March 1, 2023

Can you believe it is March already? Here in DC, that means it feels like spring, but we probably have our biggest snowfall of the year still to come!

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The True

Lies are Loud; Truth is Simple

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12)

“The truth is like a lion. You don't have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.” (Augustine)

“Lies are loud . . . Truth is simple.” (The Jesus Revolution)

The three quotes above come from vastly different vantage points and genres, but each communicates a similar idea: Truth is capable of prevailing on its own merit if we will simply stand on it.

I’ve been guilty of succumbing to two equally erroneous rationales in my life. On the one hand, there have been moments I’ve remained silent when my voice was needed to defend an unpopular truth. In other cases, I have wrongly believed that my own robust defense was the only way to ensure truth would prevail. The fundamental flaw of the first approach is that it relinquishes God’s preferred method for channeling His truth (2 Cor. 5:20), and the flaw of the second is that it reduces the power of truth to the limits of my own abilities (Eph. 3:20).

The truth is that God’s Word is more than capable of standing on its own merits. It does not require the loudest or most accomplished voice to come to its defense. Instead, it derives its power from the merits. In other words, it prevails not because it is defended by the most brilliant among us, but because it is, in fact, True.

Even so, this is anything but occasion for us to dismiss or diminish our role in channeling Truth. God’s pursuit of us is so intense that He chose to entangle His mission and reputation with us. As Jesus was returning to the Father after being resurrected, He charged His followers with carrying forward the Truth of His message. In a very tangible sense, Jesus vested His reputation with us. We are His preferred way to interact with the world. What an awesome responsibility!

So it is true with a lowercase ‘t’—lies are loud. But it is True with a capital “T”—Truth is simple. Let’s stand resolutely on it, and rest in the knowledge that it will prevail on its own merits.


Cleanup Continues

The cleanup of a February 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials continues in East Palestine, Ohio. The derailed train held potential air and water contaminants including vinyl chloride and butyl acrylate. Cleanup has included an intentional controlled burn of train cars containing vinyl chloride, and the removal of 20 truckloads of hazardous soil and approximately two million gallons of contaminated firefighting water.

Residents continue to be most concerned with the quality of both air and residential water. While officials have stated that both air and water are safe, and that they continue to monitor changes in both, residents remain uneasy and have reported experiencing adverse symptoms.

Analysis: Even if residents are inclined to take official assurances about air and water quality at face value, it is prudent to exercise personal due diligence in situations involving hazardous contaminants. Whenever possible, it would be wise for residents to err on the side of caution and exercise careful personal judgement. For example, residents should regularly test and filter their own water for a period of time. It would also be prudent to carefully evaluate for yourself whether your residence is truly safe to inhabit at this time.

Prayer point: Pray for residents who have been displaced. Pray they would have wisdom in determining the best course of action for their families. Pray for cleanup workers and for officials who are responsible for assisting local residents. Pray that human safety and common sense assistance would be prioritized over political agendas.


To Censor or Not to Censor

The publisher of acclaimed children’s author Roald Dahl has announced it will continue publishing uncensored versions of Dahl’s work. The announcement comes after significant public outcry over the publisher’s previous decision to “modernize” the text of several of Dahl’s most popular works, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. The publisher, Penguin Random House, will now offer the original versions, while its subsidiary, Puffin, will offer the “updated” versions.

Analysis: The controversy over Dahl’s work comes in the wake of adjacent societal disputes over literature content, public displays and monuments of controversial figures, and deliberations about what content is made available via public outlets such as schools and libraries. While it is tempting—and convenient—to bill these disputes as being about two sides opposing each other (plenty of these disputes involve topics fairly categorized as good vs. evil), we are likely better served to recognize these tactics for what they are—an invitation for individuals to defer their own God-given duty to divide right from wrong to another person or entity.

In George Orwell’s 1984, we find this prescient blurb: “Do you realize that the past, starting from yesterday, has been actually abolished? . . . Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered. And that process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Party is always right.”

In yet another work that foreshadows the events of today, Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, books are banned, and, if discovered, burned. Perhaps more apropos—though less discussed—for our time, citizens in Bradbury’s tale were expected to replace their consumption of literature with a constant partaking of visual screen-based “entertainment.” It was a way to control the message that was consumed by the citizens.

Today, the entire range of the ideological spectrum embraces some version of these tactics. It is tempting to point out only those tactics employed by our ideological opponents, but it is candidly most productive to point out when these tactics our utilized by our ideological allies. We as Jesus followers should be vigilant to heed Hebrews 4:12, and simply speak the living and active Word of God into our world.

We should not defer the judgement of scripture to any other authority. We should let Truth compete against all other wisdom. Finally, regardless of our ideological persuasion, we should stand on the side of contending for truth and beauty in an open marketplace of ideas. Because even a quiet truth prevails against the loudest of unmerited ideas. Others may choose censorship. We should simply turn loose the Truth.


A Heavy Toll

War produces a variety of deleterious results. Among the most obvious of these are death, injury, displacement, and destruction, all of which exist in spades as a result of Vladimir Putin’s hostile invasion of Ukraine. The toll in these categories due to the past year of fighting is already astronomical, and will continue to grow for as long as the conflict continues. Much of what is lost can never be restored, and much of what remains will take years to rebuild.

War also comes at a heavy financial cost. In the case of this conflict, the United States has given approximately $77.5 billion worth of support to Ukraine. This figure represents more than the contributions made by the rest of the world combined. As we’ve previously discussed, most U.S. officials agree that Vladimir Putin should be defeated, but there is less agreement about the proper role for the U.S. to play going forward.

Eternal perspective: Jesus followers should be most motivated to find ways for the saving love of Jesus to be known by those in the midst of this conflict. That is the only true remedy for the overwhelming loss and grief that grows each day this conflict continues.

A layer down the priority scale (but far from unimportant) is the debate over U.S. involvement, and there is room for reasonable minds to differ on this level. We as Jesus followers, if we choose to engage the policy debate, would do well to begin the conversation from an informed place of understanding. We should acknowledge the evil that Putin’s invasion embodies, the human suffering that abounds on all sides, and the financial toll that is being leveled on the rest of the world. These considerations are not equal, but neither are any of them insignificant.

While no U.S. policy outcome will be perfect, our course of action will be strengthened if it is informed by a thorough consideration of all these factors.

The Beautiful

3,198 Daffodils

Brooke and I had dinner at a neighbor’s home a few evenings ago, and as we arrived we noticed a very large number of daffodils beginning to bloom, so we inquired about them. It turns out there are 3,198 daffodils that were planted on the property, and the first 1,000 were planted as a surprise birthday gift from the husband to his wife several years ago. Her birthday was over the winter, and he pretended he didn’t have a gift for her that year (gents, I do not recommend this particular part of the strategy—it’s a dicey one, but apparently it works if you are several decades into a happy marriage). When late February rolled around, green shoots began to emerge all around the property, and yellow blooms opened shortly thereafter. The result was such a hit that they’ve been adding to the plantings every year since. The best part of this gift is that, while the blooms are only present for part of every year, the anticipation of their emerging is now an ever-present part of this couple’s existence. It is a gift that has become a constant source of joy and beauty in their life!

This story also made me consider: What is it I have planted, or am planting, that will continue to produce growth and beauty for years to come? What is it that you can plant today that will produce joy and anticipation for those around you?

As we now turn to face the world, let's do it with an aim to plant seeds that produce beauty in the lives of others! That beauty will undoubtedly bloom in our own lives, as well!

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