhaps even a couple of tears of joy and gratitude. God has allowed you and me to live and breathe up until this very moment. And wouldn’t you agree that His goodness and mercies have far exceeded the trials in our lives? If so, we can both echo David’s proclamation in Psalm 21.

“Surely you have granted [me] unending blessings and made [me] glad with the joy of your presence.”

Psalm 21:6 NIV

Better designed and even exact replicas of lighthouses have replaced those that once stood as beacons of hope and safety. Take the Cape St.George Lighthouse for example. After succumbing to erosion and collapsing into the sea, it was rebuilt to its original splendor at a nearby location.

Nothing or no one can ever replace the people and things that have been a loving part of our lives and are no longer present. But God has gifted us with something that will keep them close to our hearts for as long as we live and are cognitive, namely our memory. Among the many things to thank God for, do you thank Him for your mind? The mind is one of the most intricate parts of the human body [Read Fearfully and Wonderfully Designed]. It would behoove us to take care of it by eating right, getting enough rest, reading and meditating on God’s word, taking time to quietly enjoy nature, and by frequently reminiscing on the good ole days.

Granted, as we get older, not only do we start losing our hair, teeth, and skin elasticity [Read “Of Youth And Longevity”], but we also tend to lose our memory (short-term/long-term). Heck, I even forgot where I was going with a couple of thoughts while writing this devotion!

However, most of us will have no trouble remembering some of the fun times growing up (without today’s technology). Things like, jumping on puddles, our first love/set of wheels, and the birth of our first or only child are among the many things that have not only helped shape us into who we are today but whose memories have also served as gemstones that can still soothe mental stresses. And how about the memories of God’s faithfulness? We must acknowledge that without His past providence we certainly wouldn’t have been able to make it this far!

Nothing in this world lasts forever. Every day we welcome becomes a memory in a matter of seconds. Therefore, we should learn to appreciate every minute we are given. And while there are many hurtful memories we need to learn to let go, there are also wonderful ones that we must hold on to dearly. However, in order to hold on to good memories we need to willingly and intentionally make them. No matter the cost! Life is short, let us spend more time creating loving memories. Let us purpose in our hearts to live and not just exist.

Listen to the song below in its entirety. I believe it has a message that we all need to be reminded of regularly.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the life you have given me. In spite of the challenges and difficult times, you have been and remain faithful. Thank you for the good times and the bad times. May my mistakes and unforeseen trials serve as life lessons to make me stronger. I also ask that you guard my mind so that I can cherish and hold on to the memories of the people and things that have brought joy and peace into my life. But most of all, may I never forget the grace (unmerited favors) you have bestowed upon me. Amen!

RELATED SCRIPTURES
The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.” – Proverbs 10:7 ESV

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8 ESV

“Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me.” – Psalm 103:27 NLT

Hold On to Memories

MIT chaplain forced to resign after citing George Floyd’s rap sheet to students

MATT LAMB – ASSISTANT EDITOR

Although the priest argued for forgiveness, the message was lost on students

The Archdiocese of Boston forced Daniel Moloney to resign from his chaplain role at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after students and alumni complained that Moloney brought up George Floyd’s past criminal history in an email to students.

Although Moloney, a Catholic priest, was making an argument that Floyd’s past should not justify his death, the fact that he brought up Floyd’s rap sheet at all prompted some to protest the chaplain’s message to campus officials and file bias complaints over it.

“George Floyd was killed by a police officer, and shouldn’t have been,” Moloney wrote in his June 7 email to the Tech Catholic Community, a group of Catholic students on campus.

“He had not lived a virtuous life. He was convicted of several crimes, including armed robbery, which he seems to have committed to feed his drug habit. And he was high on drugs at the time of his arrest. But we do not kill such people. He committed sins, but we root for sinners to change their lives and convert to the Gospel,” the priest wrote.

“ … In the wake of George Floyd’s death, most people in the country have framed this as an act of racism. I don’t think we know that. Many people have claimed that racism is major problem in police forces. I don’t think we know that.”

The e-mail was republished in its entirety by New Boston Post.

Although Moloney’s argument aimed to promote justice and forgiveness, that message seemed lost on many of its readers.

An article in The Tech campus newspaper reports that MIT’s dean for student life, Suzy Nelson, said administrators and the bias response team received reports about Moloney’s email.

In an email to student and faculty leaders June 12, Nelson wrote Moloney’s message “contradicted the Institute’s values” and “was deeply disturbing” and that “by devaluing and disparaging George Floyd’s character,” Moloney did not “acknowledge the dignity of each human being and the devastating impact of systemic racism” on “African Americans, people of African descent, and communities of color,” The Tech reports.

The Archdiocese of Boston told Moloney to resign from his role as chaplain at the school on June 9, according to the Boston Globe. The move came after more than 60 people attended a forum hosted by Tech Catholic Community on June 9, according to the school newspaper.

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, told WBZ-TV “While Fr. Moloney’s comments should not reflect on the entirety of his priestly ministry, they nonetheless were wrong and by his resignation he accepts the hurt they have caused.”

Moloney told the Boston Globe on June 16, “I regret what happened, I regret it was misunderstood, I regret that [it] became difficult for me to be a voice for Christ on campus.”

Moloney is a published author at First Things, The Wall Street Journal and National Review. He used to work at the Heritage Foundation as a senior policy analyst for the DeVos Center for Religion and Society. His doctoral dissertation focused on justice and mercy, the subject of a recent book he published as well. He also maintains an active Tumblr page but has not explicitly addressed the controversy on it.

MORE: Conservative prof says seminary used COVID as excuse to get rid of him

MIT chaplain forced to resign after citing George Floyd’s rap sheet to students



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Behold Two Paintings That Show A Miraculous Christmas Meeting

Two historic women, one old and one young, were the first to welcome and praise the Savior of the world. And two glorious paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events.

Behold Two Paintings That Show A Miraculous Christmas Meeting

Dec 23, 2019

If quizzed “Who was the first person to welcome Jesus and announce his lordship?” how would you answer? It’s an important question when we consider that this man from the nowhere town of Nazareth is the most consequential individual ever.

His teaching and followers across the globe radically transformed world culture, toppled great powers without ever firing a shot, established the world of humanitarianism and accessible medical care for commoners, inspired the scientific method, and enlivened the world movements for justice, human dignity, and individual freedom. He literally divides history and is responsible for the founding of the largest, most diverse collection of people around some basic ideals.

This all started with two women no one had ever heard of, whose life-altering experiences are now illustrated in two exquisite works of art. Mary, a humble, young virgin, by tradition about 14 years old at the time, is told by an angel she will give birth to the very Son of God. At this striking news, she “arose and went with haste” to see her cherished relative, Elizabeth, some 90 miles away.

Elizabeth was in the sixth month of her own miraculous pregnancy, for she was well past child-bearing years. Of course, her baby was Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist.

The beauty of this part of the Christmas story is the miracle that happens the moment Mary enters Elizabeth’s home. Christ is recognized, received, proclaimed, and worshiped, and Mary and Elizabeth are not the only two involved in the divine drama here. We read in Luke 1:41-44:

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

This is a major event in Jesus’ story and thus the Christian church, but we seldom appreciate it as such. It is the first time Jesus is both proclaimed and worshiped as God! This was done, we are told, “in a loud voice.” And Christ the Lord is worshiped by two people at the same time — one very old, one super young.

The First to Proclaim Jesus’ Lordship

Elizabeth proclaims the blessedness of Jesus and his mother. The simple but world-changing confession, “Jesus is Lord,” was the first and most basic way Christians began to proclaim their faith and greet one another in the church’s early years. It was the first Christian creed, and Elizabeth was the first to proclaim it, long before Christmas morning. Think on that for a moment.

The second greeting is even more incredible and speaks to an intimate relationship in the Savior’s life. Baby John leaps for joy, literally, at the coming of the Savior. He does so as a child in the darkness of his mother’s womb. (Yes, Christianity has profoundly strong words for the humanity and dignity of the unborn child in John and Jesus’ remarkable in utero contribution to the good news.)

John did not start serving as the forerunner of Christ when preaching about his coming in the desert. It was here, in the womb. And it was two very common mothers, Elizabeth and Mary, who experienced this remarkable, history-changing event. It happened in distinctly womanly interiors of their hearts and wombs, and in the humbleness of Elizabeth’s home. Humble motherhood and the intimate bond only mothers can share is the human font of the Christian story.

To be sure, the Christian church, which is often incorrectly charged with being sexist by people who know little of its actual story, is founded upon two women being the first to welcome and praise the Savior. (Remember as well, it was a small group of women who announced the “second birth” of the Savior, if you will, at his resurrection.) What other major faith or philosophy has women playing such a significant role in its founding? I cannot think of one.

Two famous paintings communicate the beauty of these wondrous events, “The Annunciation” and “The Visitation.” The first African-American painter to achieve significant critical acclaim, Henry Ossawa Tanner, created both. He is a remarkable man and one of my favorite artists.

Christmas paintings by Henry O. Tanner

‘The Annunciation’

One of the things I like best in Tanner’s two works here is that he shows us the simple humanness of Mary and Elizabeth. They are not supernatural, other-worldly, saintly subjects in the typical sense. Tanner’s images show us the regular, everyday women they were.

Christmas Painting The Annunciation

He will not allow us to miss the youth, innocence, and commonness of our Mary. Tanner doesn’t give her a facial expression communicating anything obvious. Is she scared? Stunned? Joyful? Solemn? His Mary is more complex than many artists’ as is undoubtably true of the actual event. Tanner has her communicating all these feelings and struggles at once.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary with this most startling news, he found a teenage girl living a typical teenage girl’s life. The greatest royal announcement in the history of the universe takes place in this teen girl’s humble bedroom, illuminated by the majesty of God’s oracle. That is precisely what Tanner gives us, and it’s just stunning. Also, his technique in presenting the folds and flow of her gown and bed coverings is nothing short of magnificent.

‘The Visitation’

As wonderful as Tanner’s “Annunciation” is, his “Visitation” is even more striking.

Just look at it and consider what’s happening here.

When Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Christmas painting The Visitation

Tanner allows us personally to witness this event. Elizabeth most likely did not have any notice that Mary was coming or the grand news that prompted the visit. She sits at the table on an ordinary day, when she hears Mary possibly utter what any of us likely would as she comes to the door, “Liz, you home?”

Elizabeth’s divine surprise and wonder is dramatically communicated simply in her uplifted hands. It’s a glorious device. Are they hands of praise or surprise? Certainly both at the same time.

This simple scene of a surprise family visitation and domesticity is the first scene of Jesus being worshiped. Reflect on this a moment. The event we are witnessing right here in this kitchen is the initiation of what the rest of history and eternity will be about, the worship of the second person of the divine Trinity: Jesus, the Father’s beloved Son.

The interchange between these two women in this domestic setting is unspeakably profound. We typically move over it far too easily, wanting to get onto what we see as the center of the Christmas story, the manger.

This exchange is also vitally important because it is the first revelation of Christ beyond Mary’s heart and womb. It is the precise second and scene that commenced the worship of the Son of the God that will continue without end into eternity, the story that encapsulates a Christian’s whole reality.

P.S. Tanner Lived in Philadelphia

I knew Tanner lived in Philadelphia for some time, so on a business trip there some years ago, I wanted to see if his house was discoverable. It was, and I found it, right around the corner from John Coltrane’s home. How cool is that?

Henry O. Tanner house

Glenn T. Stanton is a Federalist senior contributor who writes and speaks about family, gender, and art, is the director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and is the author of the brand new “The Myth of the Dying Church” (Worthy, 2019). He blogs at glenntstanton.com.

https://thefederalist.com/2019/12/23/behold-two-paintings-that-show-a-miraculous-christmas-meeting/

The Meaning of Passover

Laura Bagby

The Jews celebrated their Passover Feast in remembrance of God’s deliverance from death during the time of Moses.

Origination of Passover

Moses had been instructed to lead God’s people out of Egypt and save them from the evil and ungodly Pharaoh. Because of Pharaoh’s disbelief in the power of the One True God, Yahweh sent a series of ten plagues upon the Egyptians: the Nile turned to blood and at various times the land was filled with frogs, gnats, flies, hail, locusts, and darkness. In one awesome act of God’s ultimate authority, He sent one final devastating plague: every firstborn of every household would be annihilated.

In His mercy towards His people, God would shield the Israelites from such unmerciful judgment if they would follow the instructions He gave to Moses and Aaron. The specific instructions are outlined in Exodus 12:1-11. In sum, each family was to take a lamb and all households were to slaughter their lambs at the same time at twilight after a certain number of days. Then they were commanded to paint the sides and top of their doorways with some of this blood. Once this was done and all the meat of the lamb was eaten in accordance with God’s instructions, God would spare the Israelites from death. This is what the Lord said:

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn — both men and animals — and I will bring judgement on all the gods of Egypt. I am the Lord. The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord — a lasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:12-14)

The Seder Meal

The highlight of a contemporary Jewish Pesach, or Passover, is the Seder.

The Seder meal consists of six highly symbolic elements: matzah, a roasted shank bone, parsley or green herbs, the top of a horseradish, charoset, and an egg. On each plate are three pieces of matzah (a special type of cracker or unleavened bread). Two of these pieces represent the traditional loaves used in the ancient Temple during festivals and the third piece symbolizes Passover. The roasted lamb bone connotes the sacrificial Passover lamb. Herbs symbolize springtime growth. The horseradish represents the bitter years of slavery in Egypt; charoset, a mixture of fruit and ground nuts soaked in wine, represents the mortar used in Egypt; and the egg represents the chagigah (a secondary sacrifice prepared along with the Passover lamb).

The Biblical Accounts

Accounts of what happened can be found in all four gospels — Matthew 26:17-27:10; Mark 14:12-72Luke 22:1-65John 13:1-18:27.

Can God change your life?

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https://www1.cbn.com/teaching/the-meaning-of-passover

Komodo Dragon Genome Bites Evolution

BY JEFFREY P. TOMKINS, PH.D. * | SEPTEMBER 10, 2019

Komodo dragons are the largest lizards in the world and a top predator on the remote Indonesian islands they inhabit. Their sensory system allows them to detect large prey, such as deer, over seven miles away. Although Komodo dragons are cold-blooded reptiles, they can rapidly increase their metabolism to near-mammalian levels for amazing bursts of speed and even long strenuous runs. Because of their highly venomous bites, all they need is one good chomp on their victim’s leg or foot and the poisoned prey will soon be the lizard’s lunch.

The Komodo dragon’s unusual traits have made scientists eager to sequence its DNA to see what sorts of genes it contains and how it compares to other creatures. This sequencing was discussed in a recent scientific publication.1

When the researchers compared the newly sequenced Komodo dragon genes that were common among reptiles, they found many startling traits specific to the Komodo dragon and many of these genetic novelties were associated with its remarkable mammal-like ability to exhibit high levels of sustained physical activity. Because the gene variations are unique to the Komodo dragon and very different from other reptiles, the genes were deemed to be the result of “positive selection”—a magic evolutionary phrase.2

A creature’s environment has no God-like ability to create new useful genetic information for complex multi-genic traits like those associated with complex metabolic functions. Evolutionists basically substitute the magic words “positive selection” or “natural selection” for something only an omnipotent God can do.

The researchers also used other magic words to explain their non-evolutionary findings as noted in this comment from a press interview in which they stated, “Our analysis showed that in Komodo dragons, many of the genes involved in how cells make and use energy had changed rapidly in ways that increase the lizard’s aerobic capacity.”2 In this case, the term “changed rapidly” means the genes were so different and unique that the idea of random mutational processes combined with the mystical paradigm of nature supposedly “selecting” for them could not account for the great differences observed.

It’s also highly noteworthy that the researchers reported actually throwing out data in their selection analysis where the variation was deemed “unreasonably high.”The data was actually manipulated to show less variability and, therefore, more in line with the evolutionary model. The stark reality is that these genes—specific to the Komodo dragon—were engineered to produce their unique God-given traits. No sign of evolution existed in the data even though the researchers cherry-picked it to favor evolution.

The bigger evolutionary (phylogenetic) analysis the researchers did comparing the Komodo dragon DNA to other reptiles, birds, and mammals also made no evolutionary sense—the patterns and groupings were totally different than predicted by standard evolutionary models. By all accounts, the data showed that Komodo dragons were created uniquely with their own specific God-given engineering.

References
1. Lind, A. L. et al. 2019. Genome of the Komodo dragon reveals adaptations in the cardiovascular and chemosensory systems of monitor lizards. Nature Ecology & Evolution. 3: 1241-1252. DOI: 10.1038/s41559-019-0945-8.
2. Guliuzza, R. 2010. Unmasking Evolution’s Magic Words. Acts & Facts. 39 (3): 10-11.
3. Gladstone Institutes. 2019. Komodo dragon genome reveals clues about its evolution. Phys.org Posted July 29, 2019. Accessed August 15, 2019.

https://www.icr.org/article/komodo-dragon-genome-bites-evolution/