I still intend to write about President Donald Trump’s visit to Paris, even though it happened a week ago.

However, time constraints prohibit me from doing so at the moment.

Unfortunately, Big Media did not cover the trip very well. No surprise there.

On Sunday, July 16, 2017, I saw an interview with ex-CIA man Dr Steve Pieczenik on the Alex Jones Show:

If that does not work, here is another link. The interview is in the first half of the segment.

Pieczenik talked about Trump’s G20 meetings as well as his visit with France’s president Emmanuel Macron.

He said that Trump has been able to find common ground with world leaders even when they disagree on important issues.

Trump was able to negotiate the ceasefire in Syria with Russian president Vladimir Putin at the G20. Pieczenik says that was facilitated by the two men finding common ground in other areas.

According to Pieczenik, both men admire beautiful, accomplished women. Putin is very proud of his daughter who speaks several languages. Likewise, Melania Trump might have been a model but is hardly an airhead. She, too, speaks five languages.

Both Trump and Putin enjoy the closeness of family and like to spend time with them. That would have been a topic of conversation. Angela Merkel wisely sat Putin and Mrs Trump together at dinner, also helpful.

Trump is forging important alliances, even if most of the world thinks he is tweeting all day long.

Besides Putin, Trump made an equally positive impression on Poland’s president Andrzej Duda in Warsaw earlier this month. Whilst there, he participated in the Three Seas Initiative, forging new links with Central and Eastern European countries.

Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel went swimmingly. For the first time in many years, there is hope that peace in that region could become reality. His meeting with Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in April was a tremendous success.

Trump has also been successful in forging alliances in the Far East, particularly with Japan’s president Shinzō Abe. His meetings with China’s president Xi Jinping were productive. The Trump administration is currently conducting sensitive trade negotiations with China.

Steve Pieczenik explained that China fears Japan because of their disputed claims on the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The United States might have to mediate at a certain point.

So, while Big Media and their lesser left-leaning counterparts continue to discuss Russian collusion in the 2016 election, President Trump is making productive inroads and good impressions on the world leaders he has met thus far.

So it was in France. Prior to meeting with Trump on Thursday, July 13, Emmanuel Macron met with German chancellor Angela Merkel that morning. Then, after Merkel’s departure, Trump came on the scene. Everyone thought the pro-EU Macron would give him a chilly reception.

However, that was not the case, particularly in the 25-second departure handshake on Friday, July 14. Macron couldn’t let go of his new friend.

Instead, Steve Pieczenik said that Trump was able to persuade Macron to also look to the United States. Pieczenik was certain that Trump was able to get Macron to see that the EU was ‘dying’ (Pieczenik’s word) and that focussing on relations with the United States would be more important in the long run.

Pieczenik went further and said that Trump is slowly breaking up the European Union.

On his own website, Pieczenik described what the French and American delegations would have talked about during Trump’s trip. ‘Trump Meets Macron in Paris!’ is recommended reading. Excerpts follow, emphases in the original:

Let me assure you, that these prestigious intelligence/military officers/operatives are not there to watch French planes fly around in the sky or watch soldiers march through the Arc de Triomphe. I would suspect that they have a full agenda that they want to share with Macron and his own chief of the army, the highly decorated General Jean-Pierre Bossier [CEMAT], regarding one very important issue: counter-terrorism!

Obama put thousands of American troops into the Horn of Africa, specifically Djibouti, to help fight terrorism alongside French troops. Trump has maintained US presence in the region. However, Trump’s military advisors have noted that the American troops require more French input on language and culture there:

I am certain that critical strategic/tactical issues regarding present American occupation in the former French colony in Djibouti [Horn Of Africa] at Camp Lemonnier will become a salient issue. France is far more effective in counteracting the tribal/ethnic battles raging in Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Chad, Central African Republic, et. al. than the novitiate Americans. Instead of sending more American troops, the key issue will be the nature of alternative aid to these impoverished African colonies in order to pre-empt the possible rise of terrorist cells.

Also:

Whatever the past histories are of each country, Macron realized thanks to his time as an investment banker at Rothschild & CIE Banque [closely affiliated with Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase] that alienating any American POTUS was neither feasible nor productive.

In conclusion, there are many geopolitical successes going on right now involving President Trump.

Now, as to foreign collusion regarding elections, Pieczenik had interesting information.

Before I get to what he had to say, here is background information from Michael Caputo who worked in Bill Clinton’s administration over 20 years ago. This was his mission:

He explained to Tucker Carlson that he was sent directly by the Clinton White House to Russia where he was able to get Boris Yeltsin successfully re-elected.

Pieczenik — ex-CIA himself — told Alex Jones that Caputo was part of a CIA programme to ensure Yeltsin’s re-election.

So, there: Hillary’s husband ordered — and got — interference in a Russian election.

Pieczenik also said that, on the domestic front, before John Brennan became CIA director in 2013 (he resigned before Trump’s inauguration), he opened an ‘office in Hollywood’ to effect change in film and television storylines to turn people away from American values and ideals.

Now, back to Michael Caputo. Although he worked for the Clinton administration, two decades later, he became Donald Trump’s communications advisor for the 2016 presidential campaign.

Caputo clearly enjoyed his time in Russia during the 1990s, because he met and married a Ukranian. On March 20, 2017, he found out that his wife’s name was mentioned by Jackie Speier, a congresswoman (D-California), during televised Congressional hearings. (Speier, incidentally, was a survivor of the Jim Jones cult in Jonestown. That should tell you something.) Since then, Caputo told Tucker Carlson that he and his family have received many death threats because Mrs Caputo is Ukranian, even though she now has American citizenship.

The interview starts at the 2:25 mark:

Caputo tells Carlson that he had to testify last week as to what he knows about any involvement Russia had in Trump’s campaign and the election. He says there is absolutely no evidence.

Caputo said — and Trump supporters already know this — the only reason for this accusation, which is now nearly a year old, is to prevent the president from getting anything done.

That, of course, would open the door to impeachment.

I realise that some reading this are hoping for it. I pray to the contrary.

Instead, it is the Democrats who must come clean about their nefarious activities.

This year, I have been running a series of posts on Percy Dearmer‘s 1912 volume, Everyman’s History of the Prayer Book, published by Mowbray.

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 1

Percy Dearmer on the title page of the Book of Common Prayer – part 2

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

Percy Dearmer’s interpretation of St Paul on prophecy and tongues

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

Percy Dearmer: how several prayer books became one liturgical book

Percy Dearmer on Reformation, royalty and the Book of Common Prayer

Percy Dearmer: first Anglican Prayer Book ‘too fair-minded’ for a violent era

Percy Dearmer on the effect of Edward VI’s reign on the Church of England

Percy Dearmer on the Second Prayer Book’s Calvinistic bent

Percy Dearmer on the Third Prayer Book and Elizabeth I

Percy Dearmer blamed Calvinists for sucking the life-blood out of Anglicanism

Last week’s post about Calvinists is recommended reading for today’s entry.

The theological conflict between Calvinists and traditional Anglicans continued long after Elizabeth I’s reign.

Elizabeth I was not a Calvinist, nor was her successor, James I (James VI of Scotland). However, a Calvinist — Puritan — faction was strong and still wanted to leave its stamp on the Church of England.

This conflict continued throughout most of the 17th century, as Dearmer explains in Chapter 9 of his book.

Fortunately, even during the tumultuous atmosphere of the early 1600s, lasting good was to emerge in England via the Authorised — King James — Version of the Bible.

Percy Dearmer researched the history of that era and found documentation by a prominent German historian, Dr Dollinger, regarding this new edition of the Bible (emphases mine below):

I believe we may credit one great superiority in England over other countries to the circumstance that there the Holy Scripture is found in every house, as is the case nowhere else in the world. It is, so to speak, the good genius of the place, the protecting spirit of the domestic hearth and family.

Would that this were the case today. Believers would do well to pray that this becomes so once more. I have never seen such a group of atheists as I have in England — and Great Britain as a whole.

Dearmer, while condemning Edward VI’s advisors and the subsequent Puritans, asks us to be philosophical about good coming from bad:

Those who come after — some time after — are able to separate the good from the evil, and to possess all that is worthy, not from one side only, but from both. Thus the world does slowly grow in wisdom, learning to eschew what is evil and to hold fast what is good … that freedom to-day which is the main hope of Christendom — the freedom to go back behind the traditions of men to the plain words and pure example of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Before I get to the Authorised Version — the KJV — there were other ecclesiastically historical events which preceded it.

The Hampton Court Conference, 1604

In January 1604, when James I succeeded Elizabeth I, the Puritans pressed for what they called a Millenary Petition. The objective was for more reform in the national Church.

The King, who was no Puritan but who — according to Dearmer — loved a good argument, responded with the Hampton Court Conference.

The Puritans, predictably, laid out their objections to the Third Prayer Book of Elizabeth’s reign. As notionally ‘Romish’ elements of the First Prayer Book had been restored, they wanted to see these eliminated once and for all.

The Puritans’ objections were much the same as before: vestments and the Sign of the Cross made during Baptism.

They had others:

the wedding ring, the word “priest,” bowing at the name of Jesus; the Puritans also disliked the Thirty-nine Articles as not sanctioning Calvinism; they desired that Baptism should never be ministered by women, that Confirmation should be taken away, and also the Churching of Women, that “examination” should go before Communion, that “the longsomeness of service” should be “abridged” and “Church songs and music moderated,” that the Lord’s Day should not be “profaned” (by the playing of games), that an uniformity of doctrine should be prescribed, and a few other things.

The wedding ring is interesting. I used to run across committed Christian men in the United States who refused to wear one. They never explained exactly why, but, presumably, this objection to wedding bands as being unbiblical must have persisted through the centuries.

As for the Thirty-nine Articles espousing Calvinism, that was never going to happen as the previous posts in this series explain. The Church of England was always intended to be a middle way. It had — and has — its own identity.

Unfortunately, that sound set of Thirty-nine Articles was discarded as being of historical interest only at the end of the 20th century not only in England but elsewhere in the West, including — perhaps, especially — in the Episcopal Church in the United States. It is no surprise, therefore, to find clergy becoming agnostic or atheist and turning to New Age rituals. Biblical preaching and practice is largely gone. But I digress.

Dearmer explains that dictating to the letter what churchgoers should believe in what was a somewhat pluralistic church community would have been a dangerous move. So was dictating what people could do on Sundays. That came during Cromwell’s Interregnum, but that is the subject of another entry.

Dearmer also points out that the Puritans’ desire for fewer hymns resulted in an equally ‘longsomeness of service’ as clergy preached ever-longer sermons and introduced lengthy extemporaneous prayers.

King James wrote his impressions of the Hampton Court Conference afterwards, documenting his delight at verbally opposing the Puritans:

We have kept such a revel with the Puritans here these two days as was never heard the likeI have peppered them as soundly . . . They fled me so from argument to argument without ever answering me directly

Today’s Puritan sympathisers do the same thing. Answer comes none.

The Fourth Prayer Book, 1604

The Puritans were determined, as are their present-day Anglican equivalents, most of whom reside in the United States.

They wanted a new prayer book and they got one.

It was not a total win for the Puritans, but they won certain battles over verbiage and ceremony (see sections in bold):

– A new section was added to the Catechism which explains the Sacraments. Dearmer credits this to a prominent theologian of the day, Dr Overall.

– A prayer for the Royal Family was added to the end of the litany.

– Prayers of thanksgiving for weather (e.g. needed rain) and health (e.g. against the Plague) were added.

– A ‘lawful Minister’ — not ‘priest’ — had to administer Baptism, although this did not exclude a layperson doing so in an emergency.

– A subtitle to the rite of Confirmation — ‘the laying on of hands’ — was duly added.

– A subtitle to the Absolution — ‘the remission of sins’ — was added.

Existing lessons (readings) from the Apocrypha, still in use in Roman Catholic liturgy, were omitted:

the quaint history of Bel and the Dragon, and the much-loved romance of Tobit were given up.

The Canons of 1604

The King had approved the Canons of 1604 which prescribed elements of worship in England, including use of the Prayer Book.

Some of these please neither ‘Romanists’ nor Puritans as they specified a middle way. They reinstituted the reverence for the name of Jesus — probably by the bowing of the head each time His name was mentioned — and enforced a minimum of altar linen and clerical vestments in worship.

The Authorised Version of the Bible

The Fourth Prayer Book was eventually replaced by that of King Charles II in 1662.

The more lasting contribution of this era was the Authorised Version of the Bible, so called because King James granted his approval, hence ‘authorised’. Today, most of us call it the King James Version, the KJV.

I wrote about the KJV in 2011:

The King James Version celebrates its 400th anniversary this year

BBC shows on the King James Version

BBC’s Story of the King James Bible — The Commission

BBC’s Story of the King James Bible — The Translation

BBC’s Story of the King James Bible — The Legacy

The timeline of a Bible for the British Isles

Now on to Dearmer’s history of it. During the Hampton Court Conference of 1604, one of the Puritans, Dr Reynolds, proposed a new edition of the Bible.

At that time, the Geneva Bible of 1560 — inspired by John Calvin’s teachings in that city — was the pre-eminent version used in England by the people. It seems odd then, that a Puritan would want a revision of it and that the mainstream Anglicans present opposed the idea. The clergy used the Bishop’s Bible of 1568, which was never popular amongst churchgoers.

However, King James voiced his support. He never liked the Geneva Bible because its Calvinist footnotes, in his words, were:

very partial, untrue, seditious, and savouring too much of dangerous and traitorous conceits.

This is because the footnotes implied that only God, not governors, kings or princes, was the true authority. Whilst that is scripturally accurate, our governors are there to maintain godly order. However, the Geneva Bible does not mention this. Consequently, James thought that zealous people could take against the Crown, citing the Bible.

When the conference ended, James drew up a list of 54 divines, irreprochable and highly learned theologians. Interestingly, none were bishops, although some did become bishops later. Dearmer observes:

the Authorized Version, in fact, owes its excellence to the common sense of the King in choosing his men for their learning and capacity, and not for their official position. This may seem a very obvious piece of wisdom: but it is to be noted that it has been forgotten in our hitherto unsuccessful twentieth century attempts at Prayer Book revision.

I couldn’t agree more.

The King reduced the number of divines to 47. They were the ones who came up with the new Bible:

King James’s fifty-four divines were afterwards reduced to the “prodigiously learned and earnest persons, forty-seven in number,” who, Carlyle says, gave us our version of that Book of Books, “which possesses this property, inclusive of all, add we, That it is written under the eye of the Eternal; that it is of a sincerity like very Death, the truest utterance that ever came by alphabetic letters from the Soul of Man.”

The history of English versions of the Bible was accompanied by bloodshed and martyrdom, and this particular era would see the same in the English Civil War, which was to come.

However, as Dearmer rightly says, Scripture united the divines, some of whom were mainstream Anglicans and others Puritan:

Puritans and High Churchmen had the Scriptures in common, and did alike fervently believe in them: outside the rooms in Oxford, Cambridge, and Westminster, where the forty-seven divines met, religious folk were maligning each other in brilliant, bitter, and abusive pamphlets; but within those learned conferences all hostilities were silenced, all differences ignored: men like Overall and the saintly Andrewes, on the one side, joined with Reynolds and Abbott on the other; and the forty-seven worked in such singular harmony that it is impossible even to distinguish between the three companies which worked in three different places: the Authorized Version of the Bible reads like the work of one great man.

The Holy Spirit was truly working through them to write one great Bible which has withstood time. Dearmer explains that the genres of various books were preserved, some poetic and others, such as the Gospels, simplistic so as to be understood by the greatest number of people.

It is a theological and literary masterpiece — for everyone:

The divines — who might have wrought a literary gem for the bookshelves of the learned, after the manner of the age that produced Donne and Milton, Burton and Sir Thomas Browne — threw aside the pedantries and preciosities which were in fashion, and sat humbly at the feet of those predecessors who in peril of death had hewn out the words of life with such strength of simplicity; and they produced a book which has been at once the comfort of the peasant and the model and inspiration of our greatest writers.

Dearmer rightly adds that, although this was the era of literary masterpieces (e.g. Shakespeare), scholarly wisdom does not often equate with absorbing prose:

Now scholars are not generally masters of prose, and the combination of the critical and the constructive gift — of science and art — is almost unknown to-day, when learned translations and exact commentaries are common enough, but the majority of ancient books have still not been turned into English classics. The English Bible is an exception. We do not think of it as a translation at all: we think of it as the greatest of English classics, which, among other things, it is.

Many unbelievers in Britain have read it for its literary merit. I can only pray that the Holy Spirit works through them and ends their stubborn blindness to our Redeemer and only Advocate.

Dearmer says that, although King James appointed the divines in 1604, they did not begin work until 1607. It took them only four years to write this beautiful and enduring Bible, which first appeared in print in 1611.

Dearmer concludes:

And what is true of the English Bible is true also of the English Prayer Book. Scholars who won the consecration of martyrdom gave to it a like power of inspired translation, and endowed it with the magic of their prose. Thus it is that the one book worthy to be set side by side with the English Bible is that Book of Common Prayer, which has won a place in the heart of the Anglo-Saxon race second only to the Bible, and which day by day issues it forth in psalter and lectionary to the people.

I wish that were still the case. Fortunately, I am able to attend a 1662 Book of Common Prayer service once a month.

Next time we look at Dearmer’s history of that prayer book, written after the Restoration. With the end of the English Civil War and the Interregnum came the return of monarchy and a new king, Charles II, my favourite.

On Monday, July 17, 2017 President Donald Trump launched a week-long Made in America campaign to showcase products made in the United States by American companies.

That day, one company from each of the 50 states went to the White House to display their wares. Some gave the president a personalised product.

This appears to be yet another Trump ‘first’. In this short video, the president explains more:

It will be even better when he and his daughter can get Trump and Ivanka Trump merchandise made in the United States. Currently, they are made in various Asian countries.

It should also be noted that Trump’s White House pens, used for signing official documents, are of Chinese manufacture and American assembly.

For now, Trump’s intention is to remind the nation of American workers, as The Conservative Treehouse explains:

America is a nation that honors the work of gifted and skilled tradespeople, but for too long our government has forgotten the American workers. Their interests were pushed aside for global projects and their wealth was taken from their communities and shipped overseas.

Under the leadership of President Trump, not only will the American worker never be forgotten, but they will be championed …

President Trump knows that America first means putting American workers first.

The White House provided a list of the 50 companies that participated.

Larger products were displayed on the South Lawn:

The president couldn’t resist playing with one big boy’s toy:

Smaller products were on display in the White House:

The Dallas News was ecstatic to see Trump participate in a long-standing presidential tradition of wearing a Stetson. The Garland, Texas company has been producing hats for 152 years, often giving personalised ones to American presidents:

Trump was a star baseball player when he attended New York Military Academy. In fact, he seriously considered pursuing a professional baseball career after he graduated in 1964. So, it came as no surprise that he would want to try out a bat:

He enjoyed himself:

Gibson Guitars’ appearance was important …

Because …

President Trump pledged to protect the American worker and American employers:

Vice President Mike Pence pointed out:

Afterwards:

The Conservative Treehouse has more photos.

Before hosting a dinner for seven Republican senators, Trump expressed his pleasure with the exhibition:

For more American-made products, visit American Retail, a comprehensive website with short histories of featured companies. It’s beautifully laid out and offers links to manufacturers so that you can easily place an order online.

In his Monday press briefing, Sean Spicer said that, while this week highlights American manufacturing, there will be more to follow throughout July:

Later on in the month, we’ll also be highlighting American heroes and the American Dream.

As far as concrete policies for American workers, Trump is in the process of renegotiating Bill Clinton’s NAFTA, which dates from the 1990s and needs a makeover. We will see how he negotiates his famous ‘Art of the Deal’ with classic opponents of his such as the US Chamber of Commerce and union leader Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO.

Never mind that Democrats want to take credit for renegotiating NAFTA — ignore them — it is Trump who is actually changing minds:

Trumka says that Trump outperforms Obama on trade:

An investigation is also taking place by the Commerce Department into Chinese steel’s effect on the American steel industry.

Things are moving along well in the Trump administration. Regardless of what Al Gore said on Sunday, President Trump spends little time tweeting. Trump is working hard to Make America Great Again.

In order to better understand and appreciate St Paul’s ministry, it is helpful to read the first half of Acts 9 carefully.

My past two posts — here and here — went through the background and conversion of Saul of Tarsus in detail.

The painting at left depicts his dramatic Damascene conversion according to St Luke’s account in Acts.

Today’s post looks at what happened after he was blinded and the men around him led him by the hand into Damascus.

The passage below is from the English Standard Version of the Bible. Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 9:10-19

10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.

————————————————————————————————

My previous posts discussed how Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, devised a grand plan of travelling to Damascus to persecute Christians, only to find himself blinded by the light of Christ and toppled from his horse.

He travelled with a number of men in pursuit of converts whom Saul wanted transported back to Jerusalem for religious trial on charges of heresy. So much for that plan. Our Lord had other ideas, but, first, Saul had to be taught a lesson about his persecution of our Saviour.

Before being struck down, Saul of Tarsus was a nasty little piece of work. (Yes, he was of short stature. His Roman name Paul means ‘little’.) He went around persecuting Christians in Jerusalem. Man or woman, it did not matter. He was involved with the martyrdom of Stephen, after which the disciples (but not the Apostles) fled Jerusalem. Philip the Evangelist went to Samaria and made many converts there. Damascus was also a destination for evangelism, hence why Saul wanted to go there.

Saul and his companions found a place to stay in Damascus. Saul immediately spent three days contemplating his grave sins against Christ to the extent that he could not eat or drink. Physically, he was as helpless as a baby. Spiritually, he was growing: engaging in heartfelt prayer and increasing in divine grace. He was leaving his Pharisaical heritage behind and becoming a Christian.

Verse 10 tells us that the Lord appeared in a vision to a convert named Ananias. Matthew Henry tells us that Ananias was a native of Damascus, not a convert who fled Jerusalem, and that he had occasional visions from the Lord (emphases mine below):

it is said (Acts 22:12) that he had a good report of all the Jews who dwelt there, as a devout man according to the law; he had lately embraced the gospel, and given up his name to Christ, and, as it should seem, officiated as a minister, at least pro hac vice–on this occasion, though it does not appear that he was apostolically ordained

It is probable it was not the first time that he had heard the words of God, and seen the visions of the Almighty; for, without terror or confusion, he readily answers

The Lord told Ananias to go to a street called Straight and to the house of Judas (not Iscariot) where a certain Saul of Tarsus was praying (verse 11). John MacArthur says that Straight is the main avenue in Damascus:

It had a street that ran right straight through the middle of it from the eastern gate to the western gate, straight about three miles long. It’s still existing today. The street’s called Straight there, it’s called Darbal Mospakeem, different name of course. But it’s still there and the street called Straight, at one end of it was the house of Judas. Today some people say that there’s a spot where that house was and supposedly a closet where Saul was praying for those three days, but that’s conjecture.

One might wonder why the Lord did not send one of the Apostles to travel from Jerusalem to minister to Paul. It was no doubt more expedient to employ a local believer and that would also help the Church grow there. Furthermore, as Henry points out:

Surely, because Christ would employ variety of hands in eminent services, that the honours might not be monopolized nor engrossed by a few–because he would put work into the hands, and thereby put honour upon the heads, of those that were mean and obscure, to encourage them–and because he would direct us to make much of the ministers that are where our lot is cast, if they have ordained mercy to be faithful, though they are not of the most eminent.

As we discover in verse 12, the Lord had already given Saul a vision of a man named Ananias who would go to visit him and restore his sight. Saul’s expectations must have been high.

Ananias hesitated, telling the Lord that Saul was notorious for ‘evil’ — persecuting converts in Jerusalem (verse 13). Furthermore, he said that Saul was in Damascus to persecute Christ’s followers (verse 14). So, word had already reached the converts that Saul was going there under the authority of the chief priests in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the religious centre for Jewish authority, regardless of where Jews lived.

The Lord replied that He intended to use Saul as ‘a chosen instrument’ to minister to Gentile and Jew alike (verse 15). He added that Saul would suffer in His name (verse 16), which he did. He, the one who sought to imprison Christians, would himself be no stranger to confinement. He was instrumental in Stephen’s martyrdom in Jerusalem and would also die a martyr, along with the Apostle Peter, in Rome.

Ananias obeyed the Lord and spoke a precise message, identifying himself, describing Saul’s being struck down and announcing that he would regain his sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit (verse 17).

Note that Ananias laid hands on him (verse 17) — healing hands on someone who had been a believer’s worst enemy. Ananias also addressed the man he was fearing as ‘brother’. What an experience that must have been for both men.

Then, a supernatural event took place: ‘something like scales’ fell from Saul’s eyes and he could see once more (verse 18). This has a double meaning, one that is physical and one that is spiritual.

Did a scale-like substance really fall from Saul’s eyes? MacArthur says no:

Now this is Luke. Luke is a physician and so naturally he chooses a little metaphor that would be medical. He didn’t really have scales as it were as jose in the Greek, not to be confused with the Spanish jose. But it means as if. It was as if he had some medical problem and scales dropped of his eyes. 

Henry takes the verse literally:

Saul is delivered from the spirit of bondage by receiving sight (Acts 9:18), which was signified by the falling of scales from his eyes; and this immediately, and forthwith: the cure was sudden, to show that it was miraculous.

You’re welcome to interpret that as you like. Personally, I would like to think that there was a physical manifestation of a scale-like substance as God’s way of demonstrating to Saul how spiritually blind he had been for the following reason. Recall that Saul was born and raised a Pharisee. Recall how often Jesus told the Pharisees of their blindness — spiritual blindness. I think this was a physical manifestation, a divine way of driving home a point to Saul.

Henry offers this analysis:

This signified the recovering of him, [1.] From the darkness of his unconverted state. When he persecuted the church of God, and walked in the spirit and way of the Pharisees, he was blind; he saw not the meaning either of the law or of the gospel, Romans 7:9. Christ often told the Pharisees that they were blind, and could not make them sensible of it; they said, We see, John 9:41. Saul is saved from his Pharisaical blindness, by being made sensible of it. Note, Converting grace opens the eyes of the soul, and makes the scales to fall from them (Acts 26:18), to open men’s eyes, and turn them from darkness to light: this was what Saul was sent among the Gentiles to do, by the preaching of the gospel, and therefore must first experience it in himself.

The removal of scales would also signify that Saul’s time in judgement and terror had ended:

[2.] From the darkness of his present terrors, under the apprehension of guilt upon his conscience, and the wrath of God against him. This filled him with confusion, during those three days he sat in darkness, like Jonah for three days in the belly of hell; but now the scales fell from his eyes, the cloud was scattered, and the Sun of righteousness rose upon his soul, with healing under his wings.

Ananias then baptised Paul. Baptism is very important. I have read notional Christian websites that say it isn’t, but the New Testament has several mentions of baptism, beginning with Jesus in the Gospels and continuing in Acts. If it were unimportant, these mentions would not exist.

Henry tells us:

He was baptized, and thereby submitted to the government of Christ, and cast himself upon the grace of Christ. Thus he was entered into Christ’s school, hired into his family, enlisted under his banner, and joined himself to him for better for worse. The point was gained: it is settled; Saul is now a disciple of Christ, not only ceases to oppose him, but devotes himself entirely to his service and honour.

MacArthur says:

Baptism is so important people. If you haven’t gotten that message through the book of Acts you haven’t been listening. See? Baptism is critically important. Why? Because it’s a public confession of your identification with the body of believers.

I knew a lady who had strayed from the Church for many years. She married an unbeliever. She never had her daughter baptised. By the time I met her, she had returned to the Church and her daughter was an adult. This lady regretted never having had her daughter baptised as an infant because, later on, it was too late! She broached the subject with her daughter, but the young woman replied, ‘Why? I don’t even believe!’ Baptism confers grace. The lady knew it and regretted depriving her daughter of that grace, thinking it would persuade her to become a believer. But I digress.

In verse 19, St Luke tells us that Paul ate and was strengthened. MacArthur thinks it was a large Christian meal. He says in jest:

And if you know anything about how Christians feed, you can imagine the poor guy was almost sick when it was over.

Quite possibly!

Saul being Saul, he wasted no time in going out into Damascus to preach in Jesus’s name. Christ’s divine intervention transformed the zeal he had in persecuting converts to passionately preaching in His name.

More on that when Forbidden Bible Verses returns at the weekend.

Yesterday’s post introduced Saul — later, Paul — whom Christ brought to the ground and, with that fall, accomplished the most dramatic conversion in Christian history.

That post has much information on Saul’s background. It is important to know, as it helps reveal the man who wrote so many letters to his converts — Epistles which we hear most Sundays — and, other than Jesus, contributed the most to Christian theology.

The painting at left shows what happened as described in Acts 9:1-9.

Yesterday’s post covered Acts 9:1-2. Today’s will cover the next seven verses.

Commentary comes from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

I’ve used the English Standard Version below:

Acts 9:1-9

The Conversion of Saul

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Saul, journeying from Jerusalem to the ancient city of Damascus to round up Christian converts, probably travelled there with a retinue of men. All were likely to be on horseback, as it was a long journey.

Yesterday’s post explained that Saul was on a religious mission that he devised himself. He asked the high priest for letters to the synagogues in Damascus to reveal their Christian members. The temple in Jerusalem had jurisdiction over all Jews, wherever they might be. The temple was like the Vatican, all powerful in matters religious. Christians were to be brought back to Jerusalem for trial on grounds of heresy, akin to the Spanish Inquisition.

John MacArthur describes the journey as follows (emphases mine below):

he probably had really a large entourage of people going along with him to bring these prisoners back. So this whole gang is going north.

And what’s a fantastic note is this. Just think about this. To go north to Damascus, 160 miles, he’s got to go right through Samaria. Now … you know what’s going on in Samaria. And if he was irritated already, you can imagine how irritated he was by the time he got through Samaria, because who had just finished going through Samaria? Philip, who was immediately followed by Peter and John. The gospel was preached all over Samaria. People were turning to Jesus Christ by the thousands. A revival was going on in Samaria. That must have really irritated him.

I wrote about Philip the Evangelist’s powerful ministry, as documented in Acts 8, here, here and here. Acts 8 ends with Philip’s conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch, a man well placed in Queen Candace’s household.

MacArthur continues:

But he didn’t seem to stop at any point. He made his way through, infuriated, no doubt, at what he saw, but intent on getting to Damascus, and figuring he’d mop this area up later. It normally took a caravan six days to get there, so it was a pretty good trip. Well, on that sixth day, as they got near town, something fantastic happened, and that, in verse 3, begins the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.

For such a long trip, the men were securely and comfortably saddled. That is important to keep in mind.

Matthew Henry gives us a bit of history about Damascus and its significance in Saul’s conversion:

Some observe that he who was to be the apostle of the Gentiles was converted to the faith of Christ in a Gentile country. Damascus had been infamous for persecuting God’s people formerlythey threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron (Amos 1:3), and now it was likely to be so again.

Also important to keep in mind is that Saul was a well educated man, a knowledgeable and rational thinker. Although short in stature — his Roman name Paul meant ‘little’ — he was probably physically powerful, very determined and rarely frightened.

As they approached Damascus, then, a shaft of light from heaven shone around him (verse 3). It shone only on him, although the men around him, particularly those nearest him, saw it, too, although it did not envelop them. Henry explains:

… the Lord Jesus was in this light, and appeared to him by the way. He saw that just One (Acts 22:14), and see Acts 26:13. Whether he saw him at a distance, as Stephen saw him, in the heavens, or nearer in the air, is not certain. It is not inconsistent with what is said of the heavens receiving Christ till the end of time (Acts 3:21) to suppose that he did, upon such an extraordinary occasion as this, make a personal visit, but a very short one, to this lower world; it was necessary to Paul’s being an apostle that he should see the Lord, and so he did, 1 Corinthians 9:1,15:8. (1.) This light shone upon him suddenly–exaiphnes, when Paul never thought of any such thing, and without any previous warning

Also:

It was a light from Heaven, the fountain of light, from the God of heaven, the Father of lights. It was a light above the brightness of the sun (Acts 26:13), for it was visible at mid-day, and outshone the sun in his meridian strength and lustre, Isaiah 24:23. (3.) It shone round about him, not in his face only, but on every side of him; let him turn which way he will, he finds himself surrounded with the discoveries of it. And this was designed not only to startle him, and awaken his attention (for well may he expect to hear when he is thus made to see something very extraordinary), but to signify the enlightening of his understanding with the knowledge of Christ. The devil comes to the soul in darkness; by this he gets and keeps possession of it. But Christ comes to the soul in light, for he is himself the light of the world, bright and glorious to us, as light.

Paul — prepared, determined, fearless and, likely, secure in his saddle — fell to the ground. However, the Lord saw that he broke no bones. Henry describes the scene:

It is probable that he was mounted, as Balaam, when he went to curse Israel, and perhaps better mounted than he; for Saul was now in a public post, was in haste, and the journey was long, so that it is not likely he should travel on foot. The sudden light would frighten the beast he rode on, and make it throw him; and it was God’s good providence that his body got no hurt by the fall: but angels had a particular charge concerning him, to keep all his bones, so that not one of them was broken. It appears (Acts 26:14) that all that were with him fell to the earth as well as he, but the design was upon him.

MacArthur reminds us of what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane, hours before His death:

if you read further, in chapter 22 and chapter 26, you’ll find that those two chapters also record this same event, and they fill in a lot of details. What happened was, the light shone and the whole crowd hit the ground. They just completely fell over. They were face to face with Jesus Christ. They did the same thing, you remember, the soldiers in the Garden? Jesus walked out, and the whole army went just like that. And they all hit the ground. Apparently, as you put the narratives together, some of the soldiers started picking themselves back up again, and they were dumb with amazement. They couldn’t figure out what was going on.

Saul heard Christ’s voice from heaven asking why he was persecuting Him. Up to now, Saul no doubt knew about Jesus’s ministry on earth but, for him, the story stopped with the Crucifixion. Saul considered Jesus’s followers heretics.

However, being surrounded by a ray of light brighter than the noonday sun, which, in that part of the world is startlingly bright, Saul’s recognition of Jesus came instantly.

Now, the all-powerful Saul was prostrate on the ground, lying defeated, immediately addressing Christ as ‘Lord’ (verse 5)!

What a moment that must have been.

Henry offers this analysis:

This may be considered, (1.) As the effect of Christ’s appearing to him, and of the light which shone round about him. Note, Christ’s manifestations of himself to poor souls are humbling; they lay them very low, in mean thoughts of themselves, and a humble submission to the will of God … (2.) As a step towards this intended advancement. He is designed not only to be a Christian, but to be a minister, an apostle, a great apostle, and therefore he must thus be cast down. Note, Those whom Christ designs for the greatest honours are commonly first laid low. Those who are designed to excel in knowledge and grace are commonly laid low first, in a sense of their own ignorance and sinfulness. Those whom God will employ are first struck with a sense of their unworthiness to be employed.

That unworthiness is a continual theme in Paul’s letters to his flock. For that reason, he was vigilant in exhorting others to see their own sinfulness and repent.

Note that Jesus told him that, by persecuting His followers, Saul was persecuting Him (verse 5). That was emphasised in the previous verse when He used Saul’s name twice. MacArthur explains that the double use of a name in Luke’s Gospel and here in Acts, also by Luke, denotes a warning:

… in Luke’s writing, the repetition of a name refers to a rebuke or a warning, whether Luke says, “Martha, Martha,” “Simon, Simon,” or “Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” and here, “Saul, Saul.” In Luke’s mind, that’s rebuke and warning. And it was.

Henry’s assessment agrees but further posits that Saul was so stunned that Jesus had to call him twice:

First, The deep sleep that Saul was in; he needed to be called again and again, as Jeremiah 22:29, O earth, earth, earth. Secondly, The tender concern that the blessed Jesus had for him, and for his recovery. He speaks as one in earnest; it is like Martha, Martha (Luke 10:41), or Simon, Simon (Luke 22:31), or O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Matthew 23:37. He speaks to him as to one in imminent danger, at the pit’s brink, and just ready to drop in: “Saul, Saul, dost thou know whither thou art going, or what thou art doing?”

As for Christ’s asking Paul why he was persecuting Him via His followers, Henry explains:

Christ never complained so much of those who persecuted him in his own person as he did here of those who persecuted him in his followers. He complains of it as it was Saul’s sin: “Why art thou such an enemy to thyself, to thy God?” Note, The sins of sinners are a very grievous burden to the Lord Jesus. He is grieved for them (Mark 3:5), he is pressed under them, Amos 2:13.

It was more powerful for Jesus, in His infinite wisdom, to ask than to tell:

Those have no knowledge who eat up God’s people, Psalms 14:4. Why persecutest thou me? He thought he was persecuting only a company of poor, weak, silly people, that were an offence and eye-sore to the Pharisees, little imagining that is was one in heaven that he was all this while insulting; for surely, if he had known, he would not have persecuted the Lord of glory. Note, Those who persecute the saints persecute Christ himself, and he takes what is done against them as done against himself, and accordingly will be the judgment in the great day, Matthew 25:45.

Henry says we would do well to remember this story in light of our own sins:

It is convincing language: “Why dost thou thus: Canst thou give any good reason for it?” Note, It is good for us often to ask ourselves why we do so and so, that we may discern what an unreasonable thing sin is

If God contend with us for our sins, we are not able to answer for one of a thousand, especially such a one as the sin of persecution. Convictions of sin, when they are set home with power upon the conscience, will silence all excuses and self-justifications.

Jesus told Saul to enter Damascus and to await further instructions (verse 6).

Although he was still on the ground, Saul’s travelling companions were now standing, startled. They could hear Christ’s voice but could see no one (verse 7). Henry tells us that Acts 22 describes this further:

… when they were up, (1.) They stood speechless, as men in confusion, and that was all, Acts 9:7. They were going on the same wicked errand that Paul was, and perhaps, to the best of their power, were as spiteful as he; yet we do not find that any of them were converted, though they saw the light, and were struck down and struck dumb by it. No external means will of themselves work a change in the soul, without the Spirit and grace of God, which distinguish between some and others; among these that journeyed together, one is taken, and the others left. They stood speechless; none of them said, Who art thou, Lord? or, What wilt thou have me to do? as Paul did, but none of God’s children are born dumb. (2.) They heard a voice, but saw no man; they heard Paul speak, but saw not him to whom he spoke, nor heard distinctly what was said to him: which reconciles it with what is said of this matter, Acts 22:9, where it is said, They saw the light and were afraid (which they might do and yet see no man in the light, as Paul did), and that they heard not the voice of him that spoke to Paul, so as to understand what he said, though they did hear a confused noise.

Saul rose, but he was blinded (verse 8) — blinded by the Light. He was now helpless. His men had to lead him by the hand into Damascus. He, who was to lead a sweeping mission against Christians and Christ, could not do a thing.

Henry describes Saul’s condition at that point. A divine plan was at work:

(1.) He arose from the earth, when Christ commanded him, but probably not without help, the vision had made him so faint and weak, I will not say like Belshazzar, when the joints of his loins were loosed and his knees smote one against another, but like Daniel, when upon the sight of a vision no strength remained in him, Daniel 10:16,17. (2.) When his eyes were opened, he found that his sight was gone, and he saw no man, none of the men that were with him, and began now to be busy about him. It was not so much this glaring light that, by dazzling his eyes, had dimmed them–Nimium sensibile lædit sensum; for then those with him would have lost their sight too; but it was a sight of Christ, whom the rest saw not, that had this effect upon him. Thus a believing sight of the glory of God in the face of Christ dazzles the eyes to all things here below.

This is essential to understanding Saul’s loss of sight and why Saul remained not only blind but also unable to take any food or drink for three days (verse 9):

Christ, in order to the further discovery of himself and his gospel to Paul, took him off from the sight of other things, which he must look off, that he may look unto Jesus, and to him only

So far from this that we have reason to think he was all this time rather in the belly of hell, suffering God’s terrors for his sins, which were now set in order before him: he was in the dark concerning his own spiritual state, and was so wounded in spirit for sin that he could relish neither meat nor drink.

We find out that they went to the house of a man named Judas in the street called Straight, nothing more. The important thing is that Saul was reduced to nothing for three days. In Damascus, he planned to persecute many — and violently. Now he was in spiritual lockdown — a spiritual prison — to ruminate on and repent of his sins in order to fully acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord.

The number three is significant in Holy Scripture. Bible Study tells us, in part:

The number 3 is used 467 times in the Bible. It pictures completeness, though to a lesser degree than 7. The meaning of this number derives from the fact that it is the first of four spiritually perfect numerals (the others being 7, 10 and 12)

There are 27 books in the New Testament, which is 3x3x3, or completeness to the third power.

Dr Richard D Patterson has much more, with a list of all the occurrences of the number 3, except for Saul’s conversion story. That said, his detailed essay is well worth reading, especially as his general theme for the number 3 is one of not only completion but also expectation of a future event.

In this case, that event is Paul’s magnificent ministry, unequalled in the Church.

In closing, MacArthur gives in his sermon a few interesting details about his own conversion. You might find these events from his youth as surprising as I did:

Some people God gently calls. And some people hear the still, small voice. But there are other people who are making so much noise that God’s got to make a lot of racket to get through, see. You know, I think about my own life, and the years and years that I was in a Christian home, and went to church so many years, and all this stuff. And I was in…I knew everything. I had seven zipper Bibles from the graduation from every department, and, you know, and I always had sticker stains on my head from turkeys and gold stars. I’d been in Sunday School since the year one. And I knew all of the things there were to know, and God continually spoke to my heart, and I continued to rebel in my own heart about really committing my life to Him.

And so, finally, going 75 miles an hour, a car flipped, He threw me out, I hit the pavement, slid 100 yards on my…and after it was all over, God could communicate. I said, “You know, I can only go so far, Lord. If you’re going to do it like this, I can’t fight it.” But it was one of those kind of things in my life where God had to get dramatic

If you’re a sinner here and you die and go to hell, it won’t be because you lied. I’ve lied, and I’m not going to hell. It won’t be because you stole something. I stole something. Even got put in the Glendale City Jail. But I’m not going to hell. If you go to hell, it won’t be because you went out and got drunk, because you took drugs. I’ve never done that. I’ve done a lot of other things. If you go to hell, it’ll be because you didn’t acknowledge Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. That’s the only reason.

The next part of this series concludes with what happened next to Saul in Damascus.

Before I continue with my Forbidden Bible Verses series, I would like to explore the story of Saul’s — St Paul’s — conversion.

The first half of Acts 9 is in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship, but one wonders how good the sermons are on it.

This is one of the most dramatic and significant episodes in the New Testament. There is also much history to explore here.

Commentary is taken from Matthew Henry and John MacArthur. The verses below are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Acts 9:1-9

The Conversion of Saul

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

—————————————————————————————–

Recall that Saul was the most violent persecutor of Christians in Jerusalem. I wrote about Acts 8:1-3 in May. Those verses introduce Saul and say that he approved the martyrdom of Stephen, one of the first deacons. He was probably present at and involved with Stephen’s stoning.

After Stephen was stoned, many new converts — of which there were thousands — fled Jerusalem for neighbouring areas. Samaria was one of them. Damascus (Syria) was another. The Apostles remained in Jerusalem, but the disciples — including Hellenist (Greek) Jews — fled with the other converts to Gentile areas.

Acts 9 introduces Paul — as Saul. From this point on in Acts, Paul is the dominant figure, although Peter is still mentioned occasionally.

Because there is much to read here, this post will cover only the first two verses.

Matthew Henry provides background on Saul. This is important to note because it will come in handy as we progress through the rest of the Book of Acts (emphases mine below):

His name in Hebrew was Saul–desired, though as remarkably little in stature as his namesake king Saul was tall and stately; one of the ancients calls him, Homo tricubitalis–but four feet and a half in height; his Roman name which he went by among the citizens of Rome was Paul–little. He was born in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, a free city of the Romans, and himself a freeman of that city. His father and mother were both native Jews; therefore he calls himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews; he was of the tribe of Benjamin, which adhered to Judah.

Tarsus is in present day Turkey.

Saul was highly intelligent, very well educated — and a Pharisee:

His education was in the schools of Tarsus first, which was a little Athens for learning; there he acquainted himself with the philosophy and poetry of the Greeks. Thence he was sent to the university at Jerusalem, to study divinity and the Jewish law. His tutor was Gamaliel, an eminent Pharisee. He had extraordinary natural parts, and improved mightily in learning.

Gamaliel was a well-known and highly respected man. You can read more about him in my discussion of Acts 5:33-42. He served on the temple council in Jerusalem and warned his fellow council members against persecuting the Apostles in case they (the council) were unknowingly opposing God.

MacArthur says:

At the age of approximately 13, no doubt, Saul was packed off to Jerusalem. The Jewish heritage was motivation enough for him to have good Jewish training. So he was off to Jerusalem, and he sat under a great teacher by the name of Gamaliel. Gamaliel was called “the beauty of the law” because of his marvelous ability to teach. Gamaliel was also so revered that when he died, the people said that the reverence for the law died with Gamaliel. And so Saul studied under this brilliant man.

The course of his study would involve memorization of great portions of the entire Old Testament. So he became quite scholarly in terms of his knowledge of the Old Testament. He also would sit in question and answer sessions with his tutor, and so he was a familiar man in terms of Jewish history and theology.

Henry tells us that Saul came to become a tent-maker because, as strange as it might seem to us, that is what men of his religious and social status did:

He had likewise a handicraft trade (being bred to tent-making), which was common with those among the Jews who were bred scholars (as Dr. Lightfoot saith), for the earning of their maintenance, and the avoiding of idleness. This is the young man on whom the grace of God wrought this mighty change here recorded, about a year after the ascension of Christ, or little more.

MacArthur has more:

in the city of Tarsus one of the very large industries was the industry of tent-making. And so the young Saul apparently learned this trade. He was able to weave cloth from the black hair of goats. They would weave the cloth into strips, then tie the strips together to make tents. And it really isn’t any different today in the East. You can see the very same kind of tents if you go there right now.

MacArthur fills in the gap between Saul’s education and his persecution of Christians:

since it is never mentioned that he met Jesus, it is likely that he, having studied in Jerusalem, then went back to Tarsus, and perhaps was the master teacher in the synagogue at Tarsus. Later on, however, he returns to Jerusalem, and on his return Jesus has already disappeared from the scene, and he confronts this man Stephen. And Stephen was dynamic. He was bold. He was dramatic. He was powerful. Saul couldn’t handle him in life. The only thing he could do was get rid of him, so they killed him. But, as I said, I think the death of Stephen planted a time bomb in the brain of Saul that exploded finally on the Damascus Road in conjunction with God’s invasion of his life

… he, back in Jerusalem, is still furiously pursuing the killing of Christians and their incarceration and jail. However, he apparently has accomplished something of what he set out to do in the city of Jerusalem, because he’s now bent on leaving town and finding little pockets of Christians anywhere he can find them and rooting them out.

Christians know that Paul was on fire for the Lord Jesus. However, as Saul of Tarsus — before his Damascene conversion — he was equally as zealous in persecuting His followers. We see this in verse 1: ‘breathing threats and murder’.

MacArthur explains the meaning in Greek. Paul was entirely consumed by his persecution mission:

You notice the term “breathing out.” In the literal Greek, it’s “breathing in.” It’s not so much the idea that he’s sort of expelling air as it is the idea that he’s inhaling it. He lives in an aura of threat and slaughter. He breathes the very air of slaughter. This man is totally encompassed, his whole lifestyle, his very life breath, is threat and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord. And what it means is that that’s all that occupied him. He was consumed in this thing. This is not just a Saturday afternoon hobby. This was the consuming passion of his very existence, to exterminate every Christian he could find.

Having finished much of his work in Jerusalem, Saul set his sights on Damascus. He asked the high priest in Jerusalem for letters addressed to the synagogues that he could take with him (verse 2). The plan was that synagogue leaders would then inform on any Christians worshipping there. Saul would then round them up and take them as prisoners to Jerusalem, where they would go on trial at the temple.

MacArthur adds:

Now, we don’t know how he got the information about Damascus, but we know that he got it. There were probably 150,000 minimum people in Damascus. At least 20,000 were Jews. We know that because it wasn’t too long after this that Damascus was sacked and about 20,000 Jews were massacred. So there had to be at least that many there.

The church in Jerusalem worshipped at Solomon’s Portico (Porch) at the temple, and new converts in other areas worshipped at their synagogue. House churches had not yet arisen. This is why Paul went to the synagogues. MacArthur explains:

Christianity began in the synagogue and went from there, you see. So in every area, really, where it began, it began with a group of Jews who then saw the new covenant and moved away from that, but they didn’t necessarily move out of the synagogue.

He says this brought with it problems. Some Jewish converts — Judaisers — did not want to break with the old customs. This is part of the reason why I will be covering the Book of Hebrews after completing the Book of Acts. MacArthur goes on to say:

that’s the problem on which the Book of Hebrews is based, the fact that you had Jews who had come to Christ but who maintained their involvement in all of the rigmarole of the Jewish synagogue. And so that was what the Book of Hebrews was really written to do, was to detach the Christians from the traditions that were so much a part of their former life.

MacArthur describes Damascus, which already existed in Abraham’s day. It is a very ancient city — and was beautiful when Saul was on his way there. It also had buildings made out of white stone:

Damascus was a very beautiful city. It was situated about 2,200 feet above sea level, 60 miles inland from the coast, about 160 miles northeast of Jerusalem, I’d guess. It was such a beautiful area that one of the Oriental writers said that “Damascus was like a handful of pearls in a goblet of emerald,” which’ll give you a little idea. Lush, green and a beautiful white city. In fact, the historians called it the paradise of the earth.

Now, Damascus was an ancient city. It was the capital city of Syria, and it was very old. In fact, if you go back into Genesis, you’ll find that Abraham had a servant who came from Damascus, which means that Damascus predated Abraham. So it’s an old, old city, and yet it still remained, and now with a great Jewish population.

It is also important to know that the temple in Jerusalem had jurisdiction over all synagogues, including those in other countries. Henry explains that Jerusalem then was like a Jewish Vatican. The Jewish high priest was akin to a pope:

The high priest and sanhedrim claimed a power over the Jews in all countries, and had a deference paid to their authority in matters of religion, by all their synagogues, even those that were not of the jurisdiction of the civil government of the Jewish nation … By this commission, all that worshipped God in the way that they called heresy, though agreeing exactly with the original institutes even of the Jewish church, whether they were men or women, were to be prosecuted

This was a very big deal, on the order of the Spanish Inquisition.

Note in verse 2 that Saul was looking for men and women in Damascus who belonged to ‘the Way’. MacArthur explains:

Just go through the Book of Acts and even through the New Testament and find all the uses of the term “way” as a description of Christianity. That became…that became the popular name for Christianity, “the way.” “The way.” Even Saul was pursuing people of “this way.”

Jesus, you remember, had said, “I am,” what? “The way, the truth and the life.” And over and over and over again He had isolated Christianity as the only way to God, you see. So Christianity became known as “the way.” It’s interesting, because there probably couldn’t be a more apropos term than that. In Acts 18, the Bible says that it’s the way to God. In Hebrews, chapter 9 and chapter 10, it’s the way to the holiest. In Revelation 3:17, it’s called the way of peace. In II Peter 2, it’s called the way of truth and the way of righteousness.

Christianity is the way. There’s only one way to God, and it’s through Jesus Christ. And Christianity became known as “the way,” and indeed it is. “Now, there is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Isaiah said this. “This is the way. Walk ye in it.” Jesus said, “It is a narrow way and,” what? “Few there be that find it.” And Saul was after those few.

I remember back in the 1970s that ‘the Way’ was often used by Evangelicals in the United States to describe Christianity, as in ‘Do you follow the Way?’ My mother thought that was strange, but it makes sense, especially as Jesus referred to Himself as the Way.

As these first two verses required context, the next entry will look at Saul’s brutal yet grace-filled conversion.

On Thursday, July 13, 2017 one of the panellists on RMC (French talk radio) on the morning show Les Grandes Gueules (The Big Mouths) said that Emmanuel Macron is ‘president by default’.

He added that anyone who was good for the country was eliminated electorally, which is not the same as saying Macron has the nation’s support.

The panel were talking about Macron’s reforms of the government. However, no one knows the specific plans.

Macron said he wanted to ‘maintain the rhythm’ of reforms to reassure the ‘confidence of the French people and investors’:

Pleasant words, but where is the substance? What exactly does he want to do?

One thing that is clear: Macron has delusions of grandeur that have surprised the French since he became president in May.

They were mystified that he chose to welcome Russian president Vladimir Putin at Versailles on Monday, May 29. Does Macron consider himself a king, they wondered? Why not use the presidential palace, L’Élysée like the other presidents?

On Monday, July 3, he returned to Versailles to address both houses of French government: the national assembly and the senate. This is not unheard of, but it is only the fourth time since 1948 that a French president has chosen this venue (François Hollande being a recent example):

Breitbart explains that French presidents convene their parliament at Versailles only in times of crisis.

In 2015, François Hollande called a meeting about ISIS.

In 2017, Macron used the venue to assert his supremacy (emphases mine):

Summoning over 900 politicians from both houses of the French parliament to a rare Congress at the palace of Louis XIV – the ‘Sun King’ – in Versailles, he threatened to overrule lawmakers with a referendum if they try to frustrate the “reforms” he wishes to impose on the legislature.

Macron might consider himself more than a president:

The GQ article from May 9, shortly after Macron’s victory over Marine Le Pen, gushed:

He’s an incredibly centrist figure

Really? To anyone looking at Macron seriously, he’s Hollande’s and Merkel’s pet, their protégé.

GQ wrote about and excerpted the new president’s thoughts from his new book Macron by Macron, co-authored by veteran French journalist Eric Fottorino.

On the subject of a king, Macron said there was a void in French politics:

“In French politics, this absence is the presence of a King, a King whom, fundamentally, I don’t think the French people wanted dead,” said Macron. “The Revolution dug a deep emotional abyss, one that was imaginary and shared: the King is no more!” According to Macron, since the Revolution France has tried to fill this void, most notably with Napoleon and then Charles de Gaulle, which was only partially successful. “The rest of the time,” said Macron, “French democracy does not manage to fill this void.”

Perhaps Macron intends to fill that void.

If so, he could be in trouble. I have never met a French person who wants royalty to return. That is because the notion of royalty opposes that of republican values.

With regard to reform, he said at Versailles that he would cut the number of MPs by a third, which would give the remaining ones more power. He also pledged to introduce proportional representation. Hmm.

Economically, Macron’s reforms look to favour France’s richest citizens. Hmm.

Shortly before convening the French congress at Versailles, the Élysée brushed off the press:

The announcement elicited this response:

That day, Macron opened up a new centre for French start-ups, Station F. It is, apparently, the largest of its kind in the world. The French president told the young entrepreneurs that they will run across people who succeed and those who have nothing. He added that those who have nothing never make the effort. A lively conversation took place on this Twitter thread. What did he mean? Are poor people nothing?

This is the thing. No one knows what Macron really means.

Then there was the kerfuffle about his official portrait:

The issue is that the presidential desk in the Salon Doré (Golden Salon) is, in reality, not in line with the window but off to the side of the room. The president’s back is to a fireplace. This short video from the Élysée shows Macron carefully positioning objects on his desk.

Clearly, he wants everyone looking at it to pick up a message about him. Around this time, he said that he saw his presidency as ‘Jupiterian’. Can you imagine if President Donald Trump had said that? They’d have whisked him off for psychiatric examination sooner than you could say ‘White House’.

Back to the portrait. The Financial Times provided this sycophantic interpretation:

The French view was more tongue-in-cheek:

On July 1, the New York Times wrote about the French presidential phenomenon:

Here are the best parts of the article, which, on the whole, gushes with approval:

PARIS — Is he Machiavelli, Bonaparte or de Gaulle? Emmanuel Macron wrote a thesis about the first, is often compared to the second and frequently cites the third.

That parlor game playing out in the French media, as France tries to figure out its new president, demonstrates one thing: Mr. Macron has already concentrated all the power, nearly by default

Mr. Macron believes France cannot be reformed, but instead is “a country that transforms itself, a country of revolution,” as he put it in his one newspaper interview, last week.

The ambitions are grandiose. His coming to power is “the beginning of a French renaissance and I hope a European one as well,” he said in the interview, with Le Figaro and other European newspapers. “A renaissance that will permit the rethinking of great national, European and international equilibriums.”

Many disagree with that interpretation.

Despite her questionable politics, Marine Le Pen was correct when she said at the final presidential debate:

“You are the heir of François Hollande,” scoffed nationalist rival Marine Le Pen during their head-to-head election debate. “We now call you Baby Hollande; Hollande Junior!”

She added that, whatever the outcome of the election, “France will be led by a woman: either me or Mrs. Merkel.”

Breitbart recapped how unimpressed Central European heads of state were with Macron at the NATO summit in May:

Efforts by the EU loyalist to strengthen his public standing by picking fights with the governments of Central Europe, who have been resolutely defiant in the face of attempts by Brussels to impose compulsory migrant quotas on them, have been less than successful.

Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán gently dismissed him as “a new boy” who had yet to find his feet.

Macron’s entrance wasn’t too encouraging, as he thought the best way to show friendship was to immediately kick Central European countries. This isn’t how we do things around here, but he’ll soon get to know his way around,” he added.

Then there was the handshake with Trump at the same meeting:

Posing as the EU’s champion against President Donald Trump has also backfired, with a pointed, public snub of the U.S. leader in favour of Angela Merkel and other Europeans at a NATO summit ending in embarrassment when the 70-year-old manhandled him with a powerful handshake.

Macron was clearly rattled by the exchange, granting a brief interview with journalists in order to emphasise that another handshake with President Trump – in which the Frenchman clung on for dear life – was a “moment of truth” in which he supposedly demonstrated that he “would not make small concessions, not even symbolic ones”.

The BBC reported:

Their first meeting on 25 May in Brussels was notable for a handshake which saw them grip each other’s hand so firmly that their knuckles turned white.

Mr Macron later said the handshake was “not innocent”.

No, probably not, because Macron studiously — and very obviously — tried to avoid President Trump. Trump was, I think, half serious, half jesting, which made ‘Jupiterian’ Macron look really weak:

So much, then, for this (possible) self-perception:

Soon after he was elected, Macron visited soldiers in Gao (Mali) who are fighting alongside French troops against militant rebels.

Then, at the G20 conference — July 7 and 8 — he made remarks about Africa. Once again, no one was quite sure what he meant.

The edited remarks are startling and sweeping:

Not surprisingly, Macron’s comments elicited a strong reaction:

All Africa reports that Macron made his statement in response to a journalist from the Ivory Coast:

Macron was answering a question from a Cote d’Ivoire journalist, who asked why there was no Marshall Plan for Africa (a huge block of U.S. economic aid for European countries after World War II).

Macron said much more than that, as All Africa’s journalist Michael Tantoh transcribed in his report. Macron’s remarks were still blunt, but he was trying to explain that the Marshall Plan was always intended as a temporary, short-lived means of assistance. Africa, he said, has too many problems to make a Marshall Plan, such as it was, possible:

For decades, Marshall plans for Africa have been promised and given. If it were that simple, you would have noticed it[s] results by now.  What are the problems in Africa? Failed states, complex democratic transitions, demographic transition, infrastructure, porous borders which poses a problems of security and regional coordination, drugs trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking, trafficking in cultural property and violent fundamentalism, Islamist terrorism. All these together creates difficulties in Africa.  At the same time, we have countries that are tremendously successful, with an extraordinary growth rate that makes people say that Africa is a land of opportunity.

He said much more. Perhaps he would have done better to clarify his comments. That said, he still favours aiding the continent, preferably through partnerships with first world nations, such as France:

It is a plan that must take into account our own commitments on all the projects that I have just mentioned, create better public and private partnerships and must be done in a much more regional, sometimes even national basis. That is the method that has been adopted and that is what we are doing everywhere we are committed.

To be fair to Macron, he reaffirmed helping the beleaguered continent.

More important for him is finding a solution to the grave economic and social problems that France currently faces.

By the time you read this, Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron will have hosted Donald and Melania Trump for a brief Bastille Day trip which was planned before either man ever took office. 2017 marks the centenary of the arrival of US troops in France during the Great War. The French government decided months ago to invite the American president — unknown then — to be present at the Bastille Day ceremony in Paris. More on that next week.

Yesterday’s post covered Day 1 of Donald Trump’s and Emmanuel Macron’s first G20.

I also wrote about the riots and looting which occurred in host city Hamburg during the conference.

Day 2 — Saturday, July 8, 2017 — was equally eventful for world leaders, especially President Trump.

While Big Media were banging on about Russia or Trump’s mental health, some outlets actually reported on the G20 and two major victories for the American president (emphases mine below):

Hamburg (AFP) – US President Donald Trump won key concessions on climate and trade Saturday from world leaders at the most fractious G20 summit to date, in exchange for preserving the unity of the club of major industrialised and emerging economies.

In a final statement agreed by all 20 economies, 19 members including Russia, China and the European Union acknowledged Trump’s decision to go his own way on taking the US out of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

But they also accommodated Washington’s wish to “work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently”.

While renewing a key anti-protectionist pledge, the communique for the first time underlined the right of countries to protect their markets with “legitimate trade defence instruments”.

Such wording gives room for Trump to push on with his “America First” policy

Everyone in the media predicted that America First would not play overseas. Everyone in the media was wrong.

The Conservative Treehouse has an excellent analysis of what Trump’s wins mean not only for America but also allies who think similarly:

Team Trump focuses exclusively on bilateral trade deals with specific policy only looking out for the national interests of the United States and those who are allied with a similar perspective.

Under President Trump’s Trade positions exfiltration of U.S. national wealth is essentially stopped. This puts the multinational corporations, globalists who previously took a stake-hold in the U.S. economy with intention to export the wealth, in a position of holding interest of an asset they cannot exploit

There are trillions of dollars in economic activity now being restructured by President Trump. The downstream consequences are seismic shifts in geopolitical and strategic alliances. Through the use of economics America will engage in a process of protecting allies and simultaneously advancing freedom and democracy.

Simply put this approach destroys the cancer of elitist controlled leftist economic construct; which are entirely intended to benefit a small number of global elites who control the multinational banking and multinational corporate institutional systems …

Trump impressed Russian president Vladimir Putin during their meeting the previous day:

He was also taken with First Lady Melania Trump that evening:

On Day 2, Trump met with British Prime Minister Theresa May to discuss trade post-Brexit:

Theresa May has hailed the “powerful vote of confidence” in Britain Donald Trump and other world leaders have shown with their “strong desire” to strike new trade deals after Brexit.

The Prime Minister said she is “optimistic and positive” about a future pact with the US after the president said he believed an agreement could be reached “very, very quickly”.

Even before their meeting, Trump said:

I’d like to thank Prime Minister May for being with us. We’ve had tremendous talks. There is no country that could possibly be closer than our countries. And I just want to say thank you very much. We are working on a trade deal — a very, very big deal, a very powerful deal. Great for both countries. And I think we’ll have that done very, very quickly.

Meanwhile, Mrs Trump joined G20 spouses on a local tour before rejoining her husband at the conference:

The Daily Mail has more on Mrs Trump’s G20 attire, including stunning photographs.

Elsewhere, at the Vatican, Pope Francis fretted. He told Eugenio Scalfari, a journalist with Italy’s La Repubblica, of his concern about the G20. Leo Lyon Zagami, who is in the process of uncovering recent Vatican scandals (yes, he is a Mason but I will have more on his reporting), summarised and translated the article:

Pope Francis told him [Scalfari] during the encounter to be very concerned about the summit meeting of the “G20” in Hamburg, that witnessed President Donald Trump and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, together for the first time.

Pope Francis said to Scalfari: “I’m afraid there are very dangerous alliances between powers which have a distorted view of the world: America and Russia, China and North Korea, Russia and Syria’s Assad in war”.

The Pope was also worried that the G20 might end mass immigration to Europe:

” … they fear an invasion of migrants. That’s why the G20 worries me.”

Then to save his idea of Europe, he promotes the destruction of the sovereignty of the single European countries, and the coming of a Federal Government for Europe, that will take over the decision making from the single countries: ”For this, and other reasons, I came to the conclusion that Europe must assume a federal structure. Laws and political behaviors arising here shall be decided by the Federal Government, and the Federal Parliament, not by individual confederated countries.”

That afternoon, a huge flap arose over Ivanka Trump presiding temporarily over a meeting when her father was called into a private one. The media — and abetted by NeverTrumpers (John Dean and Richard Painter) — went berserk:

Trump had addressed those attending the Women’s Entrepreneurship Finance Event then excused himself to attend the meeting. Afterwards, he returned.

Regardless, host Angela Merkel was bombarded with questions from the media. She explained that this is normal at a conference such as the G20:

Reaction from citizen journalists back home was outrage at the media:

Alternative media’s Jack Posobiec noted:

Media More Outraged at Ivanka Sitting in a Chair than Antifa Army Burning Hamburg

He wrote:

Today at the G20 meeting, Ivanka Trump briefly sat in a chair. The media utterly lost their minds. They also seemed to completely not notice the Antifa Army burning the streets of Hamburg outside the meeting.

Perhaps they do not think a woman should be representing the United States?

Ivanka was sitting in the back and then briefly joined the main table when the President had to step out, and the president of the World Bank started talking as the topic involved areas such as African development — areas that will benefit from the facility just announced by the World Bank.

When other leaders stepped out, their seats were also briefly filled by others, but the media didn’t seem to notice that, either.

Precisely.

Later that day, Trump tweeted:

Here is the White House transcript of the public remarks of that meeting.

USA Today reports that Trump spent much of Day 2 with Asian leaders:

HAMBURG — President Trump met with his Chinese counterpart at the G-20 summit Saturday, hoping to revamp a relationship that he once hoped could provide the key to resolving the North Korea crisis …

In a separate meeting Saturday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump also addressed what he called “the problem and menace of North Korea.”

Abe said the security situation in the region had become “increasingly severe.” Addressing Trump by his first name, Abe said he “would like to demonstrate the robust partnership as well as the bond between Japan and the United States.”

Trump’s final day of his second foreign trip took what his predecessor, Barack Obama, might have called an “Asia pivot.” Having already met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, Saturday afternoon’s meetings were dominated by Pacific Rim nations

President Widodo of Indonesia was delighted to meet with Trump. USA Today reported:

Meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Trump said the U.S. would soon be doing “a lot of business” with the Island nation. “We’re going to be doing a lot of deals together — trade deals,” Trump said.

Widodo said Trump had “millions of fans” in his country who wanted him to visit.

“We’ll get there,” Trump said. “It’s a place I’d like to go.”

Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsein Loong, must be equally as positive:

Trump said the U.S. had a “big relationship” with the small city-state, and he expected the relationship to “get bigger.”

Before leaving Hamburg, Mrs Trump tweeted:

This brief video has highlights of Trump’s G20 conference:

Although the media emphasised the negative …

… from watching G20 coverage on YouTube, Bernie Sanders and Green supporters in the US were pleasantly surprised to find out about the ceasefire in Syria that Trump and Putin negotiated on Day 1.

Former Senator Bob Dole (R – Kansas) had high praise for the American president’s trips to Poland and Germany:

The Trumps flew back to the White House:

When Trump reached the White House, the press asked the usual questions about Russian hacking. Give it a rest, guys! The president ignored them.

Earlier, at Joint Base Andrews, he retrieved a Marine’s cover in the strong wind:

Mrs Trump did not return to the White House with her husband. My guess is she went to collect 11-year-old Barron.

I’ll close with this:

Neither Trump nor Obama was ever in the military, but you can certainly see how differently they view the armed forces.

That view, in my estimation, will determine a shift in foreign intervention during the present administration. Any US action will be carefully considered.

On July 7 and 8, 2017, Angela Merkel hosted the G20 conference in Hamburg.

I covered the riots and looting yesterday.

Today’s post looks at the conference itself — a first for Presidents Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron.

On Thursday, July 6, President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump spent the day in Poland. Later that day, he tweeted:

That evening, the Trumps flew to Hamburg, where the US president had meetings before the conference started:

One wonders if he and Merkel discussed the climate change pact. Only days before — on June 30 — the German chancellor appeared to be backing down because of Trump’s rejection of American participation. Breitbart reported that, publicly, Merkel is taking a strong stance, but:

Behind the scenes, however, it would appear that Merkel’s negotiating teams have been bending over backwards to tone down the climate action plan and avoid an embarrassing rejection by Donald Trump.

This can be seen by comparing the two draft climate action plans for the summit, one from March and the revised one from May. According to Climate Change News, American negotiators have watered it down considerably.

As for the conference:

Elsewhere, Trump supporters expressed concern for his safety. Click on the images below for more detail. It is true that the Trumps stayed in a guest house of the German senate:

Day 1 of G20 unfolded.

Trump was ready:

He was the only leader who refused to wear the hideous G20 lapel pin and wore his American flag pin instead.

He received questions about the Democrats:

The group photo piqued people’s interest, and not just in the media. Emmanuel Macron weirded out, making a nuisance of himself to stand next to Donald Trump.

Technically, that was the correct place for him to stand. The newest G20 participants are placed at the edges of the photo. More long-serving world leaders are in the centre. However, perhaps Macron should have stayed in the back row. He not only left a gap but disturbed everyone in attempting to get down to the first row:

It did not go unnoticed:

The same thing happened later that day in the group photo before the concert that evening. Watch Merkel position Trump and Macron:

The Macrons sat next to the Trumps at the concert, too:

The Conservative Treehouse said:

*Note* There is a coordinated effort by global political leftists (control entities within multinationals and political constructs) to physically position Emmanuel Macron next to President Trump at every opportunity. This is a structurally coordinated effort to enlarge the presence of Macron as an oppositional entity to the looming and dominant presence (figurative and literal) of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Trump had a successful day.

He and Russian president Vladimir Putin put a ceasefire in Syria in place:

Trade Secretary Stephen Mnuchin said:

We had a very productive dinner last night — Secretary Tillerson, myself, General McMaster — with President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Abe and their teams, discussing the importance of what’s going on in North Korea and the issues there. And then today we’ve had, already, several other bilats, and tomorrow we have another six.

The President also participated in a very important session today on trade and an important session on the environment and the economy. So I would just generally say we’ve had very productive economic meetings. There’s been very substantive issues discussed. The North Korea issue has been discussed very significantly, about the escalation in North Korea.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, in part (same link, emphases mine):

President Trump and President Putin met this afternoon for 2 hours and 15 minutes here on the sidelines of the G20. The two leaders exchanged views on the current nature of the U.S.-Russia relationship and the future of the U.S.-Russia relationship.

They discussed important progress that was made in Syria, and I think all of you have seen some of the news that just broke regarding a de-escalation agreement and memorandum, which was agreed between the United States, Russia and Jordan, for an important area in southwest Syria that affects Jordan’s security, but also is a very complicated part of the Syrian battlefield.

This de-escalation area was agreed, it’s well-defined, agreements on who will secure this area. A ceasefire has been entered into. And I think this is our first indication of the U.S. and Russia being able to work together in Syria. And as a result of that, we had a very lengthy discussion regarding other areas in Syria that we can continue to work together on to de-escalate the areas and violence once we defeat ISIS, and to work together toward a political process that will secure the future of the Syrian people.

As a result, at the request of President Putin, the United States has appointed — and you’ve seen, I think, the announcement of Special Representative for Ukraine, Ambassador Kurt Volker. Ambassador Volker will draw on his decades of experience in the U.S. Diplomatic Corps, both as a representative to NATO and also his time as a permanent political appointment.

The two leaders also acknowledged the challenges of cyber threats and interference in the democratic processes of the United States and other countries, and agreed to explore creating a framework around which the two countries can work together to better understand how to deal with these cyber threats, both in terms of how these tools are used to in interfere with the internal affairs of countries, but also how these tools are used to threaten infrastructure, how these tools are used from a terrorism standpoint as well.

Trump also held a meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico:

President Trump emphasized the strong bilateral relationship that the United States enjoys with Mexico and noted the importance of renegotiating NAFTA to help workers in both countries. President Trump thanked President Peña Nieto for Mexico’s partnership on the Central America Conference last month. The leaders also discussed regional challenges, including drug trafficking, illegal migration, and the crisis in Venezuela.

After the day’s business concluded, the leaders and their spouses attended the aforementioned concert — then had dinner.

Mrs Trump was seated next to Mr Putin:

The Daily Mail has loads of photos and more on both the concert and the dinner.

Then it was time for some rest:

Trump was happy:

Tomorrow’s post discusses Day 2.

Last weekend was a busy one for Hamburg.

The city hosted the G20 conference and also had to cope with the usual demonstrations as well as wanton destruction.

G20 conferences nearly always attract protesters, but a number of riots and looting took place this year.

These did not end until well after the G20 conference concluded.

On July 9, Fox News reported (emphases mine):

Anti-globalization activists rioted for a third consecutive night in Hamburg early Sunday even after Group of 20 leaders had already left the northern Germany city.

Police again used water cannon trucks against rioters attacking them with iron rods and pavement blocks. They arrested 186 protesters and temporarily detained another 225 people. Officials say 476 officers have been injured in the violence since Thursday. The number of injured protesters wasn’t clear.

A reader commented:

The organizers of the “protest” are communist/anarchist professional rioters, working for communist front groups such as “International A.N.S.W.E.R.” (funding from Soros). It is easy for communists from all over Europe to get to Hamburg by train. I would bet that [New York City mayor] “Bolshevik Bill” deBlasio is not the only American “protesting” in Hamburg. Some of the reds are probably veterans of Berkeley, Seattle, and Occupy Wall Street.

That is probably true.

Mayor de Blasio’s trip to Hamburg to support the protesters did not go down well with New Yorkers. The New York Post featured him on the front page with this headline:

The day after an NYPD cop was executed, Mayor de Blasio jets off to Germany to rally lefties against the G-20 AND DON’T COME BACK

Twitchy had more:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was getting an earful over his decision to hop a flight to Hamburg, Germany to hang around the G20 summit, despite the fact that his own city had just witnessed the assassination of a police officer and a serious train derailment. The trip also required him to skip out on a swearing-in ceremony for new police officers at a very sensitive time.

Of course the criticism didn’t stop global citizen de Blasio from burning some jet fuel, and on Saturday the mayor retweeted some local coverage of him and his son surveying part of the city that might or might not have been set on fire by anarchists

Reuters had a report on July 8 saying that Germans were angry at Angela Merkel and the violence:

Germans expressed anger on Sunday over violence that hit a G20 world leaders’ summit in Hamburg, raising awkward questions for Chancellor Angela Merkel less than three months before an election.

About 20,000 police struggled to contain several hundred anti-capitalist militants who torched cars, looted shops and hurled Molotov cocktails and stones during the July 7-8 summit …

German newspapers devoted far more space to pictures of police firing water cannon onto hooded anarchists and other protestors than they did to Merkel’s diplomatic balancing act with fellow leaders of major world economies …

an Emnid poll showed that a majority of Germans, 59 percent, believed the riots damage the image of their country – even though violence has affected a number of international meetings around the world over the years.

Merkel was forced to defend her choice of Hamburg, saying other cities, like London, had hosted similar meetings. Hamburg, a seaport which is Germany’s second biggest city, has a strong radical leftist tradition. It was also home to an al Qaeda cell that carried out the 9/11 attacks on U.S. targets in 2001.

Merkel had wanted to demonstrate to G20 partners, including Putin and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, her commitment to freedom of speech and rejected the notion that some cities were out of bounds as summit venues.

The strategy has backfired, said some commentators …

Seeking to limit the damage from the security problems before the Sept. 24 parliamentary election, Merkel has promised compensation to Hamburg residents whose property was damaged

No doubt most of Big Media focussed only on the peaceful protests. So, below are more pictures and short videos of the violence.

A German provided an inside view on 4chan/pol/:

Watch looters ransack a supermarket. Stay with the video until the end:

Radicalised thieves emerged calmly with all sorts of stolen merchandise:

This video from a journalist shows more of the aftermath:

Spare a thought for the staff having to clean this up:

The young environmentalist terrorists set fires by night …

And by day …

The DPA — Deutsche Presse-Agentur — showed what commercial areas of Hamburg looked like on the morning of Saturday, July 8. They included the aforementioned supermarket (photo lower right):

Of course, shop owners and managers could have paid protection money to these terrorists!

The wanton destruction even spread to residential streets:

Of course:

Tomorrow’s post is about the G20 conference.

In closing, I know a few normal people — including the elderly — who empathise with protests such as these. Why? These anarchists and thieves are harming people, destroying property and businesses.

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