Sunday, June 21, 2020

Pastor John Piper: Does God Intend Evil For Our Good? Ask Joseph In Genesis

WONDERFUL FATHER'S DAY MESSAGE @ DESIRING GOD This is the way God works and it is magnificent in our eyes!

Friday, June 19, 2020

Ex Army Ranger Republican Sean Parnell Runs For Congress With One Fun, Clever Ad


Sean Parnell, a former Army Ranger who won a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars, is challenging Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) in Pennsylvania’s 17th Congressional District. His campaign released a hilarious “Dollar Sean Club” ad mimicking the style of Dollar Shave Club ads. His ad manages to slam House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

I'm With General Petraeus: Take the (Losing) Confederate Names Off Our Army Bases



AS I have watched Confederate monuments being removed by state and local governments, and sometimes by the forceful will of the American people, the fact that 10 U.S. Army installations are named for Confederate officers has weighed on me. That number includes the Army’s largest base, one very special to many in uniform: Fort Bragg, in North Carolina. The highway sign for Bragg proclaims it Home of the Airborne and Special Operations Forces. I had three assignments there during my career. Soldiers stationed at Bragg are rightly proud to serve in its elite units. Some call it “the Center of the Military Universe,” “the Mother Ship,” or even “Hallowed Ground.” But Braxton Bragg—the general for whom the base was named—served in the Confederate States Army.

 The United States is now wrestling with repeated instances of abusive policing caught on camera, the legacies of systemic racism, the challenges of protecting freedoms enshrined in the Constitution and Bill of Rights while thwarting criminals who seek to exploit lawful protests, and debates over symbols glorifying those who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. The way we resolve these issues will define our national identity for this century and beyond. Yesterday afternoon, an Army spokesperson said that Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy is now “open to a bipartisan discussion” on renaming the bases. That’s the right call. Once the names of these bases are stripped of the obscuring power of tradition and folklore, renaming the installations becomes an easy, even obvious, decision.

My life in uniform essentially unfolded at a series of what might be termed “rebel forts.” I made many parachute jumps with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, and I also jumped with 82nd Airborne paratroopers at Fort Pickett, in Virginia (a National Guard post), and Fort Polk, in Louisiana. I made official visits to Virginia’s Forts Pickett and Lee, to Texas’s Fort Hood, and to Alabama’s Fort Rucker.* In Georgia, I visited Fort Gordon, and I attended Airborne School, Ranger School, and the Infantry Officer Basic Course—rites of passage for countless infantry soldiers—at Fort Benning. At the time, I was oblivious to the fact that what was then called the “Home of the Infantry” was named for Henry L. Benning, a Confederate general who was such an enthusiast for slavery that as early as 1849 he argued for the dissolution of the Union and the formation of a Southern slavocracy. Fort Benning’s physical location, on former Native American territory that became the site of a plantation, itself illustrates the turbulent layers beneath the American landscape.

It would be years before I reflected on the individuals for whom these posts were named. While on active duty, in fact, I never thought much about these men—about the nature of their service during the Civil War, their postwar activities (which in John Brown Gordon’s case likely included a leadership role in the first Ku Klux Klan), the reasons they were honored, or the timing of the various forts’ dedications. Nor did I think about the messages those names sent to the many African Americans serving on these installations—messages that should have been noted by all of us. Like many aspects of the military, the forts themselves were so shrouded in tradition that everything about them seemed rock solid, time tested, immortal. Their names had taken on new layers of meaning that allowed us to ignore the individuals for whom they were named.

In the course of their professional development, soldiers often study the tactical and operational skills of leaders who fought for dubious causes. Learning how to win a particular kind of battle is different than learning how to win a war. Intellectual appreciation of a given general’s tactical genius, however, should not become wholesale admiration or a species of devotion. When I was a cadet at West Point in the early 1970s, enthusiasm for Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson was widespread. We were not encouraged to think deeply about the cause for which they had fought, at least not in our military-history classes. And throughout my Army career, I likewise encountered enthusiastic adherents of various Confederate commanders, and a special veneration for Lee.

It also happens that—Lee excepted—most of the Confederate generals for whom our bases are named were undistinguished, if not incompetent, battlefield commanders. Braxton Bragg, for example, left a great deal to be desired as a military leader. After graduating from West Point in 1837, he served in the Second Seminole War and the Mexican War. His reputation for physical bravery was matched by one for epic irascibility. Bragg’s temper was so bad, Ulysses S. Grant recounted in his memoirs, that an old Army story had a superior once rebuking him, “My God, Mr. Bragg, you have quarreled with every officer in the army, and now you are quarrelling with yourself!” Bragg’s inability to cooperate diluted his effectiveness until his resounding defeat at the Battle of Chattanooga, in November 1863, precipitated his resignation from the Confederate army.

For an organization designed to win wars to train for them at installations named for those who led a losing force is sufficiently peculiar, but when we consider the cause for which these officers fought, we begin to penetrate the confusion of Civil War memory. These bases are, after all, federal installations, home to soldiers who swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The irony of training at bases named for those who took up arms against the United States, and for the right to enslave others, is inescapable to anyone paying attention. Now, belatedly, is the moment for us to pay such attention.

It gives me considerable pause, for example, to note that my alma mater, West Point, honors Robert E. Lee with a gate, a road, an entire housing area, and a barracks, the last of which was built during the 1960s. A portrait of Lee with an enslaved person adorns a wall of the cadet library, the counterpoint to a portrait of Grant, his Civil War nemesis, on a nearby wall.

Lee’s history is, in fact, thoroughly woven through that of West Point and the Army. Before he was the commander of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, Lee was an outstanding cadet, a distinguished chief of engineers in the Mexican War, and later the West Point superintendent. I do not propose that we erase his role in this history. We can learn from his battlefield skill and, beyond that, from his human frailty, his conflicting loyalties, and the social pressures that led him to choose Virginia over the United States. If we attempt to repress the fact of his existence from our institutional memory, we risk falling into the trap of authoritarian regimes, which routinely and comprehensively obliterate whole swaths of national history as if they never happened at all. What distinguishes democracies is their capacity to debate even the most contentious issues vigorously and in informed, respectful, deliberate ways and to learn from the errors of the past. But remembering Lee’s strengths and weaknesses, his military and personal successes and failures, is different from venerating him.

Confederate memorialization is only the most obvious expression of formerly acceptable sentiments now regarded critically by many Americans. Once unreservedly celebrated figures like Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson, to name just three, held convictions and behaved in ways we now find deeply troubling. It is indicative of the complexity of the problem that while the stained-glass window honoring Robert E. Lee in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., was removed, that of Wilson, an ardent segregationist, remains (after a healthy debate).
But Confederate leaders are different from these other examples not simply in degree, but in kind: Plainly put, Lee, Bragg, and the rest committed treason, however much they may have agonized over it.* The majority of them had worn the uniform of the U.S. Army, and that Army should not brook any celebration of those who betrayed their country.

A long-standing maxim for those in uniform is that one should never begin a war without also knowing how to end it. And this is a kind of war—a war of memory. The forts named for Confederate generals were established before the formulation of the rules now codified in Army Regulation 1-33, which sets the criteria for memorializing soldiers. But, as is so often the case when the Army is found to have fallen short of its elemental values, it also possesses the remedy. While the regulation states, “Rememorializing or rededicating actions are strongly discouraged, and seldom appropriate,” it also outlines a clear administrative process to follow when they are. This is the moment to pursue that process.

We could probably disqualify the rebel generals on a technicality: After all, none of them were actually in the U.S. Army when they performed the actions for which they were honored. Nonetheless, I would prefer to disqualify them on the grounds that they do not meet the letter or spirit of the regulation’s second criterion: “Memorializations will honor deceased heroes and other deceased distinguished individuals of all races in our society, and will present them as inspirations to their fellow Soldiers, employees, and other citizens.”

The magic of the republic to which many of us dedicated our professional lives is that its definition of equality has repeatedly demonstrated the capacity to broaden. And America’s military has often led social change, especially in the area of racial integration. We do not live in a country to which Braxton Bragg, Henry L. Benning, or Robert E. Lee can serve as an inspiration. Acknowledging this fact is imperative. Should it fail to do so, the Army, which prides itself on leading the way in perilous times, will be left to fight a rearguard action against a more inclusive American future, one that fulfills the nation’s founding promise.
David Petraeus is a retired U.S. Army general and served as the CIA director from 2011 to 2012.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

APJ: What Exactly Is Binding and Loosening In the Biblical Sense? Is It Relevant Today?


ASK PASTOR JOHN and listen here @ Desiring God 

Spoiler alert:  It's not the answer you might expect.

Audio Transcript


Jesus told us to bind and loose. But is this practice relevant for the church today? Pastor John joins us over Skype today to address this question from a listener named Joe. “Hello, Pastor John! Jesus told the disciples that whatever they would bind or loose on earth would be so in heaven. The church has the ‘keys of the kingdom of heaven,’ meaning, ‘Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven’ (Matthew 16:19). So what can a local church bind and loose? And what could I and a Christian friend bind and loose? Does this text have any relevant application to the church today?”

Yes — the answer is yes. It’s relevant. It is relevant for today. It’s always been relevant. In every age of the church, it’s relevant. And yes, Joe, if you are a true follower of Jesus, you and your friend, as a true follower of Jesus, can bind and loose in the way that Jesus means it here.

Core Discipleship

So let’s read it, make sure we get the whole context, and then I’ll try to explain what I think it means and how it’s relevant. I’m reading Matthew 16:15–19. Jesus says to his disciples,
“Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
So Jesus asked the disciples who they believe he is. He’s getting at the core issue of discipleship: the identity of Jesus Christ. Whatever else Jesus teaches, if they don’t get this right, they don’t get anything right. It will all be distorted if it’s not built on this central bedrock of Jesus’s teaching about who he is.

Peter answers correctly, “You are the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of the living God. You’re the Messiah — not just any ordinary human messiah, but the unique divine Son of God.” And then Jesus makes clear that Peter did not come up with this on his own: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” In other words, this central, bedrock core of Jesus’s teaching — namely, his true reality — is a work of God in the mind of Peter, not a work of man. And therefore, he calls Peter blessed. “You’re blessed because God has given you this insight.”

Then Jesus makes a play on words, because Peter’s name, Petros, means rock or stone. So Jesus says, “You are Petros, and on this rock [petra], this bedrock” — they’re not the same words. I’ll come back to that. They’re almost the same. There’s a wordplay. “You are Petros, and on this petra” — “You are a rock, and on this bedrock I’ll build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”

Bedrock of the Church

Now, before we jump to the conclusion that Peter alone here is made the foundation of the church, notice three things.

1. Jesus did not say, “On you I will build my church,” which he very easily could have said. He said instead, “On this bedrock [petra] I will build my church.”

2. Even though Jesus says to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,” that very same thing Jesus says to Christians in general, with the very same words, two chapters later in Matthew 18:18: “Truly, I say to you [plural — not you, Peter, but you, plural, who are gathered in my name], whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” That’s the second observation.

3. Jesus does not say, “You are Petros, and on this petros I will build my church.” He says, “You are Petros, and on this petra I will build my church.” Petra has a different connotation than petros — it’s not a loose stone; it’s bedrock stone. Here’s what I mean: In Matthew 27:60, where it says that Jesus’s tomb was cut out of the petra, the bedrock, that doesn’t mean it was cut out of a loose stone — like, here’s a stone, it maybe weighs ten pounds, it’s found on the side of the road, and he cut a grave in that stone. Well, that doesn’t work.

What he means is the side of this mountain is stone. This is a massive bedrock where you’d build something, and so you carve into this bedrock. That’s the connotation of petra. It’s not a loose stone like petros. Petra is bedrock. The same word is used in Matthew 7:24: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock [petra]” — not a pile of stones, not gravel, but the bedrock ground in the side of the mountain that you dig down into till you’ve got a good foundation. The bedrock is solid and permanent; it’s the teachings of Jesus, which he says can never pass away.
“Take your stand on the bedrock of Jesus’s word, with the reality of Jesus himself at the center.”
So, my understanding, in view of those three observations, is that the bedrock on which the church is built is the bedrock of Jesus’s teachings, with the rock-solid core of his identity — “you are the Messiah; you are the Son of God” — at the center of those teachings. And since Peter is the one who made that confession in this case, he’s treated as the representative of all those who would faithfully lift up the teachings of Jesus and the word of Jesus with the true reality of who he is at the center or as the bedrock of the church.

Turn the Key of Heaven

So, it’s these teachings of Jesus that are the keys of the kingdom, when he says, “I’ll give you the keys of the kingdom.” Which means that when you speak, Peter — or according to Matthew 18:18, when any faithful Christian who speaks the words with the bedrock of Jesus’s identity at the center — when you speak those words faithfully, you are using the keys of the kingdom to open the kingdom in people’s lives.

Here’s a clue that I think confirms we’re on the right track, from Luke 11:52: “Woe to you lawyers!” Jesus said. “For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” This is the key of the kingdom, the key of knowledge: the key of the teachings of Jesus, with the reality of Jesus himself at the center. That knowledge, that faithful proclamation of the word of Christ, with Christ’s identity at the center, truly taught, opens the kingdom to people’s lives. That knowledge withheld or distorted closes the kingdom to people.

And when Jesus says, “Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven” — which is the right future perfect translation of the verb tense. When Jesus says, “Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven,” he means that in all of this human key-turning — turning of the keys of the knowledge of God — we are doing what God has decided should come to pass. Our teaching is essential; God’s will is decisive.
So, Joe, you and your friend, and I would say all faithful Christians, can take your stand — and you should take your stand — on the bedrock of Jesus’s word, with the reality of Jesus himself at the center, and speak it. And in so doing, you will turn the key of heaven in people’s lives and open the kingdom to them.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

A Star Is Born In Randy Williams: Protester Single Handedly Negotiates Post-Curfew Truce With NYPD


 By Georget Roberts @ NYPOST

Give this man, Randy Williams, a diplomatic job.

A savvy Brooklyn dad starred as a one-man negotiating team between hundreds of fellow protesters and a row of dozens of NYPD officers in Park Slope on Friday night — singlehandedly ending a tense, post-curfew standoff.

“They kept their men in check,” Randy Williams, 38, said after the remarkable detente he struck by approaching an NYPD captain as he and fellow protesters massed near Grand Army Plaza.

“For the first time in a very long time the police and the community came together,” Williams told The Post.

The father-of-four and the captain struck an agreement: the protesters would remain non-violent if the police did so as well.

And the captain, he said, agreed to let the protest continue past the 8 p.m. curfew, at least for a time.

“I told the captain a little after 8, we don’t want the same thing from the night before,” when police used batons to subdue protesters in the South Bronx who did not disperse after curfew, Williams said.

“I don’t want any of my people, meaning the protesters and people from this community, getting hurt the same way,” said Williams, a music producer.

“I don’t want none of his officers getting hurt. I told him we stayed in check, we stayed non-violent and last night he didn’t keep his officers in check.

“He made me a promise tonight that he would make sure that all of his officers were in check, and we would be allowed to protest peacefully past curfew.

He added, “I showed that we can trust the police.  Not all of them are bad."

“He wouldn’t let it go on all night, but he would allow us to have a decent amount of time.”

He added, “I explained to them that we appreciate them letting us go over the curfew and we appreciate them keeping their men in check and upholding their side of the bargain.

“I asked them to allow us to exit peacefully and unharmed and un-cuffed.”

The protesters used the extra time to sing “Happy Birthday” to Breonna Taylor, the black EMT accidentally shot dead by white officers in her home in Louisville, Kentucky in March.

Before protesters dispersed — peacefully, unharmed and uncuffed, as promised, at around 9:40 p.m. — Williams and a few of the other protesters shared parting fist bumps with half a dozen of the officers who 90 minutes earlier had lined up against them.

“Somebody at some point has to step up and be the bigger person,” Williams said before leaving.

“Because I see so many people get hurt, I wanted to be that man.”


Amen and Amen.  Indeed, Williams showed up and shined.  Hopefully this is just the beginning of his leadership and may many others follow in his footsteps.

May God bring  lasting good and His Glory out of all this.