One of the many skirmishes with the current President, and there are many, is focused on the notion of a free press. Last Thursday over 300 news organizations, in a coordinated effort against the President, published editorials in defense of a free press.
But what in the world is a “free” press?
In the upcoming Engagement small-group series (launches late 2019) we will take some time talking about what has happened to various words in our culture. One of those is the word “freedom”. When a people become totally self-centered, as I believe we have, then “freedom” becomes all about me and my right to do whatever I want. We’ve even upped the ante on this in the last thirty years by divinizing the individual such that we believe our heart is the source of truth, which by default makes us each a little god. If I am divine, and my heart tells me that I’m a boy and not a girl, even at age 4, or I want to marry the soil (as Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens did in 2014) then who are you to speak against the gods? This has become the modern view of “freedom”. Unfettered by a transcendent Truth, we all become gods. However, we are insanely impotent little gods and we need the power of the press or the State to confirm and codify and adjudicate our god-ness and force the culture to accept and bless our “freedom” to act as precious little divines.
This notion now carries over into the new understanding of the “freedom” of the press.
The Founders weren’t interested in “freedom” as we want to define it today. They believed the foundations of this country were its solid stand on a belief in God (and therefore a transcendent right and wrong) and the people then acting morally in accordance with that transcendent Truth. Freedom was found in the right of an individual to become as fruitful as they were gifted and determined to become without the suppressing caste of ancestry or royal rights and without the tyranny of the State or any other power circumventing that liberty. The “free press” was critical to this dream because it would provide an essential “balance of power” to the State or Labor or the Church or to anything that would threaten those foundations or the freedom and liberty of the people. The Press was to be the nation’s non-political “umpire” whose power was to call attention to the people of violations toward this exceptional dream.
But what happens when the press begins to align with one side over the other? What would happen in a baseball game if the umpire never called strikes against one team and never called balls against the other? Do we rejoice because the umpire is “free” to call them the way he likes, helping his “side”, rather than according to the rules?
During the last administration, the President declared he would not enforce a law enacted by Congress (DOMA) because he didn’t like it. The press should have created a firestorm that scorched the political land. No President, who has taken an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and to faithfully fulfill the position as head of the Executive Branch, which executes the laws enacted by Congress, should ever, ever be allowed to act as if he were supreme to the Legislative Branch and the Judicial Branch. Yet it happened and the press was silent.
Because the mainstream press has become aligned with a naturalistic worldview and its political party.
Conservatives have long protested this growing deep bias in the press. Studies have shown that the major news organizations are over 90% manned with left-leaning people.
There is nothing inherently wrong with that!
But, if the press doesn’t hold both sides accountable, then is it really “free” in the sense that the Founders dreamed and for which they fought?
I don’t think so.
Here is what needs to happen. When the President chides them over this issue, instead of firing back as if they are without fault, let them take a serious internal look and ask themselves if they are guilty of betraying the true notion of their profession. Ask themselves if they would have allowed Madonna to talk about “blowing up the White House” if it were against a blue President or if they would tolerate repeated attacks on a blue President’s wife and children. When I was at the White House, under a red President, I saw the unmerciful attacks in the press upon Justice Clarence Thomas and the derision that arose over the Vice President spelling “potatoe”. Then I left and saw a blue President use his power and influence to seduce a young intern in the Oval Office and the press and the feminists virtually turned a blind eye.
I want the press to call a fair game. I want them to take the current President to task when he is wrong. I want bad cops and bad judges and bad politicians exposed. But those strikes need to be called on both sides, not just one.
It’s a little comical though, and I suppose we ought to try to find something here at which we can laugh. The President is yelling at a bad Ump, and the Ump is desperately trying to throw the President out of the game, but he can’t and the Ump is growing unhinged because of it… all to the extreme delight of the President, who gleefully fires off another raspberry.
It is making for a wild and crazy game.
Let’s hope and pray it ends in something good for the nation.
Sometimes gazing upon the face of God stumps us. Sometimes it stupefies us. And sometimes it means we have to rethink the picture we have created in our minds of who God is. All of this was true of me the first time I contemplated that God was humble. I honestly didn’t know how to fit it in with attributes like omnipotence, omniscience, and sovereignty. It seemed that a God who was holy and just and a “consuming fire” that blazed forth wrath upon evildoers certainly, in my mind, didn’t quite match what I envisioned as “humble”.
The road for me began with the words of Jesus when He said that He was “gentle and humble in heart”. Now I had read this many times before, but often the Spirit of God will highlight some words to us and it’s as if we had never read them before. So here was Jesus telling us that He had a humble heart. Well, in my shallow thinking, I thought that this was, of course, true of Jesus, but certainly couldn’t be true of God the Father, for He, in my mind, was the Lawgiver, the Judge and that awful “Consuming Fire” that devoured the offerings on Mt. Carmel and subsequently 450 prophets of Baal were slain. He split the ground open and swallowed up the entire clan of Korah and 250 priests were burned up. He is the God of Revelation who sends forth the four horsemen of the apocalypse that destroy vegetation, seas and rivers; He blasts trumpets and pours out bowls of wrath and sends plagues where the rivers turn to blood and men are consumed with sores; mountains are moved and stars fall from the sky and locusts torment men for months.
Whew! Hard to reconcile the holy, wrath of God with a humble heart.
And so I didn’t.
I basically began to think that the “humble” heart was for Jesus and the consuming fire was the Father. And, unwittingly, I slowly created a polytheistic god in my mind and not the One God of Scripture.
Then the Lord highlighted another passage for me. This was the killer.
In the Upper Room, Jesus performed one of the greatest acts of humility, washing the disciples stinky, dirty feet. A few minutes later, after performing this humble act, Philip said to Jesus:
“Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
And Jesus made the stunning response:
“Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father…”
And it dawned on me, that when they saw Jesus kneeling before them washing their feet, they were watching the Father as well.
Paul states that Jesus is the “exact image” [eikon] of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). We could dwell on this word for days, but the essence is just what Jesus said: "If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father."
There is no polytheism here. There is One God, and He is humble… through and through… Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
So how do we reconcile our bad thinking? How do we bring together what we have erroneously thought as incompatible: the powerful, omniscient, almighty, holy, consuming fire of God and His humility?
Well, the problem isn’t with God, for none of His attributes are contrary and He is totally consistent within His own Being, so it must be with us… with our thinking.
I have often used this metaphor:
Suppose there were two kings. Each ruled over half of the earth and all of its wealth. Both unimaginably powerful. One king would never, ever engage with the people, especially paupers. The other king, when his duties were done at the end of the day, would put on a ragged cloak and walk in the streets, talking with the people, the shop owners as well as the man who swept the street.
In your eyes, which is the greater king?
It is here that we begin to understand just what it means for God to be “humble”.
In Psalm 113 we read this great passage:
“Who is like the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high, who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?”
The Hebrew word here [shaphel] means that God has to “stoop” to engage with our world. This is like the king who puts on the ragged cloak and comes down from his lofty throne to speak with the peasants. But it is greater, for God is higher than any king could ever be. And to Him, we are lower than any peasant could ever be to an earthly king.
But this is our God… who stoops, who humbles Himself, to engage with us.
“... Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Phillipians 2:5-8
And why did God do such a thing? Because His humility is bound up inexorably with His love. It is impossible to truly love unless you are humble, for true love requires sacrifice. Jesus “humbled” Himself and became a man. He “stooped” to take on flesh that He might save us. This was not contrary to His nature, but it was in conformance with His nature. Just because God is all-powerful and sovereign does not mean that He is not humble in heart.
When the Scripture calls us to be holy, it is because God is holy.
When it calls us to be perfect, it is because He is perfect.
When it calls us to be humble, is this because He is proud and arrogant? No. It is because He is “gentle and humble in heart”. And why He calls us to be like Him in Romans 12:
“Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Romans 12:16
And, it is why in Psalm 51 we read that God is not interested in the sacrifice of bulls and goats, but "... a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
There is no room in the heart of God’s people for pride and arrogance. There is no room for haughtiness or lack of love. If we are the children of God, we should be characterized by humility. Not a mousy, no-spine kind of thing, but a strong, courageous willingness to “stoop”, to sacrifice, to become engaged with the lowliest of God’s creatures.
The Philippians passage begins with these words:
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus…”
And then it describes His willingness to “stoop”, to sacrifice, for the good of another.
Are we willing to “stoop”? Are we willing to set aside our comfort, our script, our plans for the sake of those who, from a worldly perspective might be “beneath” us?
God is opposed to the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. James 4:6
Ah! Therein lies a great clue.
Verses to ponder throughout this week:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8
But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29
Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; Psalm 113:5-6
Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, he sees them from afar. Psalm 138:6
For this is what the high and exalted One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15
These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word. Isaiah 66:2
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. James 4:6
“Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” Romans 12:16
“You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:16-17
Not too long ago I was struck by two incidents that measured how we as a culture are increasingly losing the mettle to stand for our convictions.
The newly crowned Miss USA was asked if she believed that health care was a privilege or a right. She was also asked if she were a feminist. Her answers were contrary to the power of the new beast in our culture and within 24 hours she was forced to bow the knee and recant.
A West Point graduate, Army flight surgeon and war hero was nominated to be the Secretary of the Army. Shortly thereafter, the beast forced him to withdraw because of his stated beliefs. In this case, he didn’t recant, but it is becoming clearer that we are entering a period in which convictions contrary to the beast’s are going to come under fierce attack and possibly disqualify one for significant positions in our culture and even inhibit the commercial right to buy and sell.
Thankfully, the founders weren’t so squeamish. Thankfully, they had a backbone.
Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence, which we celebrate today. The beast in their day was the mighty power of King George and his supreme army and navy. Though the founders believed in their convictions, they knew that the beast would consider it treason, the penalty for which was death. This provided for a most somber and solemn pause in the assembly. It was in the gravity of that moment that Benjamin Franklin quipped something like: “Well gentlemen, we must all hang together or most assuredly we will all hang separately.”
There was no doubt in their minds that to stand up to the beast would prove costly. And cost them it did.
Of the fifty-six, five were captured, tortured and put to death. Twelve had their homes burned down. Two lost sons. Nine died in the ensuing war with the beast. Carter Braxton signed as a wealthy trader and died in rags. Thomas McKeam and his family were driven underground and ended up in poverty. Eight had their properties looted. Thomas Nelson directed the cannon fire on his own beautiful estate, which the British General Cornwallis had converted into his headquarters. After destroying his own home, he died bankrupt. Francis Lewis’ home and property were destroyed and his wife captured and thrown in prison where she died. His son died in British captivity as well. A few months after signing, John Hart was driven from his home where his wife lay dying. He was hunted and hid in caves only to finally return to find his fields and grist mill laid to waste, his wife dead and his thirteen children gone. He died shortly thereafter of exhaustion and a broken heart. Richard Stockton died a broken man after being betrayed by a loyalist, imprisoned, and beaten, returning eventually to find his home gutted. Only days after signing, Lewis Morris found his 2,000-acre farm ravaged, his cattle butchered and his family driven away. Similarly, Arthur Middleton, Edward Rutledge and Thomas Heyward were captured while their estates were burned to the ground. Heyward’s wife died, watching it all.
These men had backbones. They did not recant. They did not retreat. They pledged their “lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor” so that a nation built on new foundations might provide liberty to its people. They lost their lives and their fortunes, but not their sacred honor.
Today we fight a new beast. Do we have the same resolve? Are we willing to pledge our lives and fortunes, our sacred honor? Or will we capitulate, bow the knee and take the easy road?
This week, the beast was attempting to force a university in Oklahoma to bow the knee and remove the crosses and Bibles from its chapel. In Denver a baker still battles the beast over his Christian convictions. No question, the beast is huge, his claws are sharp, his teeth are lethal.
But so, too, was King George.
Do we have the backbone to stand?
The Remnant remains for a reason.
In the new release “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” we will be treated with one of our culture’s common threads: vilify all things good.
In the movie, the delightful tradition of a “hero” is once again sacrificed in an attempt to destroy the notion that there is anything truly transcendent…all appearances of good are tainted with evil. We have a penchant for turning heroes into men of shame; sowing seeds of doubt about the righteous warrior; making us suspicious of the saint; dubious of the honorable knight.
This is the enemy’s playground. The world, the flesh, the enemy, and the gravitational pull of a fallen world will continually attempt to make us think that truth and good and honorable and righteous and faith and love and virtue and honor and valor and even male chivalry are to be suspect, to be doubted, to be viewed with skepticism, sensing some selfish and evil agenda hidden behind the veil.
The attack upon good is not new.
Satan convinced Eve that God was oppressive.
Elijah was charged with “troubling Israel”.
Stephen was stoned; Daniel was thrown to the lions; Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were put in the furnace, Jeremiah in the stocks; John beheaded; David hunted; the Disciples martyred; the righteous tortured, mocked, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two, put to the sword.
This is the lot of Right in a fallen world.
But never so much as when the Man of Righteousness was vilified. He was accused though He did no wrong; He was mocked though He was pure; He was scourged though He was perfect; He was crucified though He was blameless.
The world hates right; it hates good; it hates truth and true love; it hates purity and innocence; it hates the wonder of divine marriage; it hates the exclusivity of true sex and one God and absolute Truth.
We celebrate this day, not because we are sadistic, but because of the One who demonstrated true agape love for those who were His enemies. He did not revile, though He was reviled.
The hymn says “It was His love that kept Him there” and it was, for He could have called upon a legion of angels at least or He could have breathed out a word and wiped the entire universe out of existence.
But He didn’t.
And now His Remnant remain in a world that continues to hate what is right and good. It will continue to try to make Batman selfish and Superman vindictive. It will make us suspicious of cops and pastors and husbands and businessmen, not that they are without sin, but with the objective to destroy the design.
It will continually paint believers with all kinds of evil colors and charge us with increasing crimes of the cultural covenants.
But He was crucified and satisfied the wrath of God for us.
Yet the wrath of the world remains and we remain subject to it. But the wrath of the world is nothing compared to what we deserved.
So, we endure with perseverance, changing what can be changed, ever pursuing righteousness in all of life, yet recognizing that the wrath of man is not directed at us, but at Him and all things good.
“And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not grow weary.” Galatians 6:9
After the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked, “What have you given us?” His famous response was, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
Most focus on the fact that the Founders had established a Republic—a point that needs to be continuously made. But seldom do we ponder seriously his wise admonition that it must be “kept”, for the reality is that in a fallen world, it requires toil and sweat to grow and maintain both crops and Republics. Just as weeds will take over an untended garden, so will the relentless tide of political and societal weeds destroy our liberty and freedom if we are not diligent to tend our Republican garden.
If one were to step back and assess the health of our nation today, it would be easy to bemoan what appears to be a loss of rational civility—witness the recent call by a congresswoman to personally and publicly harass anyone in the current administration. That call was immediately carried out as an administration’s family was harassed and refused service in a public restaurant. Personally, I am increasingly fearful of the unchecked hatred that is openly seething in the left—with absolutely no accountability from the blue media.
These are tenuous times for the Republic.
So what do we do to “keep” it?
Well, other than the obvious: prayer, which the Scripture calls us to, the number one task that we have is to insure that our children are well schooled in the principles of liberty and freedom, which I believe are biblical principles—God’s design for the state. And, we have a responsibility to speak of them to our neighbors.
“These are the things that you shall do: speak the truth to your neighbor...” Zecharaiah 8:16
And third, we need to speak of them in the public square. When you can, write an attractively winsome letter to the editor or use some other public forum to graciously speak the truth. There was a time when most of the nation understood these principles—but now they are no longer taught in our schools. Instead, political and societal weeds are sown in our children’s minds throughout all academia. Those weeds are sown continuously from every quarter as well—especially from the media and the morass of entertainment—the fountain from which teens consume 9 hours/day and adults six.
That’s a lot of weed seed.
Teach and promote the foundations. Resist the false notion that the “keepers” are the elected officials or the cleric.
We are the keepers of the Republic... if we can.
P.S! addendum. Facebook refused to let me "boost" this post (Facebook doesn't release posts to all followers of a page, charging a fee to "boost" it to more followers). They refused because it was "political". Here we are, ironically on the 4th of July, facing the increased hostility towards those who express opinions from a biblical or conservative perspective. I believe Facebook has the right to refuse service to anyone, but if they censor this one, which is so benign, what will they do when I speak directly against things I believe are biblically wrong? Take note, we are going to have to find other means to communicate with each other as Internet companies like Facebook and Google use their worldview leanings to only allow postings favorable to their worldview.