Intermezzo: Guest Blog by Jarrett Stepman

We Must Heed Lincoln’s Warning About Mob Rule

2021-01-07 Intermezzo JSby Jarrett Stepman @JarrettStepman / January 06, 2021 /
Jarrett Stepman is a contributor to The Daily Signal and co-host of The Right Side of History podcast. Send an email to Jarrett. He is also the author of the new book, “The War on History: The Conspiracy to Rewrite America’s Past.”

Abraham Lincoln warned us: Mob rule begets mob rule.
On Wednesday, as Congress convened to certify an Electoral College vote of the 2020 presidential election, a mass of people broke into the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.  They climbed the building, smashed windows, entered offices, and even entered the House and Senate chambers.  It was a bizarre scene, to say the least.

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Taking selfies and engaging in photo ops from the House speaker’s chair certainly puts a modern twist on this 21st-century reenactment of the Vandals’ sack of Rome in 455 A.D.  But it wasn’t just window-smashing and photo ops.  The intrusion also turned deadly.  A woman was shot and killed.

There will also be questions as to how a group of people, no matter how large, was able to push their way inside the Capitol and stay inside for several hours.  So, what’s to be made of all this?

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The right to peacefully assemble and protest is an essential one guaranteed by the Constitution.  Breaking into and vandalizing federal property — for whatever cause — is not.  Regardless of the original message of the protests, those who orchestrated the break-in to federal property deserve condemnation.  It’s a violation of the rule of law, not to mention a federal crime.

Certainly, many on both the left and right came out quickly to condemn the violence.  It would, however, be a mistake to see what happened in isolation.

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Let’s not forget that Washington, D.C. — as with many other cities across the country — had already been beset last year by mobs and waves of violent riots.  When rioters lit fires, smashed windows, toppled statues, and physically and verbally assaulted political opponents in the name of Black Lives Matter this summer, the result was that a street was named for the movement in front of the White House.

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The violence wasn’t limited to just Washington.  Around the country, large swaths of cities were set ablaze as police departments became overwhelmed, and politicians did little to stop it.  A lawless “autonomous” zone was created in the middle of downtown Seattle, which led to widespread property damage and several deaths.  Many hopped aboard calls to defund the police, rather than defending the police while they were besieged.  And more than a few turned down federal aid when it was clear that things had spun out of control.

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Portland, Oregon, had the highest spike of violent crime in the entire country — impressive given the nearly unprecedented national surge in violent crime.  That is the consequence of rampant lawlessness.

When Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., dared to suggest in an op-ed in the pages of The New York Times that overwhelmed police departments should have the ability to request aid from the military, the Times newsroom rebelled, and he was called an authoritarian.  Yet, Cotton aptly called the lawless riots what they were: mob rule.

Mob rule, whether conducted by members of Black Lives Matter or people wearing MAGA hats, is a threat to law and order.  Not only that, it’s a threat to liberty, too.  It violates the very essence of the Constitution, of the belief that the people ultimately rule.  And as Abraham Lincoln warned in his famed 1838 Lyceum Address, mob law when left unchecked begets more mob law.  When portions of the population think that violence is the path to victory, where the rules of the system don’t have to be followed, it is only natural for others to think that mob law is the law.  Under mobocracy, even those inclined to follow the law may eventually lose faith in the government.

Lincoln warned:
Good men, men who love tranquility, who desire to abide by the laws, and enjoy their benefits, who would gladly spill their blood in the defense of their country; seeing their property destroyed; their families insulted, and their lives endangered; their persons injured; and seeing nothing in prospect that forebodes a change for the better; become tired of, and disgusted with, a government that offers them no protection; and are not much averse to a change in which they imagine they have nothing to lose. Thus, then, by the operation of this mobocractic spirit, which all must admit, is now abroad in the land, the strongest bulwark of any Government, and particularly of those constituted like ours, may effectually be broken down and destroyed.

Even if we believe that our system has become corrupted, that injustice rather than justice has prevailed, it is still the wiser course to appeal to ballots, protest, and petition rather than violence.  The American Revolution, which ultimately ended in war and the overthrow of British rule, was for the most part an orderly affair.  Even within a system that did not provide representative government, the Founders appealed to law and negotiation first, second, and third before resorting to violence.  And once committed to revolution, they knew there was no going back.

We shouldn’t forget that the storming of the Bastille, as grave as the depredations of the French monarchy had sometimes been, led to mass violence and tyranny, not ordered liberty.

Most Americans understand this.  But make no mistake, unlike this summer’s riots — which countless media outlets distorted and misrepresented to excuse and minimize — there will absolutely be efforts to portray every Trump supporter as a violent insurrectionist.  And politicians will use that to justify curtailing the God-given rights of citizens who disagree with them.

Many have condemned the intrusion and vandalizing of the Capitol Building, as they should, but we should also not forget the fact that mob rule and lawlessness have destroyed the lives of countless Americans over the past year and has eroded our country’s attachment to the rule of law.  This should have always been unacceptable.

Lincoln’s warning in 1838 was ignored, and a generation of Americans paid a terrible price in blood for it. Let us learn from the past instead of tearing it down.  Regardless of the corruption of our institutions, the better path forward is to support the rule of law, reform old institutions or build new ones, and plan for the long term of sustaining this federal republic that we would surely like to keep.

“Lord, Let Me Grow Old Like Walter.”

2020-11-21 Grow Old With MeHow can we grow old gracefully? By this I mean that you can live at peace, gently interacting with others, eat enough food to stay healthy, wear clothes that are adequate for your weather, sleep quietly in a safe room, and rest from the trials of life.

This will allow you to enjoy your golden years
“before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened
and the clouds return after the rain,
in the day when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men are bent,
and the grinders cease because they are few,
and those who look through the windows are dimmed,
and the doors on the street are shut,
when the sound of the grinding is low,
and one rises up at the sound of a bird,
and all the daughters of song are brought low,
and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home,
and the mourners go about the streets,
before the silver cord is snapped,
or the golden bowl is broken,
or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain,
or the wheel broken at the cistern,
and the dust returns to the earth as it was,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
(Ecclesiastes 12:2-7)

There are three properties we need in order to grow old gracefully: Trust, Mercy and Grace.

Trust is necessary as we begin to find many things slipping out of our control.  We cannot hear the news reports as clearly and information seems to accumulate faster than we can digest it.  Attention to details of what we own and where things are stored begins to fade, and if you do not trust those around you, you will constantly feel in danger of losing something valuable.

Trust in any person and you will be disappointed at some time; probably more than once!  Even trusting our God leaves us sometimes with confusion and wondering if He really knows what He is doing.  But that is when the tires of our trust must truly engage the terrain.  “Nothing happens TO a Christ-follower; filtered by His love, it only happens FOR us.” (Lane Martin)

Do we really believe that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose?”  If so, then trust becomes an essential not just of our spiritual life, but of every aspect of life, including the people we trust, the weather we enjoy or endure, the supposed “accidents” that happen, the deterioration of our minds and decay of our bodies.  We must recognize Father brings people into our sphere of influence (and influence over us) as part of His plan, and if we trust HIM, it will extend to the people and circumstances around us.

And that is where Mercy comes in.  As we put our trust in flawed humans they will fail us, often unintentionally. But they will also misuse us, steal from us or take advantage of us.  But remember, HE allows it! 

So we must be prepared to forgive them, even before they ask for it, and sometimes they may never do so.  We are still responsible to Father to forgive them from our hearts – !  That is SOOOO hard to do, but God does not give us an option here.  If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”  (See Matthew 5:43-48 and 6:14-15.)

And mercy will extend Grace to those who do not deserve it.  Whereas mercy is not getting the bad that we deserve, grace is defined as unmerited favor; i.e. getting something good that we do not deserve.  Just as we have received grace from The God Who Is Here, He expects us to extend that same grace to those who offend us. (See Matthew 18:21-35.)  After all, “we are all broken people to one degree or another.  And God loves using broken people, because that way we know it is Him working out His grace in us.” (Doug Johnston)

A friend told me of two old fellows who died many years ago. His maternal grandfather went to Heaven at 92 year old. Walter had dementia but loved God and was as sweet as apple pie. He trusted his care-givers even when he could not remember their names or that he had ever met them before. He was patient and kind and always grateful whenever anyone did anything for him. Everybody loved Walter, right up to the day he passed away.

Some years later, my friend’s 57 year old father was diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease. His wife once heard him praying, “Lord, let me grow old like Walter.” And he did. As his disease limited his understanding of the world around him and left him often confused about what was happening to him, he also finished this life expressing Trust, Mercy and Grace to those around him.

How can we grow old gracefully? Trust your care-giving Father; give Mercy to any who offend; extend undeserved Grace to everyone God brings across your path. And pray, “Lord, let me grow old like Walter.”

Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand Who saith “A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!”

[the first stanza of Rabbi Ben Ezra” by Robert Browning] (pictured above)

Intermezzo: So Sad. Is This What WE Have Become?

So sad. Is this what we have become?

Streets of Washington, D.C. on November 2, 2020

When Isaiah the prophet met The God Who Is Here he moaned in distress, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.” Notice he did not blame “the sinners” in his society. He did not blame “the protestors,” the idolaters, the child-killers, the ones many perceived as causing problems. He did not blame “the other side.”

He owned his people’s sin. He recognized his complicity and confessed, “I am the man unclean.” It is easiest to see the “others” at fault, and yes, their sin is evident. But Isaiah “saw the LORD” and realized he was as much to blame, because he saw “the other” as someone else. “Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.” (George W. Bush)

So watch the one minute video read the short article at the link (by the same title as the video), and pray, “Woe is me! For I am lost.” It is not that “they” are destroying “us.” It is what WE have become.

https://www.dailysignal.com/2020/11/02

https://capost2k.wordpress.com/commentary-by-virginia-allen/

It Hurts So Bad! How Do You Respond?

Paul Tripp looks into his own heart and sees how easy it is to respond to the crises we face with anger, disgust or hatred, but there is a better path.   It is the way of grace.  I am looking into my own heart and face the same dilemma: How do I respond?  As C.S.Lewis said, “To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”  The Weight of Glory

What Is Your Response? by Paul David Tripp

If you mourn the fallenness of your world rather than curse its difficulties, you know that grace has visited you.

Life in this terribly broken world is hard.  You are constantly dealing with the frustration of this world not operating the way God intended.  You are always facing the unexpected.  Almost daily you are required to deal with something you wouldn’t have chosen for your life, but it’s there because of the location where we live.

Life right here, right now is like living in a disheveled house that has begun to fall down on its own foundation.  It is still a house, but it doesn’t function as it was meant to.  The doors constantly get stuck shut.  The plumbing only occasionally works properly.  You are never sure what’s going to happen when you plug an appliance in, and it seems that the roof leaks even when it’s not raining.  So it is with the world that you and I live in. It really is a broken-down house.

Now, there are really only two responses we can have to the brokenness that complicates all of our lives: cursing or mourning.  Let’s be honest.  Cursing is the more natural response.  We curse the fact that we have to deal with flawed people.  We curse the fact that we have to deal with things that don’t work right.  We curse the fact that we have to deal with pollution and disease.  We curse the fact that promises get broken, relationships shatter, and dreams die.  We curse the realities of pain and suffering.  We curse the fact that this broken-down world has been assigned to be the address where we live.  It all makes us irritated, impatient, bitter, angry, and discontent.  Yes, it’s right not to like these things.  It’s natural to find them frustrating, because as Paul says in Romans 8, the whole world groans as it waits for redemption.

But cursing is the wrong response.  We curse what we have to deal with because it makes our lives harder than we want them to be.  Cursing is all about our comfort, our pleasure, our ease.  Cursing is fundamentally self-centered.

Mourning is the much better response.  Mourning embraces the tragedy of the fall.  Mourning acknowledges that the world is not the way God meant it to be. Mourning cries out for God’s redeeming, restoring hand.  Mourning acknowledges the suffering of others.  Mourning is about something bigger than the fact that life is hard.  Mourning grieves what sin has done to the cosmos and longs for the Redeemer to come and make his broken world new again.  Mourning, then, is a response that is prompted by grace.

This side of eternity in this broken world, cursing is the default language of the kingdom of self, but mourning is the default language of the kingdom of God.  Which language will you speak today?
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2020-08-15 Paul David TrippPaul David Tripp (DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor. He is also the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and the executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. He has written a number of books on Christian living, including What Did You Expect?, Dangerous Calling, and New Morning Mercies.  He lives in Philadelphia with his wife Luella. For more information and resources, visit paultrippministries.org.

 

In Wrath Remember Mercy

2020-06-27 In Wrath Remember Mercy
Sometimes I go through valleys that seem very deep.  Not philosophically, but deep with depression and wondering where is The God Who Is Here.  Is He here?  Does He notice what is going on in the world?  Does He realize my dear friend and neighbor has been getting more and more decrepit from his MS?  Does He see the pain of the protesters and the greed and hatred of others?  Does He understand the hardship of a world struggling with a pandemic while racial riots rock cities all around the globe?

Like Habakkuk I sit back and wonder as I noted in a : O Lord, how long shall I cry for help,and you will not hear?  Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?  Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.  So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth.  For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.” (Habakkuk 1:2-4)

Then I read Father’s answer that He gave the prophet, and like our Old Testament forebear I am somewhat perturbed by His reply.  He’s going to bring something terrible against the evil-doers . . . by way of others who are even worse!  My wisest friend once asked me shortly after the election of 2016, “Do you think Trump could be part of God’s judgment on America?”

And whether he or Obama was the first run of this performance, are the current health and racial trials the second part of Father’s response?  You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” (Habakkuk 1:13)

So Habakkuk stands and waits for God to answer to this second question, which The God Who Is Here resoundingly answers in chapter 2:
“Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own — for how long? . . .
“Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house, to set his nest on high, to be safe from the
reach of harm! . . .
“Woe to him who builds a town with blood
and founds a city on iniquity! . . .
“Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink . . .in order to gaze at their nakedness! . . .
“The violence . . . will overwhelm you, as will the destruction of the beasts that terrifie
d them,
for the blood of man and violence to the earth, to cities and all who dwell in them.

Such is His fury that the prophet, who at first was demanding God do something about the evil he could see, stands and prays, “In wrath remember mercy!” (Habakkuk 3:2), and finally admits his fear: I hear, and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me.” (Habakkuk 3:16)

And so in the quiet time of my depression I ask the protesters, the anti-protesters, the mask-wearers, the mask-avoiders, on whatever side of the political, social or cultural aisles you may be: Please, in wrath, remember mercy.

And I pray with the prophet to the God Who Is Here, Father, please, in Your wrath, remember mercy.

Gentleness In An Angry World

2020-06-15 Gentleness In An Angry World
This guest blog was what was intended for posting last Saturday, June 13, 2020, but was delayed because of WordPress’s frustratingly opaque system of sites added on top of each other that resulted in my losing control of THIS site when I deleted ‘dummy sites’ on which I was trying to practice.  Talk about an object lesson!  So I need to read this over a few times to relearn its lessons that Ms. Laura presents.

The context for this blog is the current outrage in our nation, the intention to “defund the police” in various cities and threats of violence to resolve the tragic murder by police officers of an unarmed black man, George Floyd.  This is compounded by the tension that has been building up under “stay-at-home” orders from the Wuhan Virus restrictions that have messed up so many incomes and family structures.

Laura H. calls us to rediscover the aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, gentleness.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, GENTLENESS, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24)

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by Laura H. of Christar; https://www.christar.org/
Our world is angry, fed up and disgusted about so much right now. It aches for renewal and restoration. Everyone’s got an opinion on everything. On social media, we scream at each other and into echo chambers, furious about racial injustice, police brutality, wearing masks, not wearing masks, economic relief, overcoming the pandemic, all while we wade through a political madness thick with derision.

These things must matter to us who follow Christ. I want you to care and fight for what is right. I want you to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. But, pick a current event and you and I will certainly find something we disagree about.

Let’s complicate matters and layer our global and national turmoil onto our personal piles of struggle. What cracks in your peace become harsh footholds for erosion and brokenness to take hold? For me, it’s my depression, my stress about my café surviving a pandemic, my deep sadness about my family’s current grief, my unfulfilled career goals. What is keeping you up at night that has little to do with the rest of the world’s issues: your panic attacks, your financial worry, your unfulfilled dreams, your craving for approval?

Under all of this, how can you and I demonstrate gentleness in this world? How can we humbly co-exist with differing viewpoints? Even within our churches and mission organizations, how do we settle on an agreement to keep from arguing with each other because our theology differs? Is it even possible?

If you, my African-American sister in Christ, do not sense that I care about your black life, will you ever feel comfortable serving beside me? If you see no point in wearing masks, but I do, will I not resent you for your ignorance and won’t you in turn resent me for my naiveté? If, in five years, you, a Republican, find yourself on the field on the same team with me, a Democrat, will we irritate each other?

Life on the field has just as much conflict and dissension. If our societal and personal conflicts continue to muddle the waters of our teams and our relationships, how can we ever move past pain and distrust on the field? And if we can’t do that, how will we show the world what reconciliation even is? And if we aren’t willing to humbly reduce our tendencies to badger one another, reducing His message of hope to screaming our truth and retreating to our like-minded safety nets, how will Christ’s name be glorified? But it is also not enough to plug our ears and do nothing. So what can we do?

There are a million steps to get to a place in life where these questions reach resolution, but gentleness, manifested as a humble, uninhibited effort toward “bearing with one another” (Ephesians 4:2), is a good place to start.

Gentleness shows up in a heart-felt apology when you realize you have wronged a sibling, a boss or a teammate.
It is in the patience for a neighbor who puts up political signs you plan to vote against.
It shows up in a peaceful protest for justice.
It is asking grieving friends how you can help, sitting with them as they weep.
It is humbly considering if your worldview needs to be realigned after years of assumptions that you are right and others are wrong.
It is listening more than you talk.
It is speaking up when silence sends the wrong message.

We feel the heaviness of our world. So does our Lord. During His years on this earth, Jesus was tired. He was grieved. He was moved with compassion. He wept. It is right to wrestle with the weightiness of a world awaiting renewal as we prepare for cross-cultural ministry right here, right now. We are permitted to struggle as we work to reconcile our view of the world with a life modeling Christ. Jesus was “gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). He is the calm, the peace and the rest for the weary.

As you reflect on all the heavy issues our world and nation are working through, humbly allow God to help you grow in your ability to approach and respond to hard situations with gentleness.

I met a man in hell last week.

“At the end of things, the blessed will say, ‘We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.’  And the lost will say, ‘We were always in Hell.’  And both will speak truly.” C.S. Lewis

I met a man in hell last week.  Note, I did not say he was from hell, nor did I say he was going there nor that I went to hell to meet him.  He is there, even while he is here in this world.  His life is very sad, and whenever he crosses my mind, I will say a prayer for him that maybe someone else will be able to help him see where he is.

From our first meeting, there was a quiet discomfort in working together on a house my company is building.  But he seemed knowledgeable and nice enough.  More importantly he said he had done the flat-work of concrete for the house next to ours, and I had seen that work was all right.  But there it was, in the back of my mind, like a kind of gnat flying around that I could not quite see quickly enough to smack, yet not so big or nasty of a bug to gain my full attention.  So I hired him to do our flat-work and he would come back after we got the walls poured.  If I had been wise, I should have asked the builder of the house next to ours whether he would recommend this man, as I found out later, he had never heard of him.

We finished pouring the walls on May 22, followed by removal of the braces that had supported the ICFs during the pour, and that was followed by the plumber getting the rough in plumbing done for the basement – the work that would need to be below the basement floor.

So by May 27 the plumber finished as we were ready for the pour of the basement floor.  But the flat-work guy would not be available till Monday, June 1, so we thought we could wait for the job to begin.

There were problems with this guy that almost made me delay the pour and hire someone else, but he appealed to me, and part of why I started my company was to help some of the tradesmen I would encounter.

But one thing after another went wrong on the job, and in our communication.  As patient as I was with him, nothing seemed to be right; no one seemed to do their part of the job correctly;  deceit seemed to be common for him, from claiming to be married to claiming to be at one site when he was not there, to claiming his “wife” was out of town when she was not.  I really felt badly for the guy, as nothing ever seemed to work right for him; everybody seemed out to take advantage of him; no one would look out for his interests.  He accused me of ordering the concrete late; not having my act together; not knowing what I wanted to do.

When we resolved matters of how much to pay him, after two days of argument over what equipment he had, what he had promised to do, etc, I asked if we could talk for a few minutes.  Per his standard operating procedure, he said he had too much to do and other places to be, lines I had heard repeatedly in our dealings.  As conciliatory as I tried to be, he left angry and frustrated, that he had again been taken advantage of, and I assure you he was not.

I felt very sad the rest of that day, as I remember being there about 30 years ago when I was not living right.  No one understands, no one cares, nothing is ever going to go right, I was always going to be on the losing end.  I was in hell back then until I found peace in Jesus Christ.   But the next day, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.  His life in hell had been draining me and dragging me down.  Try as much as I could, I could not get through to the man, and help him to see how he could get out of the hell he is in.  It is scary to see someone going down a path I once was on, wishing he could find the way out.  Scariest is that I could still be on that path except for the grace of the God Who Is There.

C.S.Lewis from The Pilgrim’s Regress:

Nearly they stood who fall; themselves as they look back
See always in the track the one false step, where all
Even yet, by lightest swerve of foot not yet enslaved,
By smallest tremor of the smallest nerve, might have been saved.

Nearly they fell who stand, and with cold after fear
Look back to mark how near they grazed the Siren’s land,
Wondering that subtle fate, by threads so spidery fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great, should thus entwine.

Therefore oh, man, have fear lest oldest fears be true,
Lest thou too far pursue the road that seems so clear,
And step, secure, a hair-breadth boundary,
Which, being once crossed forever unawares, denies return.