Daily Archives: February 23, 2019

February 23 A Casual View of Sin

Scripture Reading: Romans 6:1–7

Key Verse: Romans 6:7

He who has died has been freed from sin.

Most of us have heard how a frog can be boiled to death without any resistance. Placed in a cool pot of water on a cooking surface, the frog remains content and unsuspecting as the heat beneath is increased. His internal temperature rises with the temperature of the water until finally he is boiled alive!

Abraham and Lot were given a choice about the land they would occupy. Lot, seeing the lushness of the Jordan Valley, chose the richness of Sodom while Abraham settled in the land of Canaan.

Greed and lust fueled Lot’s desires. F. B. Meyer wrote, “The younger man [Lot] chose according to the sight of his eyes. In his judgment he gained everything, but the world is full of Lots—shallow, impulsive, doomed to be revealed by their choice and end.”

Lot never considered the character of the inhabitants of the land. He adopted a casual view of their sin. And in doing so he failed to realize the effect of their presence on his relationship with God.

Have you adopted God’s perspective on sin, or do you have an indifferent attitude toward what is unholy before a holy God? Don’t risk being lulled into deadly spiritual lethargy by the complacency of our society. God hates sin and calls us to do the same.

Father, I don’t want to treat sin casually. Give me Your divine perspective on sin. Keep me from being lulled into spiritual lethargy by the complacency of the world in which I live. Let me understand—You hate sin, and You have called me to do the same.[1]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (1999). On holy ground (p. 56). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

February 23 Pruning the Branches

Scripture reading: John 15:1–6

Key verse: John 15:16

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.

The late Francis Schaeffer observed that the average Christian’s objective in life appeared to be personal peace and affluence. Whether we agree with his assessment, we must at least admit that subconsciously, if not overtly, we prefer the pleasant over the painful, the comfortable over the distressful.

Despite this decidedly normal human disposition, you will stumble badly through the Christian journey if you adopt these longings as your chief aims. Christ’s goal for your life transcends this limited perspective. He has something far more sublime in mind for you—to make you productive in the work of His kingdom. This involves a process Christ termed pruning, a continual trimming of character and habits that are unproductive for your personal growth as a believer, conforming you to the image of God and the standard of His Word.

Unfortunately, this can be painful at times, even severe when the pruning lops off sensitive areas. But whatever God sees as detrimental to your fruitfulness and well-being, He will seek to sever. The tools of Providence may be sharp, but they are held by loving hands.

Perhaps you can identify an area that God’s Spirit has surfaced as deleterious to your spiritual health. Cooperate with the Husbandman. Though it may be trying for a time, God’s goal is to grow you into the image of Christ. In this kind of pain, there is godly gain.

Dear Lord, conform me to the image of Your Son and the standard of Your Word. Prune out everything that is detrimental to my fruitfulness and well-being.[1]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (2000). Into His presence (p. 56). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Not Everything Called “Christian” Is — Abounding Grace Radio

There has always been a great temptation to append the adjective Christian to whatever one favors in order to justify it. Recently we have seen the phenomenon of so-called “Gay Christians” in an apparent attempt to synthesize homosexuality and Christianity. This attempt is made in sheer defiance of the plain teaching of God’s Word. Like heterosexual sin (e.g., adultery, fornication etc) homosexuality is a sin (1 Cor 6:9; 1 Tim 1:10). The nomenclature Gay Christian makes about as much sense as “thieving Christian.” God’s Word says, “You shall not steal” (Ex 20:15; Matt 19:18; Rom 13:9). If someone said, “I have an orientation toward stealing and you need to accept me as I am” we should reply, “Yes, we understand that you have an orientation toward stealing. We all do. Scripture calls it sin. No, we need to love you enough to call you to recognize theft for what it is, to call you to repent of it. and to embrace Christ alone by faith alone for your salvation, and to stop stealing.” Paul says exactly that: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph 4:8; ESV). He says the same thing about homosexual and heterosexual sin. Indeed, this is especially true about sexual sin since the Apostle Paul clearly says that it belongs to a distinct class of sins. All other sins are “outside the body but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Cor 6:9; ESV).

In those cases we see the danger of taking what has become a socially acceptable, even socially favored orientation and/or behavior (homosexuality) and, in effect, baptizing it—i.e., making what Scripture calls sin into a virtue—which is perverse. It turns the truth and godliness on its head. It is calling good evil and evil good. The prophet Isaiah spoke to this directly: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20; ESV). We are obligated by God’s Word, because of the grace of God toward us sinners in Christ, to name things what they are.

It is in light of this biblical pattern of thinking and speaking that we must evaluate an attempt recently brought to light in The Christian Post to establish so-called Christian witchcraft.  Valerie Love is a self-proclaimed sorceress and a witch. She is organizing a conference featuring a speaker who claims that Jesus was a sorcerer, an ironic claim since that was one of the earliest attacks upon Christianity by the pagan critics. They argued that Jesus was not God the Son incarnate, as the Christians confessed, but rather a sophisticated magician who played tricks and used magic. That this sort of nonsense finds a hearing tells us how desperately ignorant of Scripture we have become in our time.

In 1 Samuel 15:21 witchcraft (or divination) is expressly called sin. 2 Kings 9:22 characterizes wicked queen Jezebel as a “witch” and not in a good way. In Micah 5:12 the Lord promises to cut off witchcraft (the ESV has “sorceries”) from the Israel’s hands. Witchcraft is listed as one of the manifestations of paganism. The American Standard Version of Nahum 3:4 accuses Israel of being like a “mistress of witchcrafts” and who has corrupted the nation through her “witchcrafts.”

It is not as if witchcraft and sorcery are purely Old Testament concerns. Among the “works of the flesh” he contrasts with the fruit of the Holy Spirit are: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal 5:19–21; ESV; emphasis added). Paul uses the very same language about sorcery (witchcraft) that he used about sexual immorality and other gross sins. Those who practice these things, who do them impenitently and who lead others to do them have placed themselves in grave spiritual jeopardy. There is no such thing as a Christian idolater, a Christian prostitute, etc. There are things to which the adjective Christian may not be added. There is no reconciling Christianity and witchcraft. They are inimical. They are utterly contradictory.

There are two aspects of witchcraft that make it utterly incompatible and abhorrent to Christianity. First, divination is an attempt to gain knowledge of things that God has not revealed. Deuteronomy 29:29 says that the “secret things belong to Yahweh our God but the revealed things belong to us and to our children.” Scripture is the place where God has revealed his moral will and his grace. We are not to go beyond Scripture to find is moral will. There is natural revelation of God’s existence and his righteousness and even of his moral law (love God and love your neighbor) but divination is an attempt to learn more than that, to contact the dead, to see into God’s secrets. It is diabolical. The second aspect is the attempt to gain power or control over the course of things in this life. That power belongs to God. He arranges. He disposes. Witchcraft is an attempt to steal from God divine control over things. It is idolatry.

The ancient world was rife with witchcraft and idolatry and in our post-Christian world we should not be surprised to see it making a comeback. The Apostle John had a Revelation from the living Christ, who spoke to the Seven Churches of Asia Minor (c. 93 AD) and warned them of the dangers of the same sorts of sins that Paul listed in Galatians 5: “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev 21:7–8; ESV; emphasis added). We need not guess what our Lord Jesus thinks about sorcerers and blasphemers who describe the holy Son of God as a magician or sorcerer. One shudders even to see or say such words. May the Lord Jesus have mercy on Valerie Love and the others who teach such things by opening her eyes and theirs (as he has graciously opened our blind eyes) and grant to them a true and saving knowledge of Christ the Lord. The Word who was with God and who is God has no need of tricks or sorcery. He has already dispatched the Evil One and the lake of fire awaits him at the judgment and all those who practice his dark arts.

One final note. There are strains of modern evangelical, charismatic, and Pentecostal Christianity that are not far distant from witchcraft. This is almost certainly why some Christians are deceived and seek to merge sorcery and Christianity. They are forever seeking secret knowledge from God and seeking to exercise quasi-divine power (e.g., naming and claiming things). They call themselves “gods” and “Christs” and the like. They sell magic handkerchiefs and trinkets to the gullible.

Jesus died for charlatans and sinners of all sorts and he was raised for our justification but now is the time to repent and flee to him. The wrath of God is relentless and his Word is clear. Choose this day whom you will serve, the Jesus who was raised from the dead or an idol fabricated in the minds of liars and shamans. You may not have both. The one leads to live and fellowship with God. The other to an endless lake of torment.

R. Scott Clark, Escondido

Source: https://www.agradio.org/not-everything-called-christian-is.html

Narcissistic Meanies

Into the Foolishness of God

I get all kinds of ideas while walking through Target. Things just jump out at me like you wouldn’t believe. Recently it’s been the vast array of ‘kindness’ merch in their dollar section. Cute mugs and cups, napkins and cups all reminding us to be kinder people. The kindness campaign is out in full force.


“Kindness is free, sprinkle that stuff everywhere.”


“Kind people are my kinda people.”


“Be a kind human.”


It’s all very cute and sweet. We should be kind. It’s like the new commandment of our culture… ifyoucanbeanything,bekind.I wonder if it’s because we have actually lost so much of our decency toward one another that we now need this reminder. Is it possible to just wake up and sprinkle kindness around?


Sometimes that is possible. There are days when we can take the high road, smile at ourselves in the mirror and just push through with…

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Brannon Howse: February 21, 2019

Guest: Anni Cyrus & Shahram Hadian. Topic: Brannon and Shahram predicted that after well-known evangelicals and their Bible ministries affirmed the interfaith dialogue of Neo-Calvinist James White with a Jihadi Imam that the flood gates would be open for others to follow in his footsteps. Now Neo-Evangelical and Neo-Calvinist Alistair Begg of the Cultural Marxist Gospel Coalition join Jew Dennis Prager and Muslim Zudie Jasser for an interfaith dialogue on Wednesday night, February 20, 2019. The graphic for the event had a Star of David, a cross, and the Crescent Moon and Star of Islam blending together into one. Topic: Anni and Shahram explain why the so-called reformer Mr. Jasser misrepresents the real Islam either knowingly or unknowingly. Topic: Why these ongoing interfaith dialogues are a spiritual and national security threat to America. Topic: Brannon and Shahram explain why they believe men like Alistair Begg are knowingly or unknowingly doing the bidding for the red-green axis as useful idiots. Topic: Hear the audio of Alistair Begg declaring that the welfare state is Biblical backed up by the story of Joseph and the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine.

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Source: Brannon Howse: February 21, 2019

February 23, 2019 Afternoon Verse Of The Day

The Reward for Perseverance

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (1:12)

Makarios (blessed) is the same word with which each of the Beatitudes of Matthew 5 begins, making this verse itself a beatitude. Blessed means much more than the mere happiness of a carefree life that has little conflict or trouble. It rather carries the idea of profound inner joy and satisfaction, a joy that only the Lord Himself is able to bestow on those who, for His sake and in His power, faithfully and patiently endure and conquer trials. “In this you greatly rejoice,” Peter says, “even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:6–7).

The man who perseveres under trial is the man who never relinquishes his confident trust in God. He is a true believer, who perseveres and becomes the man who has been approved (by passing the test with faith intact). The principle is simple, clear, and marvelously gracious: perseverance brings God’s approval, and His approval brings the crown of life. The term for “crown” is borrowed from athletics rather than royalty. It was the wreath placed on the victor’s head in athletic events, symbolizing persevering triumph. And a more literal translation could be “the crown which is life,” that is, eternal life. Consequently, a more accurate statement of the principle is this: perseverance attests to God’s approval, for it gives evidence of eternal life (salvation). In other words, perseverance does not result in salvation and eternal life, but is itself the result and evidence of salvation and eternal life.

“In the future,” Paul assures us with divine authority, “there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8; cf. Rev. 2:10). In his previous letter, the apostle admonishes his beloved son in the faith, “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called” (1 Tim. 6:12). Another great apostle gives believers the same assurance: “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Pet. 5:4). This crown—referred to as “the crown of life,” “the crown of righteousness,” or “the crown of glory”—is the same crown and will be received by every believer. It is not one of the various rewards that believers will receive based on their faithfulness (as mentioned in 1 Cor. 3:12–15) but is the common “reward” of salvation that is bestowed on all believers because of their saving faith in Jesus Christ.

James clearly associates faithful perseverance under trial with genuine love for God, perseverance being one of the surest evidences of those who love Him. That phrase, in fact, is a biblical definition of a genuine believer—a person who truly loves God. John repeatedly connects love of God with genuine faith. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8); “God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (v. 16); and, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (5:3). Peter writes, “And though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). Paul wrote that any person who does not love the Lord is cursed (1 Cor. 16:22).

A genuine Christian is not someone who at one point in time made a profession of faith in Christ, but he is a person who demonstrates true faith by an ongoing love for God that cannot be damaged, much less destroyed, by troubles and afflictions, no matter how severe or long-lasting. Like obedience to God’s will (John 14:15; 15:9–10; 1 John 2:5–6; 4:16; 5:1–3), love of Him is certain evidence of true faith.

Gardiner Spring, a well-known evangelical pastor in New York City in the early nineteenth century, wrote concerning the persevering power of genuine love for the Lord:

There is a vast difference between such an affection and that selfish and unhallowed friendship to God which terminates on our own happiness as its supreme motive and end. If a man, in his supposed love to God, has no ultimate regard except to his own happiness; if he delights in God, not for what He is, but for what He is to him; in such a sentiment there is no moral virtue. There is indeed great love of self, but no true love to God. But where the enmity of the carnal mind is slain, the soul is reconciled to the Divine character as it is. God Himself, in the fulness of His manifested glory, becomes the object of devout and delighted contemplation. In his more favored hours the views of a good man are in a great measure diverted from himself; as his thoughts glance toward the varied excellence of the Deity, he scarcely stops to inquire whether the Being whose character fills his mind and in comparison of whose dignity and beauty all things are atoms and vanity, will extend His mercy to him.… His soul cleaves to God, and in the warmth and fervor of devout affection, he can often say, “Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none on the earth that I desire beside thee. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Ps. 73:25; 42:1). (The Distinguishing Traits of Christian Character {Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, n.d.], 25–26)[1]


Conclusion (1:12)

James’s opening statement was a surprise: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials” (1:2). But now James returns to the theme of trials: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (1:12). This confirms that James’s first theme is the trials of life. We face short-term temptations and long-term tests. Some, such as illness, are obvious. Others, such as prosperity, are not. Yet God uses trials to reveal our spiritual flaws and to test our love for him. So then, in time of trial, let us seek not simply to escape, but to find godly maturity.

  • When we plead for wisdom in a trial, let us love God enough to trust him to provide.
  • When a trial deprives us of worldly goods, may we love Jesus all the more. May our affection never fade even if his external gifts disappear.
  • When our possessions multiply, let us still love the Lord more than our goods.

We may look to Christ in two ways as we pursue this goal. First, Jesus faced trial after trial in this life. Satan tried him directly in the wilderness temptations (Matt. 4:1–11). Jesus had “no place to lay his head” (8:20), so he also faced the trial of poverty. Later, he faced hatred, verbal abuse, and physical abuse of every kind. Above all, he endured the trial of crucifixion before God the Father raised him to life and to glory. Thus he became the prime example of “the man who perseveres under trial” and then receives “the crown of life” (James 1:12). Second, if we fail to persevere in trials and do not deserve to receive the crown of life, the gospel remains. Indeed, when we fail to persevere and we honestly take our failure to the Lord Jesus, confessing our sin, he will “give us birth through the word of truth”—that is, the gospel. By that word, he will redeem us “that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (1:18).

The Jewish Christians who first read James needed to hear this teaching, and so do we. Many are strong in knowledge of the faith, but weak in the life of faith. James brings a corrective. The trials of life test our faith, pushing us to act, not just to think. If we withstand the tests of life, we see that our faith in Christ is genuine. Then, when God has confirmed our faith, he will grant us the crown of life eternal. Then we who love him and grow in maturity toward him will dwell with him forever.[2]


12. Blessed is the man. After having applied consolation, he moderated the sorrow of those who were severely handled in this world, and again humbled the arrogance of the great. He now draws this conclusion, that they are happy who magnanimously endure troubles and other trials, so as to rise above them. The word temptation may indeed be otherwise understood, even for the stings of lusts which annoy the soul within; but what is here commended, as I think, is fortitude of mind in enduring adversities. It is, however, a paradox, that they are not happy to whom all things come according to their wishes, but such as are not overcome with evils.

For when he is tried. He gives a reason for the preceding sentence; for the crown follows the contest. If, then, it be our chief happiness to be crowned in the kingdom of God, it follows, that the contests with which the Lord tries us, are aids and helps to our happiness. Thus the argument is from the end or the effect: hence we conclude, that the faithful are harassed by so many evils for this purpose, that their piety and obedience may be made manifest, and that they may be thus at length prepared to receive the crown of life.

But they reason absurdly who hence infer that we by fighting merit the crown; for since God has gratuitously appointed it for us, our fighting only renders us fit to receive it.

He adds, that it is promised to those who love God. By speaking thus, he means not that the love of man is the cause of obtaining the crown, (for God anticipates us by his gratuitous love;) but he only intimates that the elect who love him are alone approved by God. He yet reminds us that the conquerors of all temptations are those who love God, and that we fail not in courage when we are tried, for no other cause than because the love of the world prevails in us.[3]


Overlapping Transition: Blessings for Those Who Persevere Under Trial (1:12)

12 This verse plays a vitally important role in the book’s double introduction. As noted in the introduction to this commentary, it forms both the conclusion to 1:2–12 and the introduction to 1:12–27, the author crafting it as an “overlapping transition.” The reference to endurance under trial reaches back to 1:2–4, while the “blessed” person theme reaches forward to 1:25, where the author begins to draw the introduction to a close. He also uses v. 12 to lead into the discussion of temptation’s true nature in vv. 13–16.

The word translated “Blessed” (makarios, GK 3421) calls to mind Jesus’ teachings, especially the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3–11; 11:6; 13:16; 16:17; 24:46; Lk 6:20–22; 7:23; 11:27–28; Jn 13:17; 20:29), which hark back to Jewish tradition embodied, for instance, in the Psalms (e.g., Pss 1:1–2:12; 31:1; 39:5; 83:5; 111:1; 143:12). “Blessedness” has to do with well-being in life that flows from the favorable position in which one is rightly related to God (Johnson, 187). Here the blessing is for the person who endures a trial. The absence of the Greek article probably indicates that no specific trial is in view, and the earlier passage, 1:2–4, has noted that trials are “various” (NASB). James, then, is interested in giving his readers encouragement in the face of discouraging and difficult experiences in general.

The basis for this proclamation of blessing and, therefore, the source of encouragement follows: “because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life.” In Jewish literature, the concept of being “tested” is almost ubiquitous, being found wherever God relates to his people. The most famous story in Jewish tradition is the testing of Abraham through the offering of Isaac (Ge 22). Jacob, Ruth, David, Daniel, and many other biblical exemplars face tests of various kinds, and the tests reveal the character of the one tested.

Thus for the believer, it is when one has been “approved” (NASB) that the crown of life is gained. In the OT “crowning,” in a general sense, can symbolize the blessings of God, as in Proverbs 10:6 or Isaiah 35:10 (Ryken, 185). Yet crowns in the ancient Mediterranean world were of various kinds and, therefore, could symbolize various dynamics. The winner of a battle or athletic competition was, at times, honored with a bay or olive wreath; royalty wore crowns representing their authority; and a flower garland, worn during a time of celebration such as a wedding or festival, represented joy (Laws, 68). It may be that the first of these images is in mind here. In the NT the athletic imagery is, at points, overt (1 Co 9:25; 2 Ti 2:5), and in line with such imagery, “the crown” is given, as here in James, to those who faithfully endure various difficulties associated with living for God (2 Ti 4:8; 1 Pe 5:4; Rev 3:11). That it is the crown “of life” (Rev 2:10) can be understood epexegetically as meaning “the crown that is life.” In other words, those who endure are honored with the full realization of eternal life in the presence of God. Accordingly, this crown is reserved for those who, through their faithful perseverance under trial, through an embracing of God’s way of wisdom in the world, have demonstrated that they love God.[4]


The high high (v. 12)

Having encouraged low believers to think of their high position in Christ and high Christians to think of their low position as mere mortals, James moves to a point that unifies and thrills Christians of all stations in life. He writes of ‘the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him’ (v. 12).

The crown of life! What does it mean? James was obviously drawing on something with which all his readers were familiar, namely, the realm of sports. Here are some runners preparing for a race. They strip off everything that would weigh them down and step up to the starting line. Every muscle is taut and every nerve ready as they await the signal. And they’re off! Each puts every ounce of strength and energy into the race, straining for the finish line. What does the winner receive? He or she is crowned with the victor’s wreath.

Through this imagery James was affirming that Christians are running a race that will end in glory. That is where the finish line is!

But there is a difference. All Christians are winners as they cross that finish line. There the Lord God himself will greet them and will crown their efforts with eternal life.

And in glory there will be no rich Christians and no poor Christians. There will simply be believers in Jesus who are astonished and amazed that the God of glory was gracious enough to forgive them their sins.

The key for us in this life is to keep our eyes trained on the finish line in glory. How very easy it is for us to get our eyes on the wrong things! How very easy it is for us to look with disfavour on fellow-Christians because they are lower than we are, or because they are higher!

If we keep our eyes fixed on eternity, these lesser matters will be seen as lesser matters. In eternal glory, God’s people will experience the ‘high high’. They will be as high as they can possibly go, and nothing will ever be able to bring them down.

So let us keep eternity in mind even to the point that we daily repeat the prayer of Joseph Bayly: ‘Lord, burn eternity into my eyeballs!’[5]


1:12 / James begins with a beatitude: Blessed is the man. Like Jesus in Matthew 5:3–12, he pronounces a surprising group blessed, those who persevere under trial. It is not just the person who is tested who is considered happy or blessed but the person who endures or remains faithful. In 1:2–4 James has said that testing produces endurance; now he states that enduring creates true blessedness. Yet James is neither a masochist nor a stoic, neither claims that trials are fun nor that one should enjoy pain. Rather, he points out that the trials serve a purpose, the experiential proof of the reality of faith, and that that should give one the perspective for deep joy. From reactions to testing one knows one is truly committed and that when [one] has stood the test a reward will come. A person passing a test is like silver being assayed and receiving the hallmark of purity: God marks the person “approved”; his or her faith is sound.

Such a person will receive a reward, that is (in the Greek idiom), “a crown of life.” This pictures the last judgment as if it were a judges’ stand at the end of a race (cf. 2 Tim. 4:8). The victorious runner approaches and a laurel wreath is set on his or her head. But this wreath is life itself (cf. Rev. 2:10), and not just one winner but all who finish the race (endure) receive the reward, for God has promised it to all those who love him. Salvation has only one price, an enduring love of God. With this prospect in mind, Christians can consider themselves truly blessed or fortunate despite outward circumstances, for they already taste the reward.[6]


The target of life (1:12)

First sight of verse 12 is true sight: it recapitulates verses 2–4. James, as it were, brings us back to the beginning of things again, reminding us of our basic position—namely that we move forward, through and by means of trial and test, to maturity. It would, therefore, be possible to see verse 12 as concluding the section which opened at verse 2, rounding things off in a heart-warming repetition. But it is better to see James as returning to the same truth as an introduction to a new perspective on things. He writes, therefore, of a means of blessing (Blessed … endures trial), the end which is to be held in view (the crown of life which God has promised) and the clue to this great objective (to those who love him).

The word blessed contains two strands of meaning. It means ‘happy’ in a fairly general sense in Acts 26:2 or Romans 14:22, but in the more particular sense of ‘fulfilled’ in cases like Luke 12:37. Along this line, blessed picks up James’ teaching in verses 2–4 that persistence through trial brings personal fulfilment and enrichment. In most cases of the word (makarios) in the New Testament, there is a plain hint, if not a clear assertion, of the activity of God in imparting blessing. In the Beatitudes (Mt. 5:3ff.) the Lord Jesus describes a life which is fulfilled and fulfilling because it is under the blessing of God. Luke 10:23 is a particularly good example of this meaning. While, therefore, James is in part looking back to the promise of adult maturity at the end of the process in verses 2–4, he is in the main underlining the fact that God is at work in all this business of trial and persistent endurance, God is imparting blessing all the while as well as guiding us towards the great, ultimate blessing of his total approval. As Sophie Laws puts it, ‘the ideas of trial, probation and endurance’ are ‘now seen not in relation to the present perfecting of character, as in 1:2–4, but to the prospect of a future reward’. This brings in a whole new range of motivations on the call to endure. If the former motivation was to see realized in ourselves all that was intended in Christ, the present motivation is to please him who holds out the crown—to envisage his approval and so to live as to delight him. But though the motivation can be phrased differently, the programme remains the same. The blessing is not in being delivered from the trial, but is something found within and through the trial by means of the practice of endurance. We might well say to God, ‘Give me life and then I will be strong enough to endure trial.’ And there is a biblical sense in which this is absolutely true and right. The Lord Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray so that they would not fall before the assault of the coming trial (Mk. 14:38, using the same word, peirasmos, as James). But James would have us learn a different, though parallel, lesson: the trial and test is a sort of divinely given ‘homework’ in which we work out the truths God has taught us in his Word—for it is through this exercise of working it out that we progress in knowledge and grow in spiritual stature. Thus, alongside the perfectly legitimate cry, ‘Give me life and I will endure’, James writes his (typical) command, ‘Endure and God will give you life.’ For it is equally true in the Scriptures that God gives his Holy Spirit to those who obey him (Acts 5:32).

The blessings God will give are summed up in the gift of the, crown of life. In the Bible, the wearing of the crown speaks of dignity of position, royal or otherwise (Est. 8:15; Ps. 21:3). It speaks of gladness and rejoicing (Song 3:11; 1 Thes. 2:19); it is given to the victor (1 Cor. 9:25); it is the prize at the end of the race (2 Tim. 4:8), the chief Shepherd’s reward to his undershepherds (1 Pet. 5:4). Specially, it is the reward of faithful endurance (Rev. 2:10). This last reference seems to be the only other place where a crown of life is mentioned, and the setting is the same as in James. Those who are prepared to use this life as an arena of endurance for Jesus’ sake will find that an abundant life awaits them from the hand of God. In this world, the onlooker might see them as sacrificing life, as having a wretched time, as ‘missing out on life’. They might be asked why they bother, why they do not opt out and enjoy themselves for a bit, and so on. But they have chosen to endure for Christ, and to live with their eyes on the life which he will give, crowning them with dignity, victory, happiness and reward in heaven.

But what attracts the reward is not their endurance, but the love for God which prompted it. The crown of life is his gift to those who love him. What a key truth for the whole of life! For in the light of it, all life becomes a trial (as James uses the word). Here, for example, is a person to whom the Lord accords an experience of deep happiness, whatever it may be. The Lord gives the happiness so that he may presently ask: Now do you love me more? And often we sadly answer that we have thoughtlessly enjoyed our happiness as though it were something we could demand as of right, and that easy days have blunted the sharp edge of our love for him. Many people have pondered the ‘problem of pain’. Few pause to ponder the problem of happiness. Why should a holy God give restful days, a happy home, healthy and dear children to a sinner like me? How I should love him for his blessings! Likewise it is true that the Lord visits with hardships and sorrow so that he may draw near to us and ask, Do you love me still? An elderly man, bereaved of his wife, said: ‘It must be that the Lord still has something for me to do, else why has he left me here?’ And someone replied, ‘He has not left you to do anything except to love him still.’

In the opening paragraph to this section we noted this reference to loving God as the clue James gives to making our way through life to the crown. It is a genuine clue, but it is a searching truth. Our progress to the crown is expedited not by our powers of endurance but by the depth and reality and pervasiveness of our love for him. We live by what we love; the shape of our lives is determined by the joys of our hearts.

Thereby hangs the whole tale, as we shall see, of verses 13–18.[7]


1:12. A double result is promised those who faithfully endure their trials. First is an inner reward of blessedness. Blessed is the same term which appears repeatedly in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3–12). It describes an inner quality of joy resting in God and unaffected by external events. It is not a wish or statement of fact but a joyous affirmation: “O the blessedness of the person who endures trials.” In the New Testament it often describes people whom the world would never regard as blessed or fortunate in any sense—such as the persecuted (Matt. 5:11–12). Having the trial is not a blessing in itself, but the stalwart endurance of the trial brought blessing.

The second blessing is a gift from God, the crown of life. Crown did not refer to the ornament of a ruler but to a garland wreath given to the victor in an athletic contest. God’s reward to us for faithfully enduring trials is not a position of royalty over others. Rather, it is recognition from God for spiritual victory. The crown is not a physical object but a spiritual privilege which gives a deeper, fuller life on earth (John 10:10) and an unending, joyous life in the world to come. Enduring trials for his glory shows that we love God. God has stored up marvelous blessings for those who love him.

Four features in this section provide encouragement for people caught up in trials. First, God uses trials to produce staying power in those who endure. Second, for those who seek it, God provides wisdom to understand trials. Third, believers, whether rich or poor, find encouragement to rejoice over their position in life. Fourth, God promises a reward to fill the believer with hope.[8]


Sustaining the Test

1:12

James returns to the theme he introduced at the beginning of his epistle: perseverance under trial (vv. 2–4). He calls the persevering believer blessed and tells him that because of his love for God, the believer “will receive the crown of life.”

The author displays a fondness for using key words. With these words he advances the flow of his epistle. In verse 12 he explains the meaning of the expressions trial and test; this leads him to an explanation of the verb to tempt. Verse 12, then, is introductory to the next section.

12. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Note these points:

  • Man

The term blessed relates to the Beatitudes of Jesus. Matthew records a series of nine such statements (5:3–11) in the Sermon on the Mount. The complete expression—“blessed is the man”—appears frequently in Psalms, Proverbs, and the Prophets.

The Jews were fond of using the word blessed (makarios). Both in the New Testament and in extrabiblical literature the word is common. For example, in the New Testament it occurs fifty times.

Who is the man the Bible calls “blessed”? He is the person who finds complete happiness in God. He may be poor, meek, hungry, or persecuted—but he is happy. This appears to be a contradiction. From a worldly perspective only the rich and those who are secure can be happy. But Scripture says that “the man who perseveres [endures] under trial” is blessed.

  • Test

God tests man’s faith to learn whether it is genuine and true. For instance, we test the purity of a bowl made of lead crystal by lightly tapping the outer edge. Immediately we know its genuineness when we hear a reverberating, almost musical sound. We also know that the lead crystal bowl went through the fire when it was made.

Similarly, God tests the faith of man as, for example, in the case of Job. Faith that is not tried and true is worthless. God wants the believer to come to him in a time of trial so that he may give him the strength to endure. God is not interested in seeing the believer falter and fail; he wants him to endure, overcome, and triumph.

See how Peter encourages his readers to persevere: “But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God” (1 Peter 2:20).

  • Promise

Why is the believer who perseveres during a time of testing happy? Because “he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”

After his period of testing has ended, the believer will receive the crown of life. No one competing in games receives a crown until the race is over, and then only one person gets the crown (1 Cor. 9:24–25). The phrase the crown of life, it seems, was a well-known idiom in the first century. It occurs in the letter addressed to the church in Smyrna: “Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).

Writes R. C. Trench, the crown of life “is the emblem, not of royalty, but of highest joy and gladness, of glory and immortality.” The phrase, then, suggests fullness of life that God grants to those who endure the test of faith. God has promised this gift “to those who love him.”

Man cannot earn the crown of life, for God gives it to him full and free. God asks that man place his complete confidence in him and love him wholeheartedly. To love God with heart, soul, and mind, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself constitutes the summary of the Ten Commandments. Interestingly enough, James returns to that royal law, as he calls it, in the next chapter (2:8). However, James teaches that God chose man who then began to love him (2:5). John says the same thing when he writes, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God comes first, then man.[9]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1998). James (pp. 41–43). Chicago: Moody Press.

[2] Doriani, D. M. (2007). James. (R. D. Phillips, P. G. Ryken, & D. M. Doriani, Eds.) (pp. 28–29). Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.

[3] Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (pp. 287–288). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[4] Guthrie, G. H. (2006). James. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, pp. 219–220). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] Ellsworth, R. (2009). Opening up James (pp. 37–38). Leominster: Day One Publications.

[6] Davids, P. H. (2011). James (pp. 34–35). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[7] Motyer, J. A. (1985). The message of James: the tests of faith (pp. 47–49). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[8] Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, pp. 260–261). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[9] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of James and the Epistles of John (Vol. 14, pp. 46–47). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

The “There Is No Recession In Sight” Chartbook — ZeroHedge News

Authored by Lance Roberts via RealInvestmentAdvice.com,

Yesterday, Michael Lebowitz wrote an interesting piece discussing the “yield curve” and the message it is sending. To wit:

“Recently, Wall Street and the Financial Media have brought much attention to the flattening and possible inversion of the U.S. Treasury yield curve. Given the fact that an inversion of the 2s/10s Treasury yield curve has predicted every recession over the last forty years, it is no wonder that the topic grows in stature as the difference between the 2-year Treasury yield and the 10-year Treasury yield approaches zero. Unfortunately, much of the discussion on the yield curve seems to over-emphasize whether or not the slope of the curve will invert. Waiting on this arbitrary event may cause investors to miss a very important recession signal.”

Mike is right. The problem is that when the yield curve INITIALLY inverts, or comes close to inverting, there won’t be a “recession” immediately noticeable in the data. This is because, as discussed previously, while the calls of a “recession” may seem far-fetched based on today’s economic data points, no one was calling for a recession in early 2000 or 2007 either. By the time the data is adjusted, and the eventual recession is revealed, it won’t matter as the damage will have already been done. As you notice in the chart above, the yield curve predicted each recession, but the yield curve was already rising sharply by the time the recession was officially announced.

But is there anything to fear currently? 

Not according to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin:

“We see no indications whatsoever of a recession on the horizon. The administration’s efforts to cut taxes, slash regulations and overhaul trade deals have had a very strong impact on the U.S. economy.”

Since I am not the Treasury Secretary of the United States, who am I to argue. Therefore, I simply present some charts for you to consider with respect to whether a “recession cometh” or not.

(Some of the graphs below were shared with RIA Pro subscribers in the Chart of the Day section. For more information please visit us at RIA Pro. Use code PRO30 for a 30-day free trial.)

As David Rosenberg stated yesterday:

“I love to read the bloggers out there who say ‘a slowdown isn’t a recession.’ Someone should remind them of Newton’s laws of motion. A slowdown doesn’t morph into a recession when there is some exogenous postive shock that turns the tide. And when it isn’t about the Fed easing policy, then it is another Central Bank, like the ECB and BOJ in 2016.

Initial jobless claims are a leading economic indicator and have already risen enough to suggest that recession odds have gone from close to 0% a year ago to around 40% today. Not a base case, but the direction is not something the bulls should be crowing about.”

No recession in sight?

Maybe? But if you wait for someone to tell you the recession has started, it really won’t matter much anyway.

As my friend Doug Kass noted in his missive yesterday:

“It remains my view that the weight of slowing global economic growth, untenable debt levels, political turmoil and policy issues/concerns could ultimately produce much lower stock prices than are present today.”

Source: The “There Is No Recession In Sight” Chartbook

February 23 Digesting God’s Word

scripture reading: Psalm 19
key verse: Psalm 19:14

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

Any farmer or gardener prefers a soft, steady rain for thirsty crops or plants. Heavy downfalls may appear favorable, but much of the water is wasted, the ground unable to absorb the deluge. However, the soil and rain are synchronized when the precipitation falls at a steady rate.

Meditation is akin to this analogy. Slowly, steadily, and productively, the Word of God is distilled and digested. It is the process of patiently listening, hearing, and waiting upon God. However, meditation can be hindered for two significant reasons:

First, quiet time versus busy time. You are harried and hurried. Your pace is fast, even on a slow day. But meditation requires time, still time where the voices of duty and responsibility are deliberately muted.

Second, quality versus quantity. Many Christians have a reading schedule that takes them from Genesis to Revelation in a year. This is a profitable exercise, but its benefits can be negated if the heart isn’t set on digesting meaningful portions. Reading shorter passages of Scripture can facilitate biblical meditation, and often God will focus your attention on one verse.

Customize your schedule to find an appropriate quiet time that allows you to maximize your investment.

My heart is thirsty, O Lord. I need quality time with You today. Slowly, steadily, and productively, let Your Word do its work.[1]


[1] Stanley, C. F. (1998). Enter His gates: a daily devotional. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

James MacDonald and the End of the Celebrity Pastor

Maybe it’s unavoidable that churches become microcosms of their eras. The early American church—in those strict, mean times—was a lean, sparse affair. Around the 1970s, the American church looked more like a business, with pastors acting like CEOs of small companies, focusing on delivering a weekly product.

In recent years, as the entertainment industry became the focal point of American culture, a growing number of churches began operating like a brand, with the pastor acting as the focal celebrity while a team around him (it’s almost always a him) streamlined his content for maximum impact and ran interference on potential scandals.

This has led to a phenomenon we call “celebrity pastors,” a phrase that should ring alien, yet doesn’t in the American church of 2019. If the label applies to anyone, it applied to James MacDonald, the recently fired senior pastor and founder of the immense and influential Harvest Bible Chapel. MacDonald’s lengthy series of scandals unspooled over several years, as allegations of bullying, intimidation, dishonesty and financial mismanagement surfaced and were buried one after the other. A 2019 investigation from Julie Roys at WORLD Magazine forced a slightly more honest reckoning before a series of tapes from Chicago shock-jock Mancow Muller, in which MacDonald was heard making vulgar threats toward the journalists covering the scandal, got the senior pastor fired.

The entire executive committee at Harvest has pledged to resign over their mismanagement of the various allegations against MacDonald. Victims have continued to come forward with new allegations (a former Harvest worship pastor went on Mancow’s show to say MacDonald touched her inappropriately a number of years ago), and it’s probably impossible to determine how many lives have been disrupted by MacDonald’s actions, how many people’s emotional and mental wellbeing could have been protected if countermeasures had been taken earlier.

That’s the thing about a celebrity pastor: A celebrity pastor is a brand, and a brand doesn’t take action against itself. That would be antithetical to its entire existence. Brands survive because they deflect damage, control the narrative, protect talent and promote new successes over recent failures. Accountability is bad for brands. For them to listen and respond to people they’ve hurt is a liability.

This construct was apparent in the Houston Chronicle’s devastating report of abuse within the Southern Baptist Convention, or in Mark Driscoll’s laborious attempts to weather, in vain, the crumbling of his empire. It took an avalanche of accusations from the Willow Creek Church community before Bill Hybels was ousted from leadership. There are many, many other examples. And unless the American Church course corrects here, there will be more in the future.

The Celebrity Pastor is a failed experiment, though it never stood a chance at success. It began benignly enough, with radio ministers like S. Parkes Cadman in the 20s and Reverend Ralph Sockman in the 40s gaining massive followings, but it was the advent of televangelism when the concept took on an uncomfortable sheen, shepherded by people like Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Falwell. Those sordid legacies speak for themselves, but their influence remains today, the pinstripe suits and poofy hair replaced by All Saints and undercuts.

The biblical model for a pastor could not have less in common with the modern celebrity. As Paul tells Timothy, pastors are to be  “temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” None of these things are particularly compatible with the entitlements and hubris that accompany fame.

There is not a large enough sample size of famous people for a robust study of the psychological effects of celebrity, but the examples we have are not encouraging. The biblical injunctions against inflating yourself are fairly straightforward. “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled,” Jesus says in Luke 14. Or, to quote an anonymous American folk writer some years later, “Sooner or later God’ll cut you down.”

Any rise necessitates leaving others on the ground, and that is an alienating thing for those in power. Isolation emboldens our worst impulses. The more people who affirm us, the more likely we are to believe them, and the more we believe them, the less likely we are to listen to other voices telling us less gratifying things. With this comes a dismissal of accountability—often in tiny increments—until you find yourself on a pedestal high above anyone who could give you an honest assessment of your life. It’s a dark place for anyone to be. It’s untenable for a pastor. It’s ideal for a brand.

None of this is unique to the American Church. Even King David, not a pastor but certainly a spiritual leader, found himself brought low after his power and authority calcified into a poisonous permission for him to force a woman into his bed.

But since America has prioritized celebrity in a way many other cultures haven’t, the American Church might be the first sector to have duped itself into believing a celebrity pastor could ever be a good thing for itself. For this country, the bitter fruit of celebrity has been a hollow, image-obsessed society that confuses size for success and wealth for wisdom. It’s been more or less the same for our churches, but with an extra, bitter undercurrent of torment. When a celebrity falls into scandal, it’s tabloid fodder, an object lesson for the rest of us to tut-tut over. But when a celebrity pastor falls, it sends shockwaves through the spiritual journeys of the people who’d looked up to him.

While it may be unavoidable for our churches to acquire the look and feel of their cultural context, we don’t have to be thoughtless or enthusiastic about that influence. In this, as in all things, we must “hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12). Being a pastor is an immense responsibility, and any models for the job outside the church—kings, corporate bosses, Instagram stars—are doomed to bring disaster. The first and finest model for pastors will always be Jesus, whose words in Mark 9:35 only grow more radical with time:  “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Source: James MacDonald and the End of the Celebrity Pastor

Opposition leader’s deadline for US aid reaching Venezuela expires

The political standoff in Venezuela is escalating. A deadline to let US aid into the country, imposed by self-proclaimed interim leader Juan Guaido, expires on Saturday. Deliveries have been amassing at the border with Colombia, but the trucks are being blocked by Venezuela’s elected president, Nicolas Maduro, who fears they may contain hidden weapons.

Trump Explodes on ‘Witch Hunt’ After Richard Burr Reaches Conclusion on Russia: ‘We Have Found No Collusion’

President Donald Trump called on Friday for special counsel Robert Mueller’s “witch hunt” to end, pointing to Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr’s conclusion there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

“Highly respected Senator Richard Burr, head of Senate Intelligence, said, after interviewing over 200 witnesses and studying over 2 million pages of documents, “WE HAVE FOUND NO COLLUSION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA,” Trump tweeted.

“The Witch Hunt, so bad for our Country, must end!” he added.

Highly respected Senator Richard Burr, head of Senate Intelligence, said, after interviewing over 200 witnesses and studying over 2 million pages of documents, “WE HAVE FOUND NO COLLUSION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA.” The Witch Hunt, so bad for our Country, must end!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 22, 2019

The president also told reporters at the White House on Friday that if Mueller issues an “honest” report, it will characterize the allegation that his campaign colluded with Russia as a “hoax.”

“You know the nice part? There was no collusion. There was no obstruction. There was no anything. So that’s the nice part. There was no phone calls, no nothing.”

“I won the race. Do you know why I won the race? Because I was a better candidate than she was and had nothing to do with Russia,” Trump continued.

“And everybody knows it’s a hoax. It’s one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on this country. So I look forward to seeing the report. If it’s an honest report, it will say that. If it’s not an honest report, it won’t.”

Burr told NBC News earlier this month that there was “no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia” found by the Intelligence Committee’s investigation.

In an interview with CBS News shortly thereafter, the Republican senator further stated, “If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia.”

MSNBC correspondent Ken Dilanian reported on his network that he spoke with sources on both the Republican and Democratic side of the Intelligence Committee who told him the investigation “has not uncovered any direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

Thank you to @MSNBC! pic.twitter.com/VdRnirACAz

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2019

The Hill reported a Justice Department official shot down rumors that the special counsel’s office planned to deliver a report on its findings by next Friday.

When the classified report is completed, it will be given to Attorney General William Barr.

Trump told reporters on Wednesday it will be “totally up to the new attorney general” how much of the findings will be released publicly, according to CNBC.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who sits on the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees, reiterated her demands on Friday that Mueller’s report be released in full to Congress and be made public.

She said that the report concerned matters that had “implications for the rule of law and stability of our democracy” and that they “cannot be hidden away.”

“A summary written by Attorney General Barr in place of the Mueller report will not be acceptable,” Feinstein said.

Source: Trump Explodes on ‘Witch Hunt’ After Richard Burr Reaches Conclusion on Russia: ‘We Have Found No Collusion’

Solzhenitsyn’s Prophetic 1978 Indictment of the West – Full Text (Harvard Speech)

“If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge: We shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.”

This is a truly remarkable speech, given by Solzhenitsyn to Harvard grads after living in the West for four years, three of them in the US.

Lionized in the West as a critic of the Soviet Union, he surprised everyone by giving America a stern scolding for being superficial, cowardly, obsessed with materialism, overly legalistic, confused by too much information, lacking in spirituality, and not the stuff of greatness, all things that have become even more true today then they were then, 40 years ago. He also explained that Americans did not understand Russia at all, which is still true today, because the media mostly lies about Russia.

He ends on an optimistic note, saying that the soul-deadening reality of the West, which dismayed him once he understood it, will end in the coming years, and man’s spiritual life will take flight once again.

He said that if Russia ever managed to free itself from Communism, he would not recommend that she emulate the West, which he saw as a dead end. Fascinating to read or listen to 40 years after it was given, much of what he said then is coming true today as the West descends into a deep dishonesty and perversity.

Solzhenitsyn is a controversial figure in modern Russia, where most see him as having treasonously worked with Russia’s enemies to destroy her, an intellectual Quisling. Nobody, likes traitors, especially Russians. He also has his fans, among them Mr. Putin.

What follows is most of the speech, except for a longish introduction. Very much recommended.

This is recording of the speech with English audio dubbed over the Russian. Sadly, no version of the original Russian is available on internet, that we could find, although it used to be available in Russian as an audio cassette in the US. It is a very poetic and emotionally delivered in Russian.

Text of Speech:

If I were today addressing an audience in my country, examining the overall pattern of the world’s rifts, I would have concentrated on the East’s calamities. But since my forced exile in the West has now lasted four years and since my audience is a Western one, I think it may be of greater interest to concentrate on certain aspects of the West, in our days, such as I see them.

A decline in courage may be the most striking feature which an outside observer notices in the West in our days. The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. Of course, there are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.

Political and intellectual bureaucrats show depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable, as well as intellectually and even morally worn it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. And decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of the same bureaucrats when dealing with weak governments and with countries not supported by anyone, or with currents which cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue-tied and paralyzed when they deal with powerful governments and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists.

Should one point out that from ancient times declining courage has been considered the beginning of the end?

When the modern Western states were created, the principle was proclaimed that governments are meant to serve man and man lives to be free and to pursue happiness. See, for example, the American Declaration of Independence. Now, at last, during past decades technical and social progress has permitted the realization of such aspirations: the welfare state.

Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness — in the morally inferior sense of the word which has come into being during those same decades. In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to attain them imprint many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings. Active and tense competition fills all human thoughts without opening a way to free spiritual development.

The individual’s independence from many types of state pressure has been guaranteed. The majority of people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about. It has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, leaving them to physical splendor, happiness, possession of material goods, money, and leisure, to an almost unlimited freedom of enjoyment. So who should now renounce all this? Why? And for what should one risk one’s precious life in defense of common values and particularly in such nebulous cases when the security of one’s nation must be defended in a distant country? Even biology knows that habitual, extreme safety and well-being are not advantageous for a living organism. Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious mask.

Western society has given itself the organization best suited to its purposes based, I would say, one the letter of the law. The limits of human rights and righteousness are determined by a system of laws; such limits are very broad. People in the West have acquired considerable skill in interpreting and manipulating law. Any conflict is solved according to the letter of the law and this is considered to be the supreme solution. If one is right from a legal point of view, nothing more is required. Nobody will mention that one could still not be entirely right, and urge self-restraint, a willingness to renounce such legal rights, sacrifice and selfless risk. It would sound simply absurd. One almost never sees voluntary self-restraint. Everybody operates at the extreme limit of those legal frames.

I have spent all my life under a Communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale than the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man’s noblest impulses. And it will be simply impossible to stand through the trials of this threatening century with only the support of a legalistic structure.

In today’s Western society the inequality has been revealed [in] freedom for good deeds and freedom for evil deeds. A statesman who wants to achieve something important and highly constructive for his country has to move cautiously and even timidly. There are thousands of hasty and irresponsible critics around him; parliament and the press keep rebuffing him. As he moves ahead, he has to prove that each single step of his is well-founded and absolutely flawless. Actually, an outstanding and particularly gifted person who has unusual and unexpected initiatives in mind hardly gets a chance to assert himself. From the very beginning, dozens of traps will be set out for him. Thus, mediocrity triumphs with the excuse of restrictions imposed by democracy.

It is feasible and easy everywhere to undermine administrative power and in fact it has been drastically weakened in all Western countries. The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It’s time, in the West — It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counterbalanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil.

And what shall we say criminality as such? Legal frames, especially in the United States, are broad enough to encourage not only individual freedom but also certain individual crimes. The culprit can go unpunished or obtain undeserved leniency with the support of thousands of public defenders. When a government starts an earnest fight against terrorism, public opinion immediately accuses it of violating the terrorist’s civil rights. There are many such cases.

Such a tilt of freedom in the direction of evil has come about gradually, but it was evidently born primarily out of a humanistic and benevolent concept according to which there is no evil inherent to human nature. The world belongs to mankind and all the defects of life are caused by wrong social systems, which must be corrected. Strangely enough, though the best social conditions have been achieved in the West, there still is criminality and there even is considerably more of it than in the pauper and lawless Soviet society.

The press too, of course, enjoys the widest freedom. (I shall be using the word press to include all media.) But what sort of use does it make of this freedom?

Here again, the main concern is not to infringe the letter of the law. There is no true moral responsibility for deformation or disproportion. What sort of responsibility does a journalist or a newspaper have to his readers, or to his history — or to history? If they have misled public opinion or the government by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, do we know of any cases of public recognition and rectification of such mistakes by the same journalist or the same newspaper? It hardly ever happens because it would damage sales. A nation may be the victim of such a mistake, but the journalist usually always gets away with it. One may — One may safely assume that he will start writing the opposite with renewed self-assurance.

Because instant and credible information has to be given, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors, and suppositions to fill in the voids, and none — and none of them will ever be rectified; they will stay on in the readers’ memories. How many hasty, immature, superficial, and misleading judgments are expressed every day, confusing readers, without any verification. The press — The press can both simulate public opinion and miseducate it. Thus, we may see terrorists described as heroes, or secret matters  pertaining to one’s nation’s defense publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion on the privacy of well-known people under the slogan: “Everyone is entitled to know everything.” But this is a false slogan, characteristic of a false era. People also have the right not to know and it’s a much more valuable one. The right not to have their divine souls [stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk.] A person who works and leads a meaningful life does not need this excessive burdening flow of information.

Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the 20th century and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press. Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within the Western countries, more powerful than the legislative power, the executive, and the judiciary. And one would then like to ask: By what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible? In the communist East a journalist is frankly appointed as a state official. But who has granted Western journalists their power, for how long a time, and with what prerogatives?

There is yet another surprise for someone coming from the East, where the press is rigorously unified. One gradually discovers a common trend of preferences within the Western press as a whole. It is a fashion; there are generally accepted patterns of judgment; there may be common corporate interests, the sum effect being not competition but unification. Enormous freedom exists for the press, but not for the readership because newspaper[s] mostly develop stress and emphasis to those opinions which do not too openly contradict their own and the general trend.

Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought and ideas are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable; nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals or books or be heard in colleges. Legally your researchers are free, but they are conditioned by the fashion of the day. There is no open violence such as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to match mass standards frequently prevent independent-minded people giving their contribution to public life. There is a dangerous tendency to flock together and shut off successful development. I have received letters in America from highly intelligent persons, maybe a teacher in a faraway small college who could do much for the renewal and salvation of his country, but his country cannot hear him because the media are not interested in him. This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, to blindness, which is most dangerous in our dynamic era. There is, for instance, a self-deluding interpretation of the contemporary world situation. It works as a sort of a petrified armor around people’s minds. Human voices from 17 countries of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia cannot pierce it. It will only be broken by the pitiless crowbar of events.

I have mentioned a few traits of Western life which surprise and shock a new arrival to this world. The purpose and scope of this speech will not allow me to continue such a review, to look into the influence of these Western characteristics on important aspects of a nation’s life, such as elementary education, advanced education in the humanities and art.

It is almost universally recognized that the West shows all the world a way to successful economic development, even though in the past years it has been strongly disturbed by chaotic inflation. However, many people living in the West are dissatisfied with their own society. They despise it or accuse it of not being up to the level of maturity attained by mankind. A number of such critics turn to socialism, which is a false and dangerous current.

I hope that no one present will suspect me of offering my personal criticism of the Western system to present socialism as an alternative. Having experienced — Having experienced applied socialism in a country where the alternative has been realized, I certainly will not speak for it. The well-known Soviet mathematician Shafarevich, a member of the Soviet Academy of Science, has written a brilliant book under the title Socialism; it is a profound analysis showing that socialism of any type and shade leads to a total destruction of the human spirit and to a leveling of mankind into death. Shafarevich’s book was published in France — Shafarevich’s book was published in France almost two years ago and so far no one has been found to refute it. It will shortly be published in the United States.

But should someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just mentioned are extremely saddening.

A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger — 60 years for our people and 30 years for the people of Eastern Europe. During that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. Life’s complexity and mortal weight have produced stronger, deeper, and more interesting characters than those generally [produced] by standardized Western well-being.

Therefore, if our society were to be transformed into yours, it would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but also a change for the worse on some particularly significant scores. It is true, no doubt, that a society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness, as is the case in our country. But it is also demeaning for it to elect such mechanical legalistic smoothness as you have. After the suffering of many years of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer, and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor, and by intolerable music.

There are meaningful warnings which history gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen. There are open and evident warnings, too. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.

But the fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their offensive; you can feel their pressure, and yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?

Very well known representatives of your society, such as George Kennan, say: We cannot apply moral criteria to politics. Thus, we mix good and evil, right and wrong, and make space for the absolute triumph of absolute Evil in the world. On the contrary, only moral criteria can help the West against communism’s well planned world strategy. There are no other criteria. Practical or occasional considerations of any kind will inevitably be swept away by strategy. After a certain level of the problem has been reached, legalistic thinking induces paralysis; it prevents one from seeing the size and meaning of events.

In spite of the abundance of information, or maybe because of it, the West has difficulties in understanding reality such as it is. There have been naive predictions by some American experts who believed that Angola would become the Soviet Union’s Vietnam or that Cuban expeditions in Africa would best be stopped by special U.S. courtesy to Cuba. Kennan’s advice to his own country — to begin unilateral disarmament — belongs to the same category. If you only knew how the youngest of the Kremlin officials laugh at your political wizards. As to Fidel Castro, he frankly scorns the United States, sending his troops to distant adventures from his country right next to yours.

However, the most cruel mistake occurred with the failure to understand the Vietnam war. Some people sincerely wanted all wars to stop just as soon as possible; others believed that there should be room for national, or communist, self-determination in Vietnam, or in Cambodia, as we see today with particular clarity. But members of the U.S. anti-war movement wound up being involved in the betrayal of Far Eastern nations, in a genocide and in the suffering today imposed on 30 million people there. Do those convinced pacifists hear the moans coming from there? Do they understand their responsibility today? Or do they prefer not to hear?

The American Intelligentsia lost its nerve and as a consequence thereof danger has come much closer to the United States. But there is no awareness of this. Your shortsighted politicians who signed the hasty Vietnam capitulation seemingly gave America a carefree breathing pause; however, a hundredfold Vietnam now looms over you. That small Vietnam had been a warning and an occasion to mobilize the nation’s courage. But if a full-fledged America suffered a real defeat from a small communist half-country, how can the West hope to stand firm in the future?

I have had occasion already to say that in the 20th century Western democracy has not won any major war without help and protection from a powerful continental ally whose philosophy and ideology it did not question. In World War II against Hitler, instead of winning that war with its own forces, which would certainly have been sufficient, Western democracy grew and cultivated another enemy who would prove worse, as Hitler never had so many resources and so many people, nor did he offer any attractive ideas, or have a large number of supporters in the West as the Soviet Union. At present, some Western voices already have spoken of obtaining protection from a third power against aggression in the next world conflict, if there is one. In this case the shield would be China. But I would not wish such an outcome to any country in the world. First of all, it is again a doomed alliance with Evil; also, it would grant the United States a respite, but when at a later date China with its billion people would turn around armed with American weapons, America itself would fall prey to a genocide similar to the in Cambodia in our days.

And yet — no weapons, no matter how powerful, can help the West until it overcomes its loss of willpower. In a state of psychological weakness, weapons become a burden for the capitulating side. To defend oneself, one must also be ready to die; there is little such readiness in a society raised in the cult of material well-being. Nothing is left, then, but concessions, attempts to gain time, and betrayal. Thus at the shameful Belgrade conference free Western diplomats in their weakness surrendered the line where enslaved members of Helsinki Watchgroups are sacrificing their lives.

Western thinking has become conservative: the world situation should stay as it is at any cost; there should be no changes. This debilitating dream of a status quo is the symptom of a society which has come to the end of its development. But one must be blind in order not to see that oceans no longer belong to the West, while land under its domination keeps shrinking. The two so-called world wars (they were by far not on a world scale, not yet) have meant internal self-destruction of the small, progressive West which has thus prepared its own end. The next war (which does not have to be an atomic one and I do not believe it will) may well bury Western civilization forever.

Facing such a danger, with such splendid historical values in your past, at such a high level of realization of freedom and of devotion to freedom, how is it possible to lose to such an extent the will to defend oneself?

How has this unfavorable relation of forces come about? How did the West decline from its triumphal march to its present sickness? Have there been fatal turns and losses of direction in its development? It does not seem so. The West kept advancing socially in accordance with its proclaimed intentions, with the help of brilliant technological progress. And all of a sudden it found itself in its present state of weakness.

This means that the mistake must be at the root, at the very basis of human thinking in the past centuries. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was first born during the Renaissance and found its political expression from the period of the Enlightenment. It became the basis for government and social science and could be defined as rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the proclaimed and enforced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of everything that exists.

The turn introduced by the Renaissance evidently was inevitable historically. The Middle Ages had come to a natural end by exhaustion, becoming an intolerable despotic repression of man’s physical nature in favor of the spiritual one. Then, however, we turned our backs upon the Spirit and embraced all that is material with excessive and unwarranted zeal. This new way of thinking, which had imposed on us its guidance, did not admit the existence of intrinsic evil in man nor did it see any higher task than the attainment of happiness on earth. It based modern Western civilization on the dangerous trend to worship man and his material needs. Everything beyond physical well-being and accumulation of material goods, all other human requirements and characteristics of a subtler and higher nature, were left outside the area of attention of state and social systems, as if human life did not have any superior sense. That provided access for evil, of which in our days there is a free and constant flow. Merely freedom does not in the least solve all the problems of human life and it even adds a number of new ones.

However, in early democracies, as in the American democracy at the time of its birth, all individual human rights were granted because man is God’s creature. That is, freedom was given to the individual conditionally, in the assumption of his constant religious responsibility. Such was the heritage of the preceding thousand years. Two hundred or even fifty years ago, it would have seemed quite impossible, in America, that an individual could be granted boundless freedom simply for the satisfaction of his instincts or whims. Subsequently, however, all such limitations were discarded everywhere in the West; a total liberation occurred from the moral heritage of Christian centuries with their great reserves of mercy and sacrifice. State systems were — State systems were becoming increasingly and totally materialistic. The West ended up by truly enforcing human rights, sometimes even excessively, but man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. In the past decades, the legalistically selfish aspect of Western approach and thinking has reached its final dimension and the world wound up in a harsh spiritual crisis and a political impasse. All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the 20th century’s moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the 19th Century.

As humanism in its development became more and more materialistic, it made itself increasingly accessible to speculation and manipulation by socialism and then by communism. So that Karl Marx was able to say that “communism is naturalized humanism.”

This statement turned out not to be entirely senseless. One does see the same stones in the foundations of a despiritualized humanism and of any type of socialism: endless materialism; freedom from religion and religious responsibility, which under communist regimes reach the stage of anti-religious dictatorships; concentration on social structures with a seemingly scientific approach. This is typical of the Enlightenment in the 18th Century and of Marxism. Not by coincidence all of communism’s meaningless pledges and oaths are about Man, with a capital M, and his earthly happiness. At first glance it seems an ugly parallel: common traits in the thinking and way of life of today’s West and today’s East? But such is the logic of materialistic development.

The interrelationship is such, too, that the current of materialism which is most to the left always ends up by being stronger, more attractive, and victorious, because it is more consistent. Humanism without its Christian heritage cannot resist such competition. We watch this process in the past centuries and especially in the past decades, on a world scale as the situation becomes increasingly dramatic. Liberalism was inevitably displaced by radicalism; radicalism had to surrender to socialism; and socialism could never resist communism. The communist regime in the East could stand and grow due to the enthusiastic support from an enormous number of Western intellectuals who felt a kinship and refused to see communism’s crimes. And when they no longer could do so, they tried to justify them. In our Eastern countries, communism has suffered a complete ideological defeat; it is zero and less than zero. But Western intellectuals still look at it with interest and with empathy, and this is precisely what makes it so immensely difficult for the West to withstand the East.

I am not examining here the case of a world war disaster and the changes which it would produce in society. As long as we wake up every morning under a peaceful sun, we have to lead an everyday life. There is a disaster, however, which has already been under way for quite some time. I am referring to the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness.

To such consciousness, man is the touchstone in judging everything on earth — imperfect man, who is never free of pride, self-interest, envy, vanity, and dozens of other defects. We are now experiencing the consequences of mistakes which had not been noticed at the beginning of the journey. On the way from the Renaissance to our days we have enriched our experience, but we have lost the concept of a Supreme Complete Entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility. We have placed too much hope in political and social reforms, only to find out that we were being deprived of our most precious possession: our spiritual life. In the East, it is destroyed by the dealings and machinations of the ruling party. In the West, commercial interests suffocate it. This is the real crisis. The split in the world is less terrible — The split in the world is less terrible than the similarity of the disease plaguing its main sections.

If humanism were right in declaring that man is born only to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot be unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one’s life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it. It is imperative to review the table of widespread human values. Its present incorrectness is astounding. It is not possible that assessment of the President’s performance be reduced to the question how much money one makes or of unlimited availability of gasoline. Only voluntary, inspired self-restraint can raise man above the world stream of materialism.

It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times. Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man’s life and society’s activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?

If the world has not come to its end, it has approached a major turn in history, equal in importance to the turn from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. It will exact from us a spiritual upsurge: We shall have to rise to a new height of vision, to a new level of life where our physical nature will not be cursed as in the Middle Ages, but, even more importantly, our spiritual being will not be trampled upon as in the Modern era.

This ascension will be similar to climbing onto the next anthropologic stage. No one on earth has any other way left but — upward.

Source: Solzhenitsyn’s Prophetic 1978 Indictment of the West – Full Text (Harvard Speech)

Top Weekly Stories from ChristianNews.net for 02/23/2019

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“The most disgusting thing about the Jussie Smollett hoax is the left WANTS to believe that everybody who wears a MAGA hat is racist & willing to attack a man for his skin color & sexual orientation.” —Liz Wheeler

IT WAS A DEEP STATE SET-UP: Trump Campaign Volunteer Papadopoulos Introduced to ‘Russian’ Mifsud by FBI in London! — The Gateway Pundit

As the Mueller Investigation and the corrupt FBI investigations unravel we are finding out additional information on how the Trump team was set up by US and foreign agents. London appears to be the hotbed for spies from all countries and that’s where the Trump sham appears to have started.

Candidate Trump’s unpaid volunteer George Papadopoulos was indicted by the Mueller team for lying.  We still don’t know what he lied about, but we are finding out about the FBI’s involvement in setting him up.

Papadopoulos was in an interview with former Secret Agent and author Dan Bongino when he shared this –

via IT WAS A DEEP STATE SET-UP: Trump Campaign Volunteer Papadopoulos Introduced to ‘Russian’ Mifsud by FBI in London! — The Gateway Pundit

23 february (preached 24 february 1856) 365 Days with Spurgeon

A solemn warning for all churches

“Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.” Revelation 3:4

suggested further reading: John 14:18–24

Do you meet with many men who hold communion with Christ? Though they may be godly men, upright men, ask them if they hold communion with Christ, and will they understand you? If you give them some of those sweetly spiritual books, that those who hold fellowship love to read, they will say they are mystical, and they do not love them. Ask them whether they can spend an hour in meditation upon Christ, whether they ever rise to heaven and lay their head on the breast of the Saviour, whether they ever know what it is to enter into rest and get into Canaan; whether they understand how he has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; whether they can often say,

“Abundant sweetness while I sing

Thy love, my ravish’d heart o’erflows;

Secure in thee my God and King

Of glory that no period knows.”

Ask them that, and they will say, “We don’t comprehend you.” Now, the reason of it is in the first part of my sermon—they have defiled their garments, and therefore Christ will not walk with them. He says “Those that have not defiled their garments shall walk with me.” Those who hold fast the truth, who take care to be free from the prevailing sins of the times, “These,” he says, “shall walk with me; they shall be in constant fellowship with me; I will let them see that I am bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh; I will bring them into the banqueting-house; my banner over them shall be love; they shall drink wine on the lees well refined; they shall have the secrets of the Lord revealed unto them, because they are the people who truly fear me: they shall walk with me in white.”

for meditation: Do you have to confess that you have no idea what Spurgeon is talking about? If so, he must be talking about you!

sermon no. 68[1]


[1] Spurgeon, C. H., & Crosby, T. P. (1998). 365 Days with Spurgeon (Volume 1) (p. 61). Leominster, UK: Day One Publications.

23 FEBRUARY 365 Days with Calvin

Imparting Wisdom

My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding. Psalm 49:3

suggested further reading: Proverbs 8:1–12

The prophet rightly applies commendatory terms to the doctrine which he is about to communicate. He does this by speaking as one who would apply his own mind to instruction rather than to only assume the office of exhortation. He puts himself forward as a humble scholar, who, in acting the part of teacher, also has a concern for his own improvement.

All ministers of God should have a similar spirit, disposing them to regard God as their own teacher as well as of the common people. They must first embrace that divine word which they then preach to others.

The psalmist had another goal in mind. He prefers to give deference and weight to the doctrine he teaches by announcing that he has no intention to offer fancies of his own but to advance only what he has learned in the school of God. This is the true method of instruction to be followed in the church.

The man who holds the office of teacher must apply himself to receiving truth before attempting to communicate it. In this manner he becomes the means of conveying to the hands of others what God has committed to his own. Wisdom is not the growth of human genius. It must be sought from above. It is impossible for anyone to speak with the propriety and knowledge necessary for the edification of the church who has not, in the first place, been taught at the feet of the Lord.

for meditation: It is easy for us to think we are capable of dispensing wisdom and understanding, but we cannot do so without first receiving it from God himself. Let us remember that we have nothing to give that we have not first received—and that we are to use what we have received for the edification of all around us.[1]


[1] Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 72). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.

If Working with Moscow Is ‘Collusion,’ It’s a Bipartisan Offense — National Review

President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the G8 meeting in Naples in 1994. (Peter Jones/Reuters)

D.C. has been delusional about the Kremlin since the 1990s.

When the “collusion” music stopped, was Donald Trump the guy left without a chair?

If the latest reporting is accurate, we’ll find out soon enough. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is said to be wrapping up his probe. His final report could be submitted to Attorney General William Barr in a matter of days.

Did Trump and his presidential campaign “collude with Russia” in the sense of conspiring to commit cyberespionage? That is, were they complicit in Russian intelligence’s hacking attacks on Democratic-party email accounts? There has been no indication that Mueller has such evidence. That is significant because Mueller is a prosecutor. Notwithstanding the irregular counterintelligence framework of the special counsel’s appointment, the principal job of a prosecutor is to determine whether crimes were committed. Espionage conspiracy is the collusion crime that launched the investigation.

Of course, as we’ve repeatedly observed, not all “collusion” is criminally conspiratorial — even if some of it involves dirty politics or is otherwise unsavory. It is easy to evaluate crime: A person is either guilty or not guilty of conduct Congress has criminalized; if the proof is there, he should be convicted. But when behavior is not criminal, yet we are being urged to condemn it because it was undertaken with a particular country, shouldn’t we evaluate how our government has regarded that country?

When it comes to “collusion with Russia,” there was an awful lot of that going on in the Bipartisan Beltway throughout the quarter century before Trump launched his White House bid.

Cro-Magnon blowhards like your humble correspondent have never warmed up to Moscow. So we’ve complained about the New Thinking, regardless of whether it was incumbent Republicans or Democrats delusionally portraying Moscow as a perfectly normal country with which to do business, make lots of money, and even ally.

Washington, however, has preferred to stay delusional.

For most of his eight-year tenure, President Bill Clinton flaunted his warm relationship with Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first post-Soviet president. Clinton committed to support Moscow with financial assistance, including subsidies to adjust decommissioned military officers and nuclear scientists to the new order. In 1997, Clinton prevailed upon our G-7 allies to make it the G-8 by admitting Russia, giving it greater influence over global trend-setting by the world’s leading economies, despite the fact that Russia was not one of them. Moreover, given the prominence of Ukraine in the Trump collusion narrative, recall Clinton’s collusion with Russia in the “Trilateral Statement,” which purported to guarantee Ukraine’s security. Why would Kiev need to keep its nuclear arsenal when its neighbor, Moscow, had reformed? After all, the Iron Curtain was history and we were now paying out the “peace dividend,” right?

Then there was President George W. Bush peering into Vladimir Putin’s soul, finding a “trustworthy” ally. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined our new “strategic partner” in an agreement to help Russia amass the technology, material, and equipment needed to improve its nuclear research and power production — for “civilian” purposes only, of course. Bush enthusiastically seconded Clinton’s proposal that Russia be admitted to the World Trade Organization, even though its corrupt economic policies and practices undermine the market-based norms the WTO is meant to fortify.

Meanwhile, an up and coming Democratic senator, Barack Obama, was working bipartisan magic with Senate Republicans, pushing Kiev to think bolder than just giving up its nukes; Ukraine needed to surrender its conventional arsenals, too. But wait, what about protection from possible Russian invasions? Please . . . that was foreign-policy thinking for a bygone time.

Of course, Putin humiliated the Bush administration and Congress’s bipartisan Russia accommodationists by invading Georgia, annexing swathes of its territory in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The White House quietly withdrew the ballyhooed U.S.–Russia Civilian Nuclear Power Agreement from congressional consideration. No matter: Even as Russia continued its Georgian occupation, President Obama revived the agreement in 2010, insisting that the pact promoted U.S. national security. To appease Putin, the president also shelved Bush’s plans for missile-defense installations in Eastern Europe.

Those were just two aspects of Obama’s heralded “Russia Reset,” championed with key assistance from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Trade with Russia Is a Win-Win.” That was the headline of Secretary Clinton’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, in which she applauded Russia’s formal entry into the WTO. It was crucial, she explained, because Russia was just a great place for Americans to do business, and our commerce could now blossom since the Obama administration had made Moscow “a normal trading partner.” Sure, the Putin regime posed many challenges, but Clinton maintained that “it is in our long-term strategic interest to collaborate with Russia in areas where our interests overlap.”

Collaborate? That sounds almost like collu — well, never mind.

Clinton somehow decided that one of these collaborative areas should be technology. Under her guidance, the State Department teamed up with their Kremlin counterparts to help erect Moscow’s version of Silicon Valley — Skolkovo — despite FBI and Defense Department warnings that the project would enhance Russia’s military and cyber capabilities. Indeed, Clinton was sufficiently unconcerned about Russian cyberespionage that she even emailed President Obama while she was visiting Moscow, using her non-secure server system. (See FBI July 2, 2016, interview of Mrs. Clinton, page two.)

In the interim, an administration security panel on which sat Secretary Clinton and Obama Attorney General Eric Holder — the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States — green-lighted the acquisition of major U.S. uranium reserves by Russia’s regime-controlled energy giant, Rosatom. The transaction — specifically, the sale of a company called Uranium One — was approved even though the Justice Department had an active racketeering investigation against Rosatom’s U.S. subsidiary, and even though the U.S. does not produce enough uranium to meet our own energy production needs.

Clinton did not recuse herself from the matter despite her deep self-interest. The Clinton Foundation had reaped tens of millions of dollars in “donations” from Uranium One investors when former President Clinton intervened with Kazakhstan to help them acquire uranium reserves. Secretary Clinton’s State Department intervened on the investors’ behalf when Russia moved in on the Kazakh assets. Former President Clinton traveled to Russia while the Uranium One approval process was pending — first asking the State Department for an okay to meet with a Rosatom board member (Arkady Dvorkovich); then meeting with Putin and his factotum, Dimitry Medvedev; and finally collecting a tidy $500,000 (his biggest speech payday ever) for a brief talk sponsored by a Kremlin-backed bank (Renaissance Capital).

Then there was Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, during which — not realizing his mic was hot — the president, in hushed tones at a March conference in Seoul, asked Medvedev to assure Putin that he’d have “more flexibility” to accommodate Russia on missile defense and other contentious issues once the race was won.

Obama might be flexible with Putin, but he was harsh toward his Republican opponent. The president mocked Mitt Romney for describing Russia as a “geopolitical foe.” “The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back,” Obama snarked during the final debate. Hadn’t Romney heard that “the Cold War has been over for 20 years”? He elaborated that Romney’s desire to return to 1980s security thinking was of a piece with the GOP’s purported desire to revive the “social policy of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s.” That is, to see Russia as a hostile power that meant America harm was like wanting to revive Jim Crow and the protectionist practices that helped ignite the Great Depression. Makes sense, right?

Putin, naturally, responded to Obama’s blandishments by rolling out the red carpet for Edward Snowden and the mounds of U.S. defense secrets he had stolen; annexing Crimea and fomenting war in Eastern Ukraine; and introducing Russian forces into Syria to prop up the Assad regime. Obama’s response was muted: a few targeted sanctions after the Crimea provocation. After all, the president needed Russia’s cooperation to get his cherished Iran nuclear deal done.

Speaking just for myself — one of those benighted Mitt Romney types — I think Russia’s a menace. We shouldn’t pretend that it is anything else. But let’s be real: The reason we have been talking about “collusion” for over two years is not that the political establishment is finally convinced that Moscow is malevolent; it is that Hillary Clinton lost an election because she was a poor candidate and got outworked.

If Bob Mueller has found no crime but people still want to agitate over “collusion” with Russia, that’s fine by me. But if we’re going to talk about it, we should talk about all of it.

via If Working with Moscow Is ‘Collusion,’ It’s a Bipartisan Offense — National Review

February 23, 2019 Morning Verse Of The Day

5. Roll thy ways upon Jehovah. Here David illustrates and confirms the doctrine contained in the preceding verse. In order that God may accomplish our desires, it behoves us to cast all our cares upon him in the exercise of hope and patience. Accordingly, we are taught from this passage how to preserve our minds in tranquillity amidst anxieties, dangers, and floods of trouble. There can be no doubt, that by the term ways we are here to understand all affairs or businesses. The man, therefore, who, leaving the issue of all his affairs to the will of God, and who, patiently waiting to receive from his hand whatever he may be pleased to send, whether prosperity or adversity, casts all his cares, and every other burden which he bears, into his bosom; or, in other words, commits to him all his affairs,—such a person rolls his ways upon Jehovah. Hence, David again inculcates the duty of hope and confidence in God: And trust in him. By this he intimates, that we render to him the honour to which he is entitled only when we intrust to him the government and direction of our lives; and thus he provides a remedy for a disease with which almost all men are infected. Whence is it that the children of God are envious of the wicked, and are often in trouble and perplexity, and yield to excess of sorrow, and sometimes even murmur and repine, but because, by involving themselves immoderately in endless cares, and cherishing too eagerly a desire to provide for themselves irrespective of God, they plunge, as it were, into an abyss, or at least accumulate to themselves such a vast load of cares, that they are forced at last to sink under them? Desirous to provide a remedy for this evil, David warns us, that in presuming to take upon us the government of our own life, and to provide for all our affairs as if we were able to bear so great a burden, we are greatly deceived, and that, therefore, our only remedy is to fix our eyes upon the providence of God, and to draw from it consolation in all our sorrows. Those who obey this counsel shall escape that horrible labyrinth in which all men labour in vain; for when God shall once have taken the management of our affairs into his own hand, there is no reason to fear that prosperity shall ever fail us. Whence is it that he forsakes us and disappoints our expectations, if it is not because we provoke him, by pretending to greater wisdom and understanding than we possess? If, therefore, we would only permit him, he will perform his part, and will not disappoint our expectations, which he sometimes does as a just punishment for our unbelief.

6. And he will bring forth thy righteousness as the light. This David says, in order to anticipate the misgivings which often trouble us when we seem to lose our labour in faithfully serving God, and in dealing uprightly with our neighbours; nay, when our integrity is either exposed to the calumnies of the wicked, or is the occasion of injury to us from men; for then it is thought to be of no account in the sight of God. David, therefore, declares, that God will not suffer our righteousness to be always hid in darkness, but that he will maintain it and bring it forth to the light; namely, when he will bestow upon us such a reward as we desire. He alludes to the darkness of the night, which is soon dispelled by the dawning of the day; as if he had said, We may be often grievously oppressed, and God may not seem to approve our innocence, yet this vicissitude should no more disturb our minds than the darkness of the night which covers the earth; for then the expectation of the light of day sustains our hope.[1]


5–6 The psalmist returns to a reflection on the meaning of trusting the Lord (vv. 5–6). Trust in the Lord is, on the one hand, expressed in active obedience, in reliance on the Lord (vv. 3–4). On the other hand, trust is a fervent expectation of his justice, which for the righteous will mark the revelation of their glory. The exhortation to “commit” one’s way to the Lord is not simple abandonment. It involves full commitment to “roll away” or “cast” on the Lord one’s feelings of anger, resentment, and jealousy (cf. 55:22; Pr 16:3; 1 Pe 5:7).

The “way” pertains to one’s whole life, including negative feelings, nagging questions, and concerns of justice. God expects his children to be children and to put themselves completely under his fatherly care. While in v. 3 trust was expressed by “doing good,” v. 5 expresses trust as waiting for the Lord to act.

The Lord is righteous and just! Therefore by faith the wise have the assurance that he will extend righteousness and justice to his own. “Righteousness” (ṣedeq, GK 7406) and “justice” (mišpāṭ, GK 5477) refer to the evidences of God’s rule over this world, when he establishes the righteous order, and when he glorifies his children. They will enjoy all the covenantal promises (A. A. Anderson, 1:294). The glory will be unveiled like the rising sun at dawn and like the bright light at noon (v. 6; cf. Pr 4:18; Isa 58:8; Mal 4:2; Mt 13:43). Faith says to this promise, “It is true.” The righteous may suffer from evildoers (v. 1), but they live in the hope of the day when God will deal justly with evil. Then the light of the children of God will be like that of the noonday sun. (For a prophetic description of this great day, see Isa 58:10b; 60:1–3, 18–21.)[2]

ג (37:5–6)


. See also Prov 16:3. The essence of living faith is concisely described. The acts of commitment and trust function like a trigger, releasing God’s capacity to act. But it is not always evident that God acts in response to faith, and consequently the “righteousness” and “justice” of the faithful may often be veiled. The conviction expressed in v 6 is that setbacks are temporary, like clouds obscuring the sun, but that eventually God will move the clouds away to let the true light appear.[3]


[Str. III. Vers. 5, 6. Roll thy way upon Jehovah.—Comp. Ps. 22:8; Prov. 16:3; 1 Peter 5:7. The way here refers to the whole course of life, with its troubles and cares. These God will assume together with the care of the way of those who trust in Him.—He will do it, that is, He will accomplish what they cannot do and will bring it to a good end, as Pss 22:31; 52:9. This is still further carried out in the next verse. Jehovah will cause thy righteousness, which is now in the darkness of night, to go up as the light, or the daylight, the dawning sun; and then still more emphatically: thy right as the noonday, the clearest, brightest and fullest light. Comp. Isa. 58:10; Job 11:17; also Job 5:14; Isa. 59:10; Amos 8:9.—C. A. B.][4]


37:5, 6 Or it may be that you have been misquoted, falsely accused or slandered. If there were some shred of truth to the charges they wouldn’t be so hard to take. But they are absolutely untrue and malicious. What should you do? Commit the entire matter to the Lord. Roll the whole weight of it onto Him. Let Him act on your behalf, and then you will be completely vindicated. It will become clear for all to see that you were innocent after all. Barnes says:

If you are slandered, if your character is assailed and seems for the time to be under a cloud, if reproach comes upon you from the devices of wicked men in such a way that you cannot meet it—then, if you will commit the case to God, He will protect your character, and will cause the clouds to disperse, and all to be as clear in reference to your character and the motives of your conduct as the sun without a cloud.[5]


[1] Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 2, pp. 21–22). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 342). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Craigie, P. C. (2004). Psalms 1–50 (2nd ed., Vol. 19, p. 297). Nashville, TN: Nelson Reference & Electronic.

[4] Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Moll, C. B., Briggs, C. A., Forsyth, J., Hammond, J. B., … Conant, T. J. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Psalms (p. 255). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 603–604). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.