The end is nigh? Some ends we might welcome.

The End is Nigh
I spotted this interesting visual when walking down an alley one recent morning.

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Monday, June 1, 2020 – Cleaning Up

Note: Sunday evening, May 31, 2020, after a day of peacefully protesting the murder of George Floyd and the treatment of Black people in our society, looters descended upon many parts of Long Beach, doing great damage to property and engaging in brazen acts of theft and violence. This note was written as cleanup was taking place and Covid-19 health measures remained in place.

First thing Monday morning I went down to the church building and found things were fine. I went to the roof and scouted the surrounding area; everything seemed calm – no columns of smoke like in 1992!

I started walking toward the downtown area, greeting people and being greeted… hearing stories of Sunday and Sunday night. Those I spoke with said they thought the looters were not locals and not protesters at all.

The Market between Linden and Elm on 7th

At least some looting crews were organized simply to loot while the police were distracted elsewhere, crassly taking advantage of the protests for thievery. There were crews with hammers and matching masks and shirts working in teams – some even with caravans of cars – who beat down any protesters who attempted to stop looting. That some would choose to dishonor the protests of the murder of George Floyd in this manner is unspeakable. So I’ll not speak of it more.

As I neared the downtown area, I saw what seemed like the entire city of Long Beach (and others) turn out to clean up, encourage, and stop any remaining looting.

Cleaners!

Young, old, all kinds of people – mirroring the city’s population but with a lean towards the young. People were being reasonably careful to wear masks and such; but there were many people walking the streets and many cars passing through – sight seers? People in some cars were passing out water to cleanup crews. The downtown area was pretty much clean by 10 am – cleaner than I’ve ever seen it. The people cleaned litter in addition to broken glass and stuff from looting. Numerous folk were scrubbing off graffiti. There were (at least) hundreds of people milling around with brooms and bags and shovels with nothing left to clean and more people arriving. So the newly arrived were recommended to head for north Long Beach and other areas where it was rumored that cleaning was still needed. (By Tuesday artists were covering graffiti on boarded storefronts with artwork.) What remains now are repairs to broken windows and doors and other stuff that takes longer, and then getting back to carefully opening downtown business on account of past, present, and future Covid-19 measures.

I wanted to check on the new Antioch Church building on Pine, and was invited in and greeted by Pastor Wayne Chaney, Jr.

I found that Eric Marsh was also there; and Eric recruited me for the noontime Long Beach Prayer Collective prayer time online. I gladly agreed. Later, he also recruited Susana Sngiem to report in during the prayer time on her efforts through United Cambodian Community to help the businesses that were impacted at Anaheim and Atlantic, and elsewhere. After checking in on Antioch church on Pine and making a new friend (Wally), I walked on down to the Pike where I saw and greeted National Guard units. They said they were from nearby Southern California communities. They seemed a little ill at ease, so I thanked them for helping us keep Long Beach safe and peaceful.

I made my way back to the Friends Church building in time for the noontime prayer online, which included Pastor Gregory Sanders of The Rock (and President of the Long Beach Minister’s Alliance), Bishop Todd Ervin of Church One, and Noemi Chavez of Revive Church, and (of course) Eric Marsh. What a privilege to be part of that prayer time! I heard sirens a few times through the day, including during the prayer time, and prayed. The mayor (online) said there had been a few isolated attempts at looting. They were shut down fast.

Long Beach Church Collective Prayer at Noon

The remainder of the day was more online meetings and finally organizing Long Beach Friends Church people for a prayer time at 8 PM to pray in concert with many other Long Beach churches for God’s peace in our city.

A sampling of the churches participating in the 8 PM Prayer Time, from Eric Marsh

All in all, it was very encouraging to see the city turn out in force to clean up. I heard many who wanted to maintain the focus on protesting George Floyd’s murder – to overwhelm the distraction brought on by violence and looting. May it be so.

Here is a link to a few more pictures I took, and few that Eric Marsh sent me.

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Monsters

“But maybe if they didn’t treat us like monsters, we wouldn’t be monsters. I want us to try living like people for awhile, see how that goes.”

N.K. Jemisin, Stone Hunger

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The truth is always there, and it is…. jealous?

Some months ago, I watched the excellent Chernobyl mini-series on television. In the last episode (number five) the protagonist, Legasov, reflects on his experience with the nuclear disaster. Powerful people tried to cover it up and hide the magnitude of the disaster from public view. His comments are timeless, but particularly apt in our day. Here’s a couple of the comments that have been haunting me in this time of extreme partisan politics that carry over even into management of pandemics.

We’re on dangerous ground right now, because of our secrets and our lies! They’re practically what define us. When the truth offends, we lie and lie until we can longer remember it is even there. But it is still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt is paid.

And then later, he writes of his life as a scientist, apparently in contrast to government bureaucrats and politicians.

To be a scientist is to be naive.  We are so focused on our search for truth, we fail to consider how few actually want us to find it. But it is always there, whether we see it or not, whether we choose to or not.  The truth doesn’t care about our needs or wants. It doesn’t care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions. It will lie in wait for all time. And this, at last, is the gift of Chernobyl. Where I once would fear the cost of truth, now I only ask: What is the cost of lies?

I find it (perhaps naively) surprising and dismaying that so many who claim to follow the one who is the Truth seem more concerned with politics than inconvenient truth. Of course, many have said this, and said it better, before me. But still. Really? The debt will come due.

As Christians, we tend to think of the debt coming due when Jesus’ kingdom comes in its fullness. At that last trumpet, so to speak. That’s not Legasov’s point. Consider all the references to “the land of the living” in scripture. Are these referring to that distant future or to reality in even this fallen world? With all due respect to those scholars who explain “the land of the living” refers to the fullness of new creation, I’m just not using the term here in that way. Legasov is talking about how the truth has a way of making itself known in the face of lies, in this world as we know it today. It doesn’t stay buried in the land of the living.

Some didn’t want the Truth when he came into the land of the living 2000 years ago. He was a danger to their plans – and He remains so. We recently remembered how Jesus was crucified and left dead in the tomb. And then the Truth returned, unbowed, from the grave. That’s the way truth is, I think. You can only hide it away in the grave for so long before the sheer life of it comes back to haunt those who sought to keep it down. That’s because the truth reflects how God is – how Jesus is. You can’t keep him down. The world He created reflects that reality. The truth is out there, and he is jealous.

I long for simple truth in the land of the living – the land I live in now. I think this is the proper attitude for one who follows the Truth.

For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24) The truth is of Him. He is the Truth. What is the cost of lies? It is death, naturally.

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March 18, 2020 Worship Playlist

Shirley A. has put together a playlist of worship music that our worship team has used or may use in the days ahead when we are able to resume in-person worship together. I am passing them on here so you can appreciate times of worship in homes, while driving, or working, or wherever! This is Shirley’s March, 2020 playlist is for Spotify.  And, this is Shirley’s March, 2020 Youtube playlist.

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N.T. Wright amplifies James on “being true to oneself”

“None of us starts off with a pure internal ‘kit’ of impulses, hopes and fears. If you are true to ‘yourself’, you will end up a complete mess. The challenge is to take the ‘self’ you find within, and to choose wisely which impulses and desires to follow, and which ones to resist…”

“Some desires, says James, start a family tree of their own (verse 15). Desire is like a woman who conceives a child, and the child is sin: the act which flows directly from that part of the ‘self’ which pulls us away from the genuine life which God has for us. And when the child, sin, grows up and becomes mature, it too has a child. That child is death: the final result of following those desires which diminish that genuine human life.”

N.T. Wright
Early Christian Letters for Everyone: James, Peter, John. and Judah
comments on James 1:9-18
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On making true peace

True peace is not made when powerful parties gather and dictate terms to their enemies. The hard work of peacemaking requires listening, tough choices, hard conversations, and mutual sacrifice.

Todd Deatherage
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Fleming Rutledge prayed on a podcast I heard yesterday…

Fleming Rutledge prayed on a podcast interview I heard yesterday. I decided to write it down. When asked by the host if she would pray to close the interview, she indicated she would be disappointed not to pray, and spontaneously poured out this prayer:

Oh Lord God, our creator, redeemer, sustainer,
Father, Son, Holy Spirit,
Hear us when we feebly call upon you out of our manifold sins and weaknesses, ignorances, failures, cowardice, bewilderment. Lord we turn to you and call upon you because we know that is what you want from us. You love nothing more than to hear the confession of confused, troubled, insecure, worn-down people who desire to be your servants. Because you have called us to be your servants, dear Lord, we know that you will give us the strength to do what you have purposed for us to do. Just, please, Lord, please keep us faithful to that calling.

Heavenly Father, look with mercy and grace upon your church. woven in a hundred different directions, filled with sin, disgraced by scandal – not just the Catholics but the Protestants also – and all churches, we all have our besetting difficulties and violations of your commandments, neglect of the gospel – Lord, look mercifully upon your church, which you have called to yourself, and which in spite of our utter inability you have strengthened, which you have undergirded and overarched with your Spirit. We pray for the churches, that we might capture, by your grace, a new wind of the spirit – a great awakening to the truth of your gospel and the difference between that and all the other messages we are hearing from so many different directions.

Lord, I pray for a greatly increased love of your holy word in scripture and in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Guide us in ways that we can make this known – new ways, fresh ways. Sometimes it seems as if the old ways that we’ve been so accustomed to have fallen into disrepair, decline. We need an invigorating breath of the Holy Spirit, dear Lord, for your church – all your churches – and for the great church which exists in your future. Let us look to that with confidence, with faith – faith that only you can give.

We pray for all those young people who are drawn to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ – that you would strengthen them in the midst of this hostile culture – that you would give them courage and joy that is very different from the joy that the world foolishly promises. Let us seek our being – our past, our present, and our future – in you, dear Lord, and in your son Jesus Christ, in whose name, alone, is salvation, power, mercy, and everlasting love. In His name we pray, Amen.

I was listening to Crackers and Grape Juice, episode 244, in which Fleming Rutledge was interviewed about the 20th anniversary edition of her book Help My Unbelief.

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On Women in the Church and in Marriage

In the past I wrote a series of posts considering biblical teaching on women in the church and in marriage. Several people have asked me about this recently so I thought I’d make the posts easy to find by adding a page that serves as a table of contents for these posts, and linking to it.

In a nutshell, I argue that God created humans, male and female, to stand as peers in carrying his image. God often calls women into leadership. It is God’s call that makes a leader in His church – and nothing less will do. Regarding marriage, I argue that the best plan for marriage is as a partnership of mutual submission under the headship of Christ. I also argue that we must all be sensitive to God moving us to into change in His time. There are good, bible-honoring Christians who come to differing conclusions on these matters.

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Episode 100 of The History of World War II Podcast

I like to listen to history podcasts. One long-running podcast that I use to fill in gaps while awaiting new episodes in others is the History of World War II by Ray Harris Jr. I just heard the 100th episode, in which I received the special treat of hearing an “interview” in which a man who grew up in Hitler’s Germany tells stories about what that was like. Then he tells stories about coming to the United States. It’s about 90 minutes of fascinating storytelling by Henry Niemann, who grew up a Seventh Day Adventist in Germany. He needs little prompting from Ray! It’s one of the best podcast listens ever for me.

You need not listen to the 99 episodes preceding or the 175 or so (to date) since #100. Just listen to #100 and run past Ray’s intro reflections on doing 100 podcasts. (It’s not that the reflections weren’t interesting; it is that they’re likely not interesting to people who haven’t heard episodes #1 through #99.) Then there’s about 90 minutes of Henry Niemann telling Ray stories that are pure gold.

And if you are interested in the history of World War II and into podcast audio, go back and listen from the beginning. Ray Harris Jr starts out new to podcasting and the beginning episodes are a bit rough. Over time, though, he hits is stride and he does a great interesting and meandering-with-a-purpose walk through the people and events surrounding the war. He finds the topics fascinating and conveys that fascination to the listener. In the first 100 episodes, you get a bit of background on the start of the war, the rise of Hitler, the fall of France, the Battle of Britain, a mini sub-podcast on Winston Churchill and even World War I, and a smattering of other episodes around the early years of the war. Then episode 100 is a jewel! He’s at episode 275 about now, which is about the fall of Singapore in 1942! Then there are the members-only episodes that I haven’t even started yet.

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