Do NOT confuse wearing a mask with loving your neighbor

This video briefly summarizes my objection to pastors and churches claiming that withdrawing from others, wearing masks and living lives of fear is the best way to love your neighbor. Voddie Baucham does not mention masks, but I have heard pastors attach being carried with the unscientific lunacy we see all around us (unless you live in Sweden) to the standard of loving your neighbor.

Loving your neighbor sounds like a great idea, something we really ought to consider. Setting aside your rights for the good of others really feels like the sort of thing that a Christian should be quick to do. It’s all just so… so… FLUFFY! But with just a little discernment and a little study, you can see that there is a very strong statement underneath all of the cocoa with marshmallows cozyness.

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-31 ESV

Loving your neighbor is the same thing as following the second tablet of the Law handed down to Moses. Failing to love your neighbor is not just a bad idea and not just a loss of warm fuzzies. Failing to love your neighbor is sin. Thus, these pastors are placing a sin burden on anyone who differs with them. Theological malpractice.

Anyone who visits an elderly grandparent now is questioning if it is more sinful to visit them or to abandon them to loneliness. Anyone frustrated with the ever changing statements regarding masks to the point where they choose to abstain is now left to question if they are sinning with every breath. Anyone choosing to refuse to live a life of fear is threatened with the burden of sin.

Allow me to present a different way of approaching this.

There is a principal of the weaker brother, originally used with meat that had been sacrificed in idol worship, now used frequently with Christians discussing whether alcohol should be allowed or forbidden. The most common proof text for this is 1 Corinthians 8, but I believe Romans 14 gives a better look at the concept.

Romans 14 begins by telling Christians not to quarrel over opinions. Regarding meat, one person is convinced that it is just meat and can be consumed. The other person is convinced that the meat is tainted with idolatry, and refuses to eat. Both of these people are convinced in their own minds (verse 5) and that is OK. What is not OK is when one of them judges the other for a position that is not sinful, which leads to quarrels, which leads to divisions within the church. The Bible says nothing positive whatsoever about the person causing division, also known as discord, among the gathering of God’s people. It is cited in Proverbs 6:16-19 as an abomination before the Lord.

Divisions in the church aren’t about meat today. Divisions right now are more about whether the building should be open, whether the church should accept visitors, whether the people should pre-register, whether everyone inside should be required to wear a mask. And instead of appealing to the liberty that is ours to decide for ourselves what we ought to do, people are trying to coerce others into doing what they feel is right, in some cases they are misrepresenting Romans 13 in order to do it. That is a separate post, in case you’re wondering, but I will say that Jesus is Lord of the church, not Caesar. The people pushing to bind others in ways that are not authorized by scripture should be avoided and in some cases cast out of the church. Yes, I’m serious.

17 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 

Romans 16:17-18

I have been part of an elder board during a pandemic. I know the stresses that are involved as you try to balance what to do and how to go about it. I understand how different people have different levels of fear of the unknown. I get it.

I also understand that in the Law handed down to Moses, instructions are given about infectious diseases. To summarize, we are instructed to quarantine the symptomatic. They are to remain apart from the rest of society until their symptoms have ceased and they can be verified as no longer being a danger to the population. Then they are able to rejoin society. What are the instructions to the healthy? I can’t seem to find any restrictions placed upon them at all. And before anyone says that they didn’t know about COVID-19 back then, just remember who came up with the Law that was given to Moses in the first place. No virus has caught the God of the Universe off guard.

So if you are a church official pondering how to approach this subject, please consider what I have shared here. Your job is not to place a new sin burden upon others. Your job is to foster a community of grace filled people who can make up their own minds about how to proceed and who will live according to their conscience, all without binding the conscience of everyone around them with their opinions.

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 

Matthew 16:18-19 ESV
Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.

Politics and Christianity

Politics is inherently a contest of divide and conquer. Logical discussion is rarely involved, and it hasn’t been a major factor at all during this century. Emotions rule the day and only the news that agrees with a predetermined viewpoint will be recognized. Any other source is declared to be fake news. This has been true for years, but just now we have a word for it. Yes, Buzzfeed has been to news what WWE is to Olympic wrestling from its beginning, but Buzzfeed was never a competitor to CNN. And yes. I’m choosing the low hanging fruit here.

Just imagine the irony when anyone proclaims any source to be fake news! This implies that there is true news, which implies that there is such a thing as objective and universal truth, which our culture rejects outright. With every accusation of fake news, we acknowledge that there is a truth, a binding truth, that every related statement can be compared to. There is a standard, and that standard is not me. That standard is God. And if you try to appeal to the word of God as you plead with someone, they are likely to reject the message. Often because they reject absolute truths. At least that’s what they will tell you if you press them and ask follow up questions.

Make no mistake. A political party is a jealous god that demands your loyalty in all facets of your life. If you identify first and foremost with a party, you will fall in line with all of the planks of that party platform. This will determine what news you accept and it will color your views in every topic. There is only one God who is worthy of such devotion. To give your worship, your hopes, your aspirations to a political party places yourself into a state where your response can only be to repent. Of what? Of idolatry.

From this we may gather that man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols. Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity; as it sluggishly plods, indeed is overwhelmed with the crassest ignorance, it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God.
John Calvin, Institutes, 1.11.8

I am not saying that Christians cannot be involved in politics or claim allegiance to a party. I am saying that any worldly loyalties must be secondary to our loyalty to the one true King. After all, the words written above the head of Jesus were “King of the Jews.” To state that Jesus is King is to make a political statement. Even today. To say that the Law of God is superior to the laws of men is a political statement. To long for the fulfillment of a kingdom not of this world is a political longing.

Christians are called to find their primary identity in Christ. If you are a Christian, Christ isn’t something you add to your life. If you are found in Him, Christ IS YOUR LIFE. (Colossians 3) And the way you behave will follow this. The way you vote will follow this. You will begin to love the things God loves and hate the things God hates. Proverbs 6:16-19

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. -Galatians 2:20

This video is not here by accident. I did set it to start playing at a point that will make sense if you give it a listen.

After all this is over…

I’m not sure what things will look like on the other side of this, but I am confident that after this season of hidden things being exposed, we will be stronger for it. People who you thought you could trust to the end have been revealed to be two dimensional friends. People who you disagreed with for tertiary reasons have been shown to be trustworthy.

We will get through this though. Not without realignments. Not without painful separations. But we will get through this. Stronger than before. The hysteria will end far later than it should, but it will end. You will rely on people you didn’t know beforehand and you will trust old friends as much as you trust a fart after a trip to Taco Bell.

From a religious standpoint, this era has been painful to say the least. I had my suspicions about certain “Big Eva” pastors before COVID and the Intersectionality riots, but they have certainly been confirmed in these months. Not only have they been confirmed, but names who I held in high regard once are now meaningless to me. Albert Mohler, Tim Keller, Jason Meyer, Andy Stanley, Mark Dever, pretty much anyone in The Gospel Coalition (which is more interested in the coalition than in the gospel) have been revealed to be gospel redefiners, which is to say that they are gospel deniers.

I came to faith in my 30’s and I wanted to make up for lost time. I read my Bible and poured myself into learning everything I could. I looked for faithful pastors who would saturate me with a view of the gospel that was compelling. I read books, listened to sermons, compared my faithlessness from before with the expectations that God has for those whose hearts of stone are replaced by hearts of flesh. I wanted nothing greater than to be faithful to this high calling.

As time has gone on, most of these “celebrity pastors” have shown themselves to be unworthy of following. The most faithful pastors have generally been those without large followings and with nothing to lose. There are exceptions, of course, but I don’t intend to proclaim anyone famous as a faithful teacher until they have been dead long enough for any secrets to come forth.

Meanwhile, we are in a situation where people in the spotlight and people in the local arena are shown for who they are, and many of them are not who we once thought they were. Perhaps this is painful because we didn’t want to be wrong about them. Perhaps we had thought the best of them and found out later that the best just wasn’t the case.

Any way you look at it, people are showing you who they really are. The masks are coming off, no pun intended. You will be surprised. You will be disappointed. If you are wise, you will learn not to place your trust in the flesh of this world, but rather in the eternal faithfulness of the only one worth worshiping. Your only hope is not found in man, but in God. He has defined the terms and He has demonstrated His justice already.

Accept His definitions and His finished work. To quote Heisenberg of Breaking Bad fame, “No Half Measures.” Jesus does not add to your works. He is your works. Adding to them is actually a subtraction. Trusting in your deeds, however many or few, is folly.

Psalm 2:12

Has Google/Android jumped the shark?

Hey y’all. I was on a boat Saturday after being thrown from the tube being pulled behind it when I saw some footage of the wipeout on an iPhone. I said that I really wanted that footage and the girl said that it would be easy if I had an iPhone because she could beam it to me, but she had no service at the lake.

I thought about mentioning that this was a feature of an Android phone from years past and that it had (to my knowledge) been retired as it wasn’t widely used, but I stopped short and thought that comparing features and timelines really isn’t the point in the Android v iPhone debate. What really matters is overall experience and compatibility with the technology of your friends.

I’ve been using Android phones from the start, with my only non Nexus/Pixel phone being the Droid Incredible, and that’s only because the OG Nexus device wasn’t available on Verizon. I’m a homer who buys paid apps frequently. My history is tied to my Android account. I love buying a new phone and adding the wi-fi and watching everything just work.

But has Android jumped the shark?

Remember when Google+ came out? Sure they made a few mistakes, first of all with the name of the service. Google is a polarizing company, and naming a social media service after the parent just advertises bad vibes to anyone who distrusts Google to begin with. Then there’s the policy of requiring real names and making that spill over to YouTube as well. Despite a few miscues, they were innovating like crazy at that time. In the Google+ features, the various Google products, and also in Android. Everywhere you looked, Google was making things awesome! When is the last time a Google innovation made you do a double take and just know that this was a game changer?

What happened to Google? What happened to Android? Where did the excitement go? Have we reached a point where a few apps like iMessage, Garageband and FaceTime will eventually win the market for Apple? Is Google/Android unable to put together a compelling feature any longer?
My next phone will likely be a Pixel, more because I don’t like change than because it’s a better experience than a comparatively priced iPhone 8. But will I end up regretting not getting a phone that can get away with adding retired 8 year old technology?

I ask in another way. Has Google lost it’s competitive and/or innovative spirit?

CHAZ is the new Tiger King

My fascination with CHAZ is a lot like my previous fascination with Tiger King. Both are train wrecks filled with terrible people doing terrible things to other terrible people, terribly. CHAZ is a six block area in Seattle and the name means “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.” According to the signage on the barriers surrounding the zone, they are no longer a part of the United States of America, hence the term “Autonomous.”

I’m not sure what is autonomous about begging others for food because you didn’t think that far ahead. They do have some huge demands against the rest of society, which is odd seeing that they are no longer a part of our country, according to their own statements. More realistic demands they have made include cigarettes, clothing, and tents. Oh, and sunglasses! They have defined their border with a wall. They patrol that border with scary looking guns. They have no police, but they do have “warlords” who apparently don’t see eye to eye with each other.

BLM members have started to complain that the Antifa agenda is pushing out their desired utopian societal demands. The… um… peacekeepers are already accused of many extortion charges and Seattle’s 911 has been called to that area at a much greater rate than previously, but the group declares itself autonomous and won’t allow authorities in.

Unless there’s a dumpster on fire in there. And of course, there was.

You couldn't feed ONE person with this garden

The community garden is a great metaphor of their worldview. It is way too small. It is only an inch deep. The ground underneath hasn’t been prepared so the roots of their plants won’t take hold. And some of their life saving plants include geraniums. Is that flower even edible?

I’m not sure what I would do if I were in charge of a city with a non-autonomous zone like this. They should be shut down. They should not be allowed to leech community resources if they are to be their own country. They should be assisted with the legal steps to renounce their citizenships if that is truly what they desire. They should be allowed to continue for now, if for no other reason than they highlight the idiocy of their worldview. All people are to be respected. Not all ideas share that biblical protection.

This will end. It will not end well. They do not have a center that can hold. The city of Seattle is just fine with it for now, and for the moment, I’m popping a tub o’ corn. But like everything else in 2020, the situation as well as my reaction to this can turn on a dime.

That’s a mic drop.

Covid-19 Statement

You’ll have to forgive me for my stance that I still hold. You see, the ever present danger I grew up with was “Mutually Assured Destruction” and we, as a society, refused to cower in fear over the Communist threat.

This generation is more interested in sprinting toward Communism and fear porn over an incorrect computer model and real world statistics that cannot be padded enough to justify our actions.

Go ahead. Tell me I’m unloving. Call me a science denier. Because you will be arguing against top scientists from Stanford University, Carnegie Mellon and other institutions of higher learning. And when I say that our reaction to this will cause more suffering and death than the virus, I am getting my projections from the United Nations.

Loving your neighbor is not the same as telling your neighbor only what they want to hear. Your neighbor is not limited only to the aged and immune compromised. This virus is hardly unprecedented, but our reaction to it is.

Mutually Assured Destruction was my generation’s fear. We were told that the nuclear stockpiles of the USA and USSR were enough to kill all life on the planet 6 times over. We went about our business. A virus that kills far less than 1%, still a tragedy and do not assume I don’t take every death as a tragedy, stops us all in our tracks.

Our economy won the cold war. Our productivity was a huge factor in both world wars. It was largely the economy that decided the Civil War. But rather than allow and expect the young and healthy to continue to live their lives while seeing to the needs of the at risk population, we abandon our greatest strengths and even undermine them.

Changing Restaurant Paradigms?

I remember when getting pizza meant going into town and sitting down at the Pizza Hut, where we had a waitress and a pitcher of Pepsi. There was a Space Invaders game, and if I had been good, my dad would give me a quarter to play a game while we waited for the pizza to arrive. Also, the Book-It program gave my family one more reason to go to Pizza Hut and gave me an incentive to get better grades

The model evolved and Carryout became more common. And we ate Pizza Hut more frequently. There was no pitcher of Pepsi and no Space Invaders at home, but we had pizza. Pizza that wasn’t as hot and fresh as we had it at the store, but my parents didn’t have to load us all up and drive into town.

Enter Domino’s and the delivery model. Even though my family lived outside the area where pizza delivery was practical, we knew the paradigm had changed. As time went by, the Pizza Hut lost more and more in-store business. They hired drivers and tried to compete on two fronts. Dine In and Eat at Home.

Now, for a chain pizza place to be solvent, delivery is a given. A dine in pizza place seems quaint, and it must have superior food and service to attract enough customers to stay in the black. The market has changed. The dining location for pizza is now the home, not the dining room.

My wife and I picked up dinner tonight at Biaggi’s, a family favorite. Due to the Wuhan virus, all dining must be done outside an eating establishment, otherwise we would have enjoyed the experience in the dining room. The waitstaff is always helpful and attentive. The drink refills come quickly, the specials are described, special orders are no problem, and so on.

Our dinner was not a disappointment at all. It wasn’t as hot as it would be due to the drive home and setup at our own kitchen table. To offset this, and to keep their business going in this environment, Biaggi’s gave us 20% off the order. At a first glance, that seems like a huge cut! Restaurant profit margins are usually pretty tight.

But there are expenses associated with running a restaurant. They didn’t have to pay their wait staff, the bartenders, the table bussers, the hostesses and other positions I’m unaware of. The dishwasher could focus on the kitchen utensils, without worrying about any customer dishes and silverware. The cost savings they experienced may or may not match the 20% discount they offered, but a businessperson would need to factor that in.

Now picture a restaurant in the same category as Biaggi’s but without inside dining. Better food (by far) than an Applebee’s, but without any need to cater to a dining room full of customers. No need to hire staff to seat them, to clean up their messes, to serve them really at all. And then factor in the much smaller customer parking you would require and the smaller taxes that would be levied on your establishment due to the smaller footprint.

I don’t think nice mid-range restaurants are a thing of the past. I couldn’t imagine that! People in the US will continue to look forward to an evening of being served, of eating freshly cooked food and not having any dishes waiting when they are done eating. But I could see a delivery and/or carryout option available for people who want a nice meal for a lower price than the mid-range restaurant and who don’t mind cleaning up after themselves.

As a hobby, I like to forecast market trends. Not anything specific enough to buy shares of this or that stock, but enough to look at macro trends and forecast what the next stage might look like. I’m no expert in this, but I could imagine some company coming up with an option like this. There are Americans who would like an upgraded dinner, but who may not want to pay the price for the upgraded experience or who just want to eat their restaurant meal in their own homes.

Most restaurants already offer carryout and delivery via GrubHub and similar third party services. This viral event has opened my eyes to a new business model that specializes in the cost savings of carryout/delivery and doesn’t even bother with the dining room at all. As long as these restaurants are seen as a new model and not as one that replaces the affordable once in a while visit to a family favorite, I think it could be a regular thing in a post-Coronavirus world.

And I believe the advancements that a specialized restaurant could make in this category could become something pretty special.