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On Thursday, February 14, 2019, President Donald Trump joined pro-life leaders on a nationwide conference call to discuss late-term abortion.

Late-term abortion — up to birth — passed the New York State senate on January 22.

A similar measure failed in Virginia around that time.

However, a handful of other US states have already signed into law or are proposing similar legislation.

White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp spoke to the media after the conference call. CBN reported (emphases mine):

He spoke about the horrors of late-term abortion in particular and wanted to give them the motivation and strength to keep fighting, keep moving what he called the pro-life movement, that this is a moment in time where we need to make sure that their voices are heard in this fight, to ensure that we don’t, that our country doesn’t go in this extreme direction that the Democrats are taking us on the issues of abortion,” White House Director of Strategic Communications Mercedes Schlapp said.

The president recently signed a letter to Congress making it clear that he will veto any legislation that weakens existing federal protections of innocent life.

Alluding to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s stunning assertion that some babies should be allowed to die right after they’re born, Schlapp said President Trump made it clear he would consider such a move to be nothing short of an “execution.”

As he said in the State of the Union, it’s executing a baby,” she said. “He cannot fathom that a governor, the governor of Virginia would say a baby is born and you keep the baby comfortable and then the parents can decide whether to not to keep the baby or kill the baby.”

Schlapp said the president hopes to see Congress pass legislation prohibiting such barbaric procedures but acknowledges there will likely be plenty of push-back from Democrats

Meanwhile, President Trump reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy preventing foreign aid from being used to support abortion. In addition, the administration has issued a proposed regulation to ensure taxpayer dollars from the Title X family planning program are not used to fund abortion.

What follows is the transcript of the National Pro-life Presidential Conference Call. As the president was speaking from the Oval Office, he had with him invited guests — pro-life advocate Alveda King (Martin Luther King Jr’s niece) and other pro-life advocates of all ages (Breaking Christian News has Ms King’s group photo):

[START OF TRANSCRIPT]

Male Speaker: Hello and thank you for joining today’s National Pro-Life Conference Call. This call is not intended for press purposes and is not on the record. If you are a member of the press, please disconnect now. Please note at this time, all audience members are in listen-only mode to minimize background noise. I would like to formally begin today’s call and introduce the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump.

Donald J. Trump: Thank you very much and I want to thank all of the thousands of pro-lifers and pro-life leaders, pastors, families and advocates for joining this call and for working with such love and devotion to build a culture that cherishes human life. In recent weeks, events have taken place that have shocked the conscience of our whole nation and this is whether you’re pro-life or anything else you happen to be because what’s happened is terrible. Democratic lawmakers in multiple states have been working to expand extreme late-term abortion. In New York State, legislators cheered with delight for a law that will allow babies to be ripped from the womb of their mother in the ninth month, right up until the moment of birth. Then to take it even a step further, in an incredible event and a horrible event, the Governor of Virginia even stated that he would allow a newborn baby… a baby that was actually outside and as he said, “Wrap the baby, warm the baby,” and then he has a discussion with the mother and the father as to what to do with the baby and we use the word, in the State of the Union, “executed” the baby. That is exactly what it was. It was an execution. This was shocking to everybody and frankly the pro-life leaders… I think your popularity and your cause is going to be actually benefitted by what happened because nobody can believe what he said and what he did.

In both cases, in New York and in Virginia, America must always be a nation that protects the most vulnerable and that defends the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, called the “Right to Life.” Since day one, I have kept my promise to protect unborn children. During my first week in office, I reinstated the Mexican City Policy, so the Mexico City Policy has been reinstated, which as you know other presidents… many presidents were not willing to do but I did it. Last month I signed a letter to Congress to make clear that if they send any legislation to my desk that weakens the protection of human life, I will issue a veto. I’ve taken historic action to protect the conscience rights and religious liberties of doctors and nurses, charities, and faith-based adoption agencies. During my State of the Union address, I asked Congress to pass legislation to prohibit late-term abortion of children who can feel the pain in the mother’s womb. We just have been very, very strong on that and I’m here with a lot of the great friends and the great leaders of the pro-life and I call it a movement, because I think now it’s become a movement more so in the last two weeks than it has been in a long time. It’s now a movement.

I know many of the leaders on this call are working to get this legislation passed, and I believe we’ll be successful. We’ll work very hard and I want to thank you for helping. I also hope that one day we can have a special signing ceremony right here in the Oval Office. If that gets done, we’ll all be together in the Oval Office, we’ll sign it. A few moments ago, I spoke with several families… beautiful stories serve as an inspiration to all of us. They’re actually in my office right now. One of the people who joins us in the Oval Office today is Micah, in name Micah Pickering right in front of me. Beautiful young man. Mi[cah] was born at 22 weeks. Today is a healthy… I can tell you that, I’m looking at him, a healthy six-year-old boy filled with energy and filled with life and he’s doing very well. I can say that. Micah, are you good, everything good? The whole world is talking about you right now, Micah. Micah is doing good, he said. We’re also proud to be joined today by Katy Shaw. Katy was born with Down Syndrome and she said, “I’ve made the world a better place.” Katy has actually made the world… she’s right in front of me. She looks fantastic. Katy, I really want to thank you for being here… very, very special. We have thousands of people on this call and they’re all sending their “hello” to Katy Shaw, very, very special. Our nation is uplifted by the incredible Americans like Katy who are powerful advocates for life. Every child born and unborn is made in the holy image of God. Together, we will continue to work for the day when all children have a chance to live and to love and to dream and to reach their full God-given potential.

I want to thank all of the people on the call today. I have a whole group of people in the Oval Office and we’ll be discussing this very important issue. But to all of the pro-life leaders, we respect you and we thank you very much. I think we’ve make a lot of progress in the last two weeks because of horrible things that have been done by the other side. Thank you all for being on the call and I look forward to seeing you and we’ll have signing celebrations and I look forward to having them in the White House. Thank you all very much. Goodbye.

Male Speaker: Thank you all in the audience for joining us today. Again, this call was not intended for press purposes and is not on the record. The call is concluded and you may disconnect.

[END OF TRANSCRIPTION]

I have several YouTube videos of varying lengths with testimony as to what happens during a late-term abortion. They have graphic descriptions of the procedures involved. One long-time abortionist, who has since stopped aborting, displayed the tools he used to perform what we have been told for nearly 50 years is a mere ‘medical procedure’. His frank and impartial descriptions, whilst holding up the tools, will leave you shocked.

I will feature these videos in future posts.

Bible ancient-futurenetThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Acts 24:22-27

Paul Kept in Custody

22 But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off, saying, “When Lysias the tribune comes down, I will decide your case.” 23 Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that (C)none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.

24 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25 And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” 26 At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him. 27 When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.

————————————————————————————————————-

Last week’s entry covered Paul’s defence in Caesarea before Felix the Roman governor and the Apostle’s Jewish accusers.

Paul clearly demonstrated that not only was he innocent of any crime against the Roman government, but also that the accusations against him were of a theological nature, something on which the Romans would not pass judgement.

Felix, having lived in Caesarea — home to Cornelius, the first Roman convert, and to Philip the Evangelist — knew the tenets of Christianity, ‘the Way’, well (verse 22). He placated everyone by saying that when Claudius Lysias, the Roman tribune of Jerusalem, next went to Caesarea, Felix would decide the case then.

John MacArthur says there is no historical evidence the Felix ever called for Claudius Lysias or that the tribune went of his own accord (emphases mine):

You know that there is no record, ever, that he ever called Claudius Lysias down there? And there’s no record that Claudius Lysias ever came. He just permanently postponed the thing. That’s a coward’s act. Now, he had a knowledge of Christianity. You say, “Where did he get it?” Well, he lived in Caesarea, and Philip lived there, and Philip was an evangelist.

And there were a lot of other Christians, and he was in Judea for nine years, eight or nine years, and so there were tens of thousands of Christians all over the place. He had been very, very familiar with Christianity. Some say he was a friend and an acquaintance of Simon Magus, Simon the Sorcerer, who had been exposed to Christianity, and that Simon Magus had first communicated to him. That’s somewhere in ancient history; we don’t know. But he knew enough, and he knew enough to make a right evaluation that this was not a criminal issue, but a theological one.

He knew enough about Christianity to be responsible; he was like Pilate. He was convinced of the testimony of the accused, but he was afraid of the Jews. So, he postponed the decision until Claudius Lysias could come and add information, and he never called Claudius Lysias. It was a convenient non-decision. It was a nothing. It was a postponement.

Felix wanted to placate the Jews:

He had a lot of Jews on his hands who were very angry, and when you have a lot of very angry Jews uptight, it caused revolutions. And when you were the governor and you had revolutions, you were in real trouble with Rome. Remember Pilate? The ultimate reason that Pilate finally allowed Jesus to be crucified was just because he wanted to pacify the Jews, because he was afraid he’d lose his job if he couldn’t rule well. And Felix is trapped in the same thing. On one hand, his relationship to Roman law and to Rome is at stake …

Luke is telling us that Felix knew what the right answer was; that Felix, having a more perfect knowledge of the Way, knew what he should have done.

Felix did not send Paul to the cells with common criminals but ordered his centurion to allow the Apostle some freedom while in custody (verse 23). No doubt, he returned Paul to the apartment in the palace where he was held before his trial.

Felix also allowed Paul’s friends to visit and attend to his needs. Among those friends were Luke, the author of Acts, and Philip the Evangelist.

Matthew Henry’s commentary points out:

a man’s prison is as it were his own house if he has but his friends about him.

MacArthur says that Paul had just lived through a judgement similar to that which Jesus experienced, albeit without the death penalty of crucifixion:

It’s the record of a man before a pagan judge, being accused by Jewish accusers, who comes off innocent. I mean, let’s face it, folks, it’s just like the case of Christ.

Now we get to Felix and Drusilla, a true human interest story.

Felix sent for Paul so that he and Drusilla, who was Jewish, could hear him speak about ‘faith in Christ Jesus’ (verse 24).

Drusilla was the daughter of Herod Agrippa I, the one who was eaten alive by worms — a divine judgement. She left her husband, the King of Emesa (Syria), for Felix. MacArthur tells us:

Felix saw her when she was married to the king of Emesa, a part of Syria, and he liked her. She was real young, 15 or so, and she was supposed to be this raving beauty, according to the historians. And Felix saw her, and said, you know, “That’s for me,” and seduced her, and stole her away. And so the whole thing was a rotten, immoral, disgusting thing from the beginning. So, there they come, the two of them.

Henry has more about the meeting — and Drusilla:

he desired to have an account of it from Paul, who was so celebrated a preacher of that faith, above the rest. Those that would enlarge their knowledge must discourse with men of their own profession, and those that would be acquainted with any profession should consult those that excel in the knowledge of it; and therefore Felix had a mind to talk with Paul more freely than he could in open court, where he observed Paul upon his guard, concerning the faith of Christ; and this only to satisfy his curiosity, or rather the curiosity of his wife Drusilla, who was a Jewess, daughter of Herod Agrippa, that was eaten of worms. Being educated in the Jewish religion, she was more inquisitive concerning the Christian religion, which pretended to be the perfection of that, and desired to hear Paul discourse of it. But it was no great matter what religion she was of; for, whatever it was, she was a reproach and scandal to it-a Jewess, but an adulteress; she was another man’s wife when Felix took her to be his wife, and she lived with him in whoredom and was noted for an impudent woman, yet she desires to hear concerning the faith of Christ. Many are fond of new notions and speculations in religion, and can hear and speak of them with pleasure, who yet hate to come under the power and influence of religion, can be content to have their judgments informed but not their lives reformed.

Paul preached the Good News to the couple, including the Final Judgement, when Felix became alarmed and dismissed Paul, telling him he would send for him again another time (verse 25).

Henry posits that Felix expected to be intrigued, perhaps entertained, by Paul’s discourse, which the Apostle might have personalised for them:

What the account was which Paul gave him of the Christian religion; by the idea he had of it, he expected to be amused with a mystical divinity, but, as Paul represents it to him, he is alarmed with a practical divinity. Paul, being asked concerning the faith in Christ, reasoned (for Paul was always a rational preacher) concerning righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come. It is probable that he mentioned the peculiar doctrines of Christianity concerning the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and his being the Mediator between God and man; but he hastened to his application, in which he designed to come home to the consciences of his hearers

Paul reasoned of righteousness and temperance, to convince Felix of his unrighteousness and intemperance, of which he had been notoriously guilty, that, seeing the odiousness of them, and his obnoxiousness to the wrath of God for them (Ephesians 5:6), he might enquire concerning the faith of Christ, with a resolution to embrace it. [2.] That by the doctrine of Christ is discovered to us the judgment to come, by the sentence of which the everlasting state of all the children of men will be finally and irreversibly determined. Men have their day now, Felix hath his; but God’s day is coming, when everyone shall give account of himself to God, the Judge of all. Paul reasoned concerning this; that is, he showed what reason we have to believe that there is a judgment to come, and what reason we have, in consideration thereof, to be religious.

MacArthur thinks that Paul gave Felix and Drusilla the whole story of Christ’s life as well as the standards of living for believers:

He gave him all the gospel. He told him Jesus was God. He told him Jesus was born of a virgin. He told him Jesus lived a miraculous life. He told him Jesus died on the cross for the deliverance of sin. He told him Jesus rose the third day from the dead. He told him all the facts of the gospel. That’s the content, that’s the faith. That’s what Jude meant when he said, “Contend for the faith,” the embodiment of truth, the content of the gospel. So, Paul detailed the gospel.

Now, that’s exciting. Paul sat down, and Felix heard; Felix and Drusilla listened. And Paul talked about who Christ was, why He came, what He accomplished, the whole gospel. Then he also gave them the back side of it; look at verse 25. “And as he reasoned” – dialogued – he didn’t preach at him, he talked to him, he discussed with him – “of righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come, Felix” – what? – “trembled.” Now, part of the faith, part of the content of the faith, is righteousness, self-control, judgment to come.

Now watch: those three areas must be included in the presentation of the gospel. Righteousness is this: that’s God’s divine ideal, that’s God’s absolute standard. What does God demand? Absolute righteousness. Jesus says, “Be ye holy.” You say, “How holy?” “Even as your Father in Heaven is holy. Be perfect even as God is perfect.” God’s absolute demand is righteousness. The second word is self-control; that’s man’s required response. God has an absolute ideal; you better control yourself to come into conformity to that standard.

So, he told Felix, “Here’s God’s standard, and God demands that you conform to it.” And if you don’t, that’s the third word: judgment to come. That’s the gospel. God’s absolute ideal; you must conform to it or be judged. I’m telling you, this could get very personal to Felix. After Paul presented the ideal of righteousness, and then Paul started shooting down Felix, because Felix had no self-control at all. He was sitting there with a woman that he’d stolen and seduced. His life was a debauchery.

Henry has an excellent analysis of how Felix and Drusilla received Paul’s discourse, referring to the meaning of ‘Felix’ — ‘happy’:

That Paul was willing to take pains, and run hazards, in his work, even where there was little probability of doing good. Felix and Drusilla were such hardened sinners that it was not at all likely they should be brought to repentance by Paul’s preaching, especially under such disadvantages; and yet Paul deals with them as one that did not despair of them. Let the watchman give fair warning, and then they have delivered their own souls, though they should not prevail to deliver the souls they watch for.

3. What impressions Paul’s discourse made upon this great but wicked man: Felix trembled, emphobos genomenos–being put into a fright, or made a terror to himself, a magor-missabib, as Pashur, Jeremiah 20:3,4. Paul never trembled before him, but he was made to tremble before Paul. “If this be so, as Paul says, what will become of me in another world? If the unrighteous and intemperate will be condemned in the judgment to come, I am undone, for ever undone, unless I lead a new course of life.” We do not find that Drusilla trembled, though she was equally guilty, for she was a Jewess, and depended upon the ceremonial law, which she adhered to the observance of, to justify her; but Felix for the present could fasten upon nothing to pacify his conscience, and therefore trembled. See here, (1.) The power of the word of God, when it comes with commission; it is searching, it is startling, it can strike a terror into the heart of the most proud and daring sinner, by setting his sins in order before him, and showing him the terrors of the Lord. (2.) The workings of natural conscience; when it is startled and awakened, it fills the soul with horror and amazement at its own deformity and danger. Those that are themselves the terror of the mighty in the land of the living have hereby been made a terror to themselves. A prospect of the judgment to come is enough to make the stoutest heart to tremble, as when it comes indeed it will make the mighty men and the chief captains to call in vain to rocks and mountains to shelter them.

4. How Felix struggled to get clear of these impressions, and to shake off the terror of his convictions; he did by them as he did by Paul’s prosecutors (Acts 24:25), he deferred them; he said, Go thy way for this time, when I have a convenient season I will call for thee. (1.) He trembled and that was all. Paul’s trembling (Acts 9:6), and the jailer’s (Acts 16:29), ended in their conversion, but this of Felix did not. Many are startled by the word of God who are not effectually changed by it. Many are in fear of the consequences of sin, and yet continue in love and league with sin. (2.) He did not fight against his convictions, nor fly in the face of the word or of the preacher of it, to be revenged on them for making his conscience fly in his face; he did not say to Paul, as Amaziah to the prophet, Forbear, why shouldst thou be smitten? He did not threaten him with a closer confinement, or with death, for touching him (as John Baptist did Herod) in the sore place. But, (3.) He artfully shifted off his convictions by putting off the prosecution of them to another time. He has nothing to object against what Paul has said; it is weighty and worth considering. But, like a sorry debtor, he begs a day; Paul has spent himself, and has tired him and his lady, and therefore, “Go thy way for this time–break off here, business calls me away; but when I have a convenient season, and have nothing else to do, I will call for thee, and hear what thou hast further to say.” Note, [1.] Many lose all the benefit of their convictions for want of striking while the iron is hot. If Felix, now that he trembled, had but asked, as Paul and the jailer did when they trembled, What shall I do? he might have been brought to the faith of Christ, and have been a Felix indeed, happy for ever; but, by dropping his convictions now, he lost them for ever, and himself with them. [2.] In the affairs of our souls, delays are dangerous; nothing is of more fatal consequence than men’s putting off their conversion from time to time. They will repent, and turn to God, but not yet; the matter is adjourned to some more convenient season, when such a business or affair is compassed, when they are so much older; and then convictions cool and wear off, good purposes prove to no purpose, and they are more hardened than ever in their evil way. Felix put off this matter to a more convenient season, but we do not find that this more convenient season ever came; for the devil cozens us of all our time by cozening us of the present time. The present season is, without doubt, the most convenient season. Behold, now is the accepted time. To-day if you will hear his voice.

Note that Felix did not offer to have Paul released on bond. This is because he hoped that Paul would eventually offer him money for his release. Interestingly, Luke tells us that Felix sent for Paul often for private conversations (verse 26).

Felix knew that Paul had brought with him to Jerusalem a financial offering for the church there. He might have thought that Paul kept some aside for himself. Alternatively, perhaps he thought that Paul’s friends in Caesarea might appeal for his release by offering Felix money. Henry posits that this is why Felix sent for him time and time again. Luke does not say that Felix ever trembled again, so it seems that Felix was testing the waters about money.

Quite rightly, Henry takes issue with the Christians in Caesarea for not having purchased Paul’s freedom. They had two years in which to do so:

Though Paul is to be commended that he would not offer money to Felix, nor beg money of the churches (his great and generous soul disdained both), yet I know not whether his friends are to be commended, nay, whether they can be justified, in not doing it for him. They ought to have solicited the governor as pressingly for him as his enemies did against him: and if a gift was necessary to make room for them (as Solomon speaks) and to bring them before great men, they might lawfully have done it. I ought not to bribe a man to do an unjust thing, but, if he will not do me justice without a fee, it is but doing myself justice to give it to him; and, if they might do it, it was a shame they did not do it. I blush for them, that they would let such an eminent and useful man as Paul lie in the jail, when a little money would have fetched him out, and restored him to his usefulness again. The Christians here at Cæsarea, where he now was, had parted with their tears to prevent his going to the prison (Acts 21:13), and could they not find in their hearts to part with their money to help him out?

Then, Henry says that, perhaps it was divine providence that prevented them from doing so:

Yet there might be a providence of God in it; Paul’s bonds must be for the furtherance of the gospel of Christ, and therefore he must continue in bonds. However, this will not excuse Felix, who ought to have released an innocent man, without demanding or accepting any thing for it: the judge that will not do right without a bribe will no doubt do wrong for a bribe.

Perhaps Paul converted some Romans working for Felix during those two years. We do not know.

In any event, Luke tells us that Felix left Paul in prison, even when his successor Porcius Festus arrived (verse 27). This was likely because Felix wanted to placate the Jews.

However, history tells us that Felix’s plan did not prevent his ouster.

It is interesting that history gives us an insight into Felix’s downfall. Felix did not retire quietly to Rome. It was likely that the Jews had forced him out and complained to the Roman emperor, as Henry tells us:

The Jews … accused him to the emperor, and some historians say he was sent bound to Rome by Festus; and, if so, surely his remembering how light he had made of Paul’s bonds would help to make his own chain heavy.

We have seen that God was accomplishing His will through Romans — pagans — allowing Paul to escape a brutal death at the hands of angry Jews in Jerusalem. Many will wonder how He could allow Paul to remain a prisoner for two years in Caesarea, with no letters to write to the Christians in the churches he had established.

MacArthur offers this explanation:

The whole time he’s there, we don’t know of any sermon that he ever preached, or of anything that he ever wrote. Can you imagine the apostle Paul, two years and he doesn’t write something and he doesn’t preach? Now, there may have been times when he wrote something, there may have been times when he preached; we don’t have record of it. You say, “Well, what’s going on here?” Well, you know what I believe? And this is just me; this isn’t anything that’s obvious in the text. It’s just what I think may be a possibility.

I really think this may have been furlough. You know what I mean? He had been chased all over the world long enough. I mean, he needed a rest. Besides, he had so much to accomplish in his lifetime, and he worked so fast. he probably had a few years left over. So, the Lord just said, “Well, you might as well take a couple off.” He’d been all over the Roman world, and it all kind of climaxed in Jerusalem. He was nearly beaten to death, he was slugged in the face, he was clamored after and yanked apart, he was thrown into custody, he was hustled to Caesarea by 470 Roman soldiers, and he went through this trial.

I mean, I just think the guy comes to a place in the service of the Lord where he’s got to stop. And a little key thought just kind of bounces out in verse 23 that made me think this. “He commanded a centurion to keep Paul, let him have liberty, that he should forbid none of his acquaintances to” – what? – “to minister.” Now, the implication is there that they came to minister to him. Well, that’s a nice idea for a change, isn’t it? I’m sure that Luke and Aristarchus were with him, too, so he had some good fellowship, and Philip probably hung around a lot.

And there were probably a lot of believers in the local area of Caesarea who came down during the two years and spent some time with him, and I’m sure he was discipling some people. And I’m also sure that when I get to heaven, I’m going to meet some of Felix’s soldiers. And maybe that centurion’s there. But I’ll tell you, I think it’s a time when God just kind of let him rest. Well, resting from what he’d been through, and getting ready for the worst, which was to come, that finally ended in his execution. God knows.

Whatever the thing is, God knew that Paul needed two years there. And whatever God accomplished, He accomplished within His purpose, not outside of it.

Next time — Acts 25:1-5

We are now three Sundays away from the beginning of Lent.

Centuries ago, the names of these Sundays referred to their distance from Easter in the number of days. If those Sundays were being observed now, February 16, 2019 would have been Septuagesima Sunday. In the early Church, no Gloria was sung nor was the Alleluia in the early Church. This is because it was the first Sunday of the call to Lenten discipline.

Although the word ‘septuagesima’ means ‘seventieth’, it occurs only 63 days before Easter. Early Christians began observing Lent the day after Septuagesima Sunday. This is because Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays were not days of fasting in the early Church. So, if the faithful wished to fast for 40 days before Easter, following the example of Jesus, they would have had to start the Monday after Septuagesima Sunday.

You can read more about Septuagesima, Sexagesima and Quinquagesima Sundays in the following post:

The Sundays before Lent — an explanation

This period of time was known as Shrovetide, which ended on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. ‘Shrove’ is the past participle of ‘shrive’, which meant to present oneself for confession, penance and absolution. You can find out more in the post below:

Shrovetide — a history

Even in modern times, the Lectionary readings turn from the themes of rejoicing and thanks that our Saviour came to Earth to redeem us. The themes of sin and repentance predominate.

What follow are the readings for the Sixth Sunday of Epiphany in Year C of the three-year Lectionary commonly used in public worship.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

The verses from Jeremiah read so much better in the King James Version, especially verse 9. I have included verse 11 for its poetic truth:

Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.

For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.

Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.

For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

10 I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.

11 As the partridge sitteth on eggs, and hatcheth them not; so he that getteth riches, and not by right, shall leave them in the midst of his days, and at his end shall be a fool.

What follows is what millions of churchgoers will hear. To put it into context, the Lord wanted repentance, and Jeremiah was His messenger. Matthew Henry’s commentary says that this chapter provides timeless lessons for all of us.

Jeremiah 17:5-10

17:5 Thus says the LORD: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD.

17:6 They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

17:7 Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.

17:8 They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

17:9 The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse– who can understand it?

17:10 I the LORD test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.

Psalm

The first Psalm briefly explains the ways of those who are good versus those who are evil. Verse 3 ties in nicely with Jeremiah 17:8.

Psalm 1

1:1 Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers;

1:2 but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night.

1:3 They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.

1:4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

1:5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

1:6 for the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Epistle

Paul continued his proof of the Resurrection. Last week’s reading was the introduction to this expository; Paul needed to settle a dispute running in Corinth at the time as to whether Jesus actually rose from the dead. This is the continuation.

It is also important to note that the resurrection of the dead is also mentioned in the Old Testament. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac on God’s command as a test of faith was an important illustration of that. Seeing that Abraham believed that he would see his son again one day, God was satisfied, and He relented.

Among the ancient Jews, only the theological intellectuals, the Sadducees, disregarded the resurrection of the dead.

At the end of his ministry, Paul suffered greatly for speaking boldly about the resurrection of the dead, including during his time in Jerusalem and surrounds. See my exposition on Acts 24:10-21 for more details.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20

15:12 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead?

15:13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised;

15:14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.

15:15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified of God that he raised Christ–whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.

15:16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised.

15:17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.

15:18 Then those also who have died in Christ have perished.

15:19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

15:20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.

Gospel

This week’s reading is the Sermon on the Mount, featuring the Beatitudes. Jesus came down from the mountain, where He had been praying alone. At this point in His ministry, the twelve Apostles were with Him.

Luke 6:17-26

6:17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon.

6:18 They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured.

6:19 And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.

6:20 Then he looked up at his disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

6:21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you will be filled. “Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.

6:22 “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man.

6:23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

6:24 “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.

6:25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you will be hungry. “Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.

6:26 “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.”

I have highlighted certain verses from the Beatitudes on purpose, because those are not emphasised much in today’s discourses on this reading. Early on, Jesus warned His followers of persecution, but that they should focus on the life to come and rejoice in their salvation.

Most sermons today emphasise verse 24, however, as Matthew Henry’s powerful commentary states, Jesus’s warning is directed at those who are materialists with no faith. They trust in riches, but not in God. Where that is the case, they have received their earthly reward (see the aforementioned reading from Jeremiah). There will be no heavenly reward for them:

Here is a woe to them that are rich, that is, that trust in riches, that have abundance of this world’s wealth, and, instead of serving God with it, serve their lusts with it; woe to them, for they have received their consolation, that which they placed their happiness in, and were willing to take up with for a portion, Luke 6:24. They in their life-time received their good things, which, in their account, were the best things, and all the good things they are ever likely to receive from God. “You that are rich are in temptation to set your hearts upon a smiling world, and to say, Soul, take thine ease in the embraces of it, This is my rest for ever, here will I dwell; and then woe unto you.” (1.) It is the folly of carnal worldlings that they make the things of this world their consolation, which were intended only for their convenience. They please themselves with them, pride themselves in them, and make them their heaven upon earth; and to them the consolations of God are small, and of no account. (2.) It is their misery that they are put off with them as their consolation. Let them know it, to their terror, when they are parted from these things, there is an end of all their comfort, a final end of it, and nothing remains to them but everlasting misery and torment.

Therefore, it is wrong for clergy to shame middle class churchgoers into giving more when they are already being squeezed through taxes to support a bloated welfare state and through ever increasing tuition costs for their children. Neither of those was around in our Lord’s era.

One must also consider the type of church one is being shamed into donating to. Clergy from corrupt churches (including those in major denominations) are the ones asking for the most money. A false church, one seeking the world and not the Kingdom of God, deserves to die on the vine. A false church is not one that exemplifies the purity and holiness of the early congregation in Jerusalem of Acts 4:32-37.

In closing, I would also ask readers who are uncertain about the resurrection to please read Paul’s explanation about it. Parents and elder family members should make sure the children in their family understand it, too.

I say that because I know of small children in Britain over a decade ago (one was the offspring of a then-colleague) who learned at crèche that Jesus died and that Easter commemorates His death. NO! Easter celebrates Jesus’s victory over death. On the third day, He rose from the dead — according to the Scriptures!

It is essential that we understand what the Bible teaches and pass that knowledge along to younger family members.

Without sound, scripturally based doctrine, there may be no life to come for some.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the much-maligned students at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky:

A school chaperone’s role is an onerous one (January 18, March for Life, Covington Catholic High School)

Covington Catholic: responsible media backtracked (January 20, March for Life, Covington Catholic High School)

Covington Catholic: doxxing followed by support on a fateful weekend (January 20-21, Covington Catholic High School)

I meant to write about them last week, but that worked out just fine, because the story gradually progressed to a happy ending. On Wednesday, February 13, the Diocese of Covington has cleared the boys of any wrongdoing.

Nonetheless, the story needs telling in full.

To pick up where I left off, Monday, January 21, 2019, was Martin Luther King Day, so there was no school. No doubt, the boys who were harassed at the Lincoln Memorial after the March for Life the previous Friday were delighted during that long, horrible weekend to hear from someone their own age, CJ Pearson, who rallied to their cause:

Pearson posted a video of two of the boys that Monday:

The Gateway Pundit was able to interview two students and two mothers under conditions of anonymity (names were changed). One of the mothers said the boys, who were performing their school chants — with permission — thought the Native American who approached them (emphasis in the original):

was on their side and drumming along to their cheer.

Clearly, this was traumatising for the families involved, especially when politicians and even their own diocese criticised the students:

The families also wanted to make it clear that there were no chants of “build the wall,” or anything else that could be seen as offensive. Mrs. Smith recited one of the Covington chants, saying that it could have been what Phillips heard.

Another mother whose son was present during the incident, who we refer to as Mrs. Adams, said that “it’s just terrible that they are being criticized the way they are.”

Mrs. Adams said that she is worried about the safety of the students on Tuesday when they return to school. The American Indian Movement Chapter of Indiana and Kentucky has called for a protest at the high school.

“I’m worried about their safety on Tuesday — people were threatening to shoot up the school,” Mrs. Adams said. “I’m worried about sending my child back.”

Mrs. Smith added that she “demands an apology and a retraction from the Diocese.”

The mothers had much more to say (purple highlights mine):

Mrs. Adams added that the worst for her has been the Bishop of Covington throwing them under the bus. “That is the worst thing to me,” she said, her voice shaking.

“I personally think they were targeted because they had the MAGA hats on,” Mrs. Smith said. “I think it’s a shame that people are saying that we shouldn’t have let them wear them. It’s a shame that you can’t support your president in Washington, DC.”

Trump “is the first and only president to come out to support the March for Life,” Mrs. Smith added. “To get blamed for this because they were wearing a hat instead of blaming the aggressors — it’s blaming the victims.”

“Like I said, the Bishop here is literally victimizing the victims twice. They’ve already been victimized by the media, now they are being victimized again,” she added. “There is blood in the water and they are making it worse. They’re feeding the piranha frenzy from the liberal media. I just want people to understand that they need to wake up and stop believing the fake news and defend the kids.”

The Gateway Pundit asked the families if there is anything they would like to say to the Democrat mob of adult journalists and celebrities that are coming after their children.

“I don’t think you could publish it,” Mrs. Smith said, taking a break from the righteous outrage for some laughter.

These students aren’t adults, these are kids — innocent children — and the adults should pause before they react when it’s children’s lives that could be ruined,” Mrs. Smith said. “And kids are so susceptible to bullying. I honestly thought, this kid could kill himself over this. What are they thinking? They could destroy this boy’s life, depress him, and he could end up committing suicide — and he did nothing wrong! These people, who are supposed to be adults, are jumping in and accusing him of terrible things — shame on them! Shame isn’t even enough of a word,” Mrs. Smith demanded.

Adam Smith noted that many of the children on the collage of photos that is being passed around the internet, looking for their names, are as young as 14-years-old. Many of them are freshmen.

“They’re really young,” he said. “They’re really going after kids. Half of us were just standing in the background and they’re looking for our information.”

Online scrutiny then turned to the Native American, allegedly a left-wing activist who appeared in a 2012 anti-police video, and thought to have been involved in a 2015 incident targeting a group of university fraternity members. In that incident, he also claimed he was abused, when it appears he instigated it.

Questions were raised about the timing of and his rank during his military service. Even the Washington Post had to correct one of their stories, retracting a mention of his service in the Vietnam War. Someone else unearthed his family history and past interviews with the media, which raised more questions about him.

Another Native American protester with him acknowledged that the two of them decided to join in solidarity with the group harassing the students.

That day, President Trump had a message of encouragement for the students:

One Trump supporter, whose Twitter account was later deleted, tweeted about the main target of the Left’s ire, student Nick Sandmann (emphases mine):

Imagine being Nick. One day you are on a field trip – next day the President of the United States got your back. That’s life in the Maga lane. The President understands loyalty better than many Bishops & ‘Catholic’ Teachers. Think about that. He fights for us. This is proof.

Things began looking up. Digital company INE Entertainment fired one of their employees who had tweeted a death wish towards the boys — and their parents. The Wrap reported:

Digital company INE Entertainment has fired a journalist who publicly wished for the death of several Covington Catholic High School students and their parents in a pair of tweets over the weekend. Aside from his job as a post-production supervisor at INE, Erik Abriss is a contributor to New York Media’s pop culture site Vulture.

“We were surprised and upset to see the inflammatory and offensive rhetoric used on Erik Abriss’ Twitter account this weekend. He worked with the company in our post-production department and never as a writer,” the company said in a statement to TheWrap on Monday.

“While we appreciated his work, it is clear that he is no longer aligned with our company’s core values of respect and tolerance. Therefore, as of January 21, 2019, we have severed ties with Abriss.”

The Wrap included the text of the offending tweet.

Tucker Carlson had a great segment on the journalists who ‘rushed to judgement’ about the Lincoln Memorial incident (also see YouTube). Note, there are neo-conservatives on his list, too:

A man helping the Covington families tweeted:

More messages of support rolled in from Patricia Heaton of Everyone Loves Raymond fame (also see her tweet), TurningPoint USA’s Charlie Kirk about his phone call with Nick Sandmann and Kyle Kashuv of Parkland, Florida, where the mass high school shooting took place a year ago on Valentine’s Day. He said:

The Media has bent over backwards to defend my Parkland Highschool liberal peers, no matter what outrageous things they have said. But now they have tried to ruin a highschool kid’s life, over fake news. What changed? The student was a Trump Supporter.

That day, the school’s principal sent an email to all parents. Gateway Pundit has the details. The message announced the beginning of an investigation into what had happened on Friday. One of the mothers was indignant (emphasis in the original):

“No apology. No explanation. No news on protests planned for tomorrow. No cancelling of school. Nothing,” she said.

The far-left radical activist group the “American Indian Movement” and Antifa have called a protest for Tuesday when the students are supposed to return to school.

The local Antifa group is urging “co-conspirators” to join them …

Two mothers that have spoke to The Gateway Pundit have both said they will not be sending their children to school tomorrow out of fear for their safety.

On Tuesday, January 22, Covington Catholic High School was closed. Gateway Pundit reported that parents received early morning phone calls with a recorded message from the principal (emphases mine):

A mother who received the call tells the Gateway Pundit that it was a recorded message from the principal saying that they decided to close the school after discussions with local authorities. They said that there were security concerns and no parents or children are permitted on campus throughout the day or for any evening activities.

The recording also asked that parents continue to pray for the school.

“It sounded serious, like they had some serious threats to call it off like that after they planned for it to be open,” the parent told TGP.

The parent also expressed frustration at the fact that they hadn’t cancelled sooner — as the threats were everywhere.

A local Antifa group and a far-left Native American group have called for protests at 10 a.m. on Tuesday at the school — though the Natives have reportedly moved their protest to a church.

That afternoon, the Cincinnati Enquirer published Nick Sandmann’s full statement on the incident and the aftermath. I cited most of it in an earlier post, but there is more. He received many threats — and so did his family:

My parents are receiving death and professional threats because of the social media mob that has formed over this issue …

Also:

I provided this account of events to the Diocese of Covington so they may know exactly what happened, and I stand ready and willing to cooperate with any investigation they are conducting.

The newspaper added:

This is the only statement that has been made by the Sandmann family. Any comments attributed to any member of the family that is not contained in this document are fabricated. The family will not be answering individual media inquiries.

That day, President Trump tweeted again about the incident:

As there are a number of other aspects to this story, I will continue next week.

Well, well, well, on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, the Senate Intelligence Committee has concluded there is ‘no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia’.

NBC News intelligence and national security correspondent Reporter Ken Dilanian broke the story in his article, ‘Senate has uncovered no direct evidence of conspiracy between Trump campaign and Russia’.

This is a bipartisan finding, by the way.

Later, MSNBC interviewed Dilanian:

NBC has a summary on Twitter:

This finding comes after the Senate Intelligence Committee spent two years on an investigation involving 200 interviews and 300,000 documents.

Their investigation has not yet concluded, but its end is nigh, according to Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), the chairman. Dilanian’s article tells us:

“We know we’re getting to the bottom of the barrel because there’re not new questions that we’re searching for answers to,” Burr said.

On Tuesday, Burr doubled down, telling NBC News, “There is no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.”

It could take the committee several more months to produce a written report of their findings, which, even with this news, could be inconclusive:

The final Senate report may not reach a conclusion on whether the contacts added up to collusion or coordination with Russia, Burr said.

Democrats told NBC News that’s a distinct possibility.

“What I’m telling you is that I’m going to present, as best we can, the facts to you and to the American people,” Burr told CBS. “And you’ll have to draw your own conclusion as to whether you think that, by whatever definition, that’s collusion.”

The Senate investigation is separate from the Mueller probe, which trundles along.

Also, the House of Representatives, now Democrat-controlled, is planning to conduct a separate investigation:

that will go beyond the 2016 election to examine whether any foreign government has undue financial influence on Trump or his family. And New York federal prosecutors are pursuing their own criminal inquiry related to hush-money payments to women. The investigations into Donald Trump, therefore, are far from over.

Nonetheless, the Senate news puts a dent in Big Media’s anti-Trump narrative.

ZeroHedge reports that when Dilanian appeared on MSNBC (see video above, bold emphases in the original, those in purple mine):

MSNBC anchor Hallie Jackson and her guest panelists’ faces looked visibly confused and uncomfortable as they learned the Senate report is going in the opposite direction of everything MSNBC and other mainstream outlets have been breathlessly reporting on a near 24/7 basis

More importantly, if this is a precursor of what the Mueller report concludes in a few weeks/months, the TV station that built its current reputation on the premise of Russian collusion, may have no option but to go on indefinite hiatus.

Watch the segment … with host Hallie Jackson appearing to grow exasperated by the 2:20 mark:“If and when the president, as he may inevitably do, points to these conclusions and says look, the Senate intelligence committee found I am not guilty of conspiracy… he would be correct in saying that?

Dilanian noted that while the Republican chair of the committee made what he characterized as “partisan” comments the week prior, it turned out be unanimous fact. “What I found,” he said, “is that Democrats don’t dispute that characterization.”

But perhaps sensing how “contrary” to the network’s own hysterical ‘Russiagate’ coverage his reporting was, he tried to soften the blow, saying, “But, again, no direct proof of a conspiracy. As one democratic aide said to me, ‘we never thought we were going to find a Democrat between Trump and Vladimir Putin saying let’s collude, but the question is how do we interpret all these various contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia.’”

Hallie Jackson followed with further probing: “Not to put too fine a point on it, but I want to make sure I’m understanding this…” and asked “If and when the president, as he may inevitably do, points to these conclusions and says look, the Senate intelligence committee found I’m not guilty of conspiracy… he would be correct in saying that?

Her face looking rather incredulous at this point, Dilanian responded by invoking the Meuller investigation, reassuring her his inquiry is not complete and likely could uncover more information. But then the bottom line: “That said, Trump will claim vindication through this, and he’ll be partially right,” he said.

President Trump tweeted his thanks:

Some readers might be sceptical.

However, an investigative journalist who has no ties to Trump and is not a supporter — Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept — agrees with him:

Greenwald’s readers were not happy.

On another tweet, Greenwald still had to repeat himself:

More angry readers tweeted here.

Let’s remind ourselves of what Big Media have been foisting on us since 2017: ‘bombshell’, ‘tipping point’, ‘beginning of the end’, ‘Trump will resign’:

Big Media’s narrative is ‘too big to fail’:

Trump supporters, understandably, are sick and tired of it all, because the Democrats started this narrative shortly before the 2016 election:

This chap meant ‘wielded’, but his point still stands. I hope he is correct:

Here are a few suggestions for President Trump on how to wield that hammer:

As for Robert Mueller and his team, the same day NBC’s Ken Dilanian filed his report, President Trump’s former attorney John Dowd gave an interview to ABC News (full transcript).

John Dowd does not believe the report of Mueller’s findings will be released to the public. He thinks there will simply be an announcement that the two-year investigation has ended.

Dowd says that Mueller had all the information he needed nearly a year ago (emphases mine):

In my opinion, on March 5th, we were done. He had everything. He said he had everything. He told me that no one had lied. He told me they had every document we asked for. He told me that it was nothing more. He told me that the president was not a target. That is, he did not have any exposure, that he was a witness subject, which is perfectly normal for someone’s conduct you’re looking at, but they don’t have exposure.

Dowd later said the same thing and says Mueller should have admitted that he was being pressured to find something by a ‘cabal in the FBI’:

There’s no exposure. It’s been a terrible waste of time. What’s worse is let’s get on the other side of this, how it all happened. This is one of the greatest frauds this country’s ever seen. And I’m just shocked that Bob Mueller didn’t call it that way and say, “I’m being used.” I would’ve done that. If I were in his shoes in this thing, I’d have gone to the– I’d have gone to Sessions and Rosenstein and said, “Look. This is nonsense. We are being used by a cabal in the F.B.I. to get even.”

President Trump has co-operated with Mueller, responding to requests that no other president has never had to endure (source):

Note the third paragraph in that last tweet. Had Trump agreed to an interview with Mueller:

it would set a precedent that would open the current president and future presidents to this kind of interview.

Given the Senate Intelligence Committee’s findings, it will be interesting to see how much longer the Mueller probe lasts.

It’s that time of year again, when many of us around the world will be saying to someone special, ‘Be mine!’

Indeed, love makes the world go round.

Valentine’s Day has a fascinating history. Did you know there is more than one St Valentine? Both are connected with love legends. Find out more:

A bit of history about Valentine’s Day

But, wait, there’s even more history, including the reason why we write ‘x’ for a kiss:

More history about Valentine’s Day

For those looking for something sombre, the following explains why love between two people threatens totalitarianism:

Valentine’s Day ‘shameful’ to totalitarians

If you are celebrating Valentine’s Day, I hope you enjoy a romantic celebration à deux!

Last week, I posted a summary of President Donald Trump’s 2019 State of the Union (SOTU) address.

In case you missed the event, CBS has a video and full transcript.

It created such a buzz that I have more bookmarks than would fit into one post.

What follows are America’s views of the SOTU as seen online.

Polling

Trump got high marks from viewers at home:

The CBS reporter seemed shocked that Americans side with Trump on immigration. He can barely get the words out:

Trump’s much vaunted ‘wall’ is gaining traction. This was the issue that the media said would lose him votes in 2016. In the end, he won the election, and now a clear majority of voters agree with him on this most controversial issue.

Here is a breakdown by political party:

Note that nearly one-third of Democrats approve and — just as importantly for 2020 — 82% of Independents do, too.

CNN also conducted a poll. The results must have upset them greatly:

Adding both positive percentages together gives Trump’s SOTU a 76% approval rating — the same as CBS’s. There appears to be a rounding error in CNN’s:

The Republican National Committee (RNC) calls it ‘Spirit of 76%’ (an association with 1776):

Television ratings

Trump’s speech was a huge televisual draw.

On February 6, The Hollywood Reporter provided the ratings (emphases mine below):

The State of the Union was a slightly bigger draw than it was in 2018.

Just under 46.8 million people — 46.79 million, to be precise — watched President Trump’s address to Congress across 12 networks, about 3 percent more than watched a year ago.  

The 2018 address drew 45.55 million viewers. Trump’s first address to Congress in 2017 — not technically a State of the Union, as he had only been in office a few weeks — drew the largest audience of his term to date with 47.74 million

Fox News led the field 11.27 million viewers from 9-10:30 p.m. ET, off slightly from the 11.5 million who watched the 2018 SOTU. NBC topped broadcast networks with 7.14 million viewers, followed by CBS (6.68 million) and ABC (5.91 million). The Fox broadcast network’s 4.2 million viewers beat out both MSNBC (3.79 million) and CNN (3.47 million).

The four broadcast networks and big three cable news outlets combined for 42.46 million viewers. PBS, Telemundo, Univision, Fox Business and CNNe combined to averaged 4.33 million.

Tuesday’s address drew more viewers than the comparable ones in the first terms of Barack Obama (42.79 million in 2011) and Bill Clinton (42.2 million in 1995) but fell well short of George W. Bush’s 2003 State of the Union, which drew 62 million as Bush made a case for invading Iraq. That address is the most-watched State of the Union in this century.

In earlier metered-market ratings, the State of the Union averaged a 16.3 household rating across ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC, up about 10 percent from a 14.8 last year. The SOTU was also slightly higher in metered markets than Trump’s 2017 address, which is not technically considered a State of the Union speech as he’d only been in office a few weeks.

Two anti-Trumpers’ positive verdicts

At least two anti-Trump pundits praised him for a great speech.

Here is Bret Baier from Fox News:

And the Wall Street Journal‘s Peggy Noonan, who wrote Bush I’s ‘Thousand Points of Light’ acceptance speech for the Republican nomination in 1988:

As for those who watched at home:

Favourite SOTU themes

Many of the tweets I saw were supportive of Trump’s views on socialism, abortion and human trafficking.

Socialism

Trump firmly denounced socialism. If you think that is unfair, look at how Venezuela, once South America’s jewel in the crown, has deteriorated:

A number of people picked up on Bernie Sanders’s reaction:

Here’s a graphic — meme — to circulate:

The Dems have a plan of attack, though. In fact, they already previewed a new lie of theirs on a Sunday news show:

Abortion

Stephen Miller did a marvellous job writing the speech, but the part on abortion was especially moving:

The following day, House Republicans re-introduced the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, sponsored by Ann Wagner (R-Missouri) and Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana). Unfortunately, the measure failed to pass for consideration, as the vote had to be unanimous.

Ann Wagner had this to say:

Behind the scenes

According to The Daily Caller‘s Benny Johnson, someone fainted during the speech:

Benny also liked Trump’s speech:

Democrats

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her freshmen Representatives received rightful criticism.

However, all the Democrats deserve the public’s censure for booing Trump when he introduced the critical subject of border security by mentioning the migrant ‘caravans’. The Daily Caller reported conservative commentator Michelle Malkin’s reaction:

When you have the Democrats booing because President Trump was exposing and continuing to hammer the fact that these caravans are endangering the country and posing enormous costs to people at the border, let alone in the interior, this is a message I think is going to resonate all the way through 2020, and it’s going to pose a huge optics problem for the Democrat party,” Malkin said …

“I think it underscores an important point that President Trump himself has made in the face of this debate and the intransigence of the open borders Democrats — and that it’s not just about a wall. As long as you have these magnets drawing people here and everybody’s aware of it around the world, it’s not going to stop,” she said earlier in the interview.

And that is a point that President Trump made during the address last night. … President Trump delivered very defining moments that contrast the differences between the parties.”

I hope she is right.

Joe Manchin

There was only one Democrat who stood with the president, at least on energy and abortion: Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia. He’s delighted to see the revival of coal mines in his state. On abortion, he had this to say:

Nancy Pelosi

Pelosi, a notional Catholic, invited the president of Planned Parenthood as a special guest:

Then, there was Pelosi’s jewellery.

She wore a long gold brooch, a tiny version of the Mace of the United States House of Representatives. The Mace is modelled on the Roman-era fasces, which has always represented authority:

AlterNet has a photo of Pelosi and a bit of history on how the Mace has been used in the House of Representatives. It is on regular display when the House is in session (emphases mine):

At each daily session, the Sergeant at Arms carries the mace in procession, ahead of the speaker in to the rostrum. While the House is in session, the mace stands on a pedestal at the speaker’s right handThe mace is almost four feet in length and made of silver and 13 ebony rods (representing the original states in the union).

It’s the people’s house, and the people have entrusted it to Speaker Pelosi for this term. Along with it comes the power to maintain order in the House.

The Roman authorities used fasces on criminals and people disturbing the peace. Lictors — officials similar to law enforcement officers — could beat miscreants and criminals with the whole fasces or untie the bundled rods and go after several at a time. They also had the authority to use the axe inside the fasces to put them to death, when necessary.

Later in history, fasces became a symbol representing national unity and indivisibility: many rods bundled together make a single entity.

This American Intelligence Media video purports that Pelosi wore the mace pin to signal that she is the equal to President Trump. That’s a very real possibility.

Whatever the case, there were times when it was clear she does not want Americans to succeed:

Democrat women

The only time Democrat women rose was to cheer Trump’s stats on women in the workforce and in Congress.

That’s right, gals, applaud yourselves:

As TurningPoint USA’s Candace Owens pointed out:

The Daily Wire‘s Ryan Saavedra tweeted this in response to AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from Queens):

Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) seemed to deny the crime going on at the southern border:

Prescription drug prices

There is one important SOTU topic that has not received much coverage — the cost of prescription drugs:

I found this response to the tweet interesting:

Democrat rebuttal

Since President Reagan’s tenure, Democrats believe it is their duty to provide a short SOTU rebuttal to Republican administrations.

Before I return to and conclude on the SOTU, it is worth mentioning the 2019 rebuttal.

The Democrats who give these short speeches are not exactly la crème de la crème. Last year’s was a young member of the Kennedy clan who did not do well at all, either visually or rhetorically.

This year, it was the turn of Stacy Abrams, who unsuccessfully ran for governor of Georgia last year and indirectly complained about her loss:

According to the Gateway Pundit (emphases in the original):

Stacey Abrams opened the Democrat Party response to President Trump’s State of the Union Address by wishing everyone a happy Lunar New Year.

Stacey Abrams: “Good evening my fellow Americans and Happy Lunar New Year.”

And it went down hill from there.

And they wonder how they lost the working class and Middle America?

The chairwoman of the Republican Party — Mitt Romney’s niece — tweeted:

I’m not sure what universe Abrams is living in, but what she said is patently untrue:

The Wall Street Journal‘s Kimberley Strassel put it this way:

SOTU fact checking

Some readers might wonder how wrong Stacy Abrams was.

The Daily Signal posted a well sourced article supporting Trump’s speech content: ’13 Fact Checks on the State of the Union Address’, which three of their journalists compiled.

The Q Tree has more facts backing up Trump’s speech: ‘The State Of Our Union’.

Unity

The SOTU theme of ‘Choosing Greatness’ points to Trump’s call for national — and political — unity.

Recall that the motto for the United States is E Pluribus Unum: Out of Many, One.

Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager tweeted:

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee — father of Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders — made a political observation:

And, socially, the Trumps’ ingenious choice of special guests showed national unity, with young and old from so many different backgrounds and personal experience. I won’t show this year’s White House tweet in full, because the photo included was from 2018, however, the text reads as follows:

President and guests all come from different walks of life. No matter their story, each has something important in common: They represent the very best of America.

They are an impressive group of people.

Matthew Charles exemplifies the good results that come when politicians put party differences aside and work together, as Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s victorious 2016 campaign manager explains:

Matthew Charles deserved his release, as BreakPoint.org explains in ‘Restoring All Things — One Person At A Time’, a moving account of Charles’s personal transformation.

Conclusion

I am very much looking forward to seeing what the next year brings for the Trump Administration — and for the United States, as well as the world.

With Donald Trump, we are witnessing history in the making. This era will be written about for generations to come. Enjoy it and embrace it while it lasts.

In 1999, Anthony Bourdain wrote an article for The New Yorker on dining out.

‘Don’t Eat Before Reading This’ is a must-read article.

He was talking about top-end bistros and restaurants, but he raised insider facts which will interest aficionados of the dining scene.

I saw the article thanks to this tweet about steak …

… which led me to this one (click on image to see the full text):

I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Fish

I nearly always have fish when eating out. Here’s the truth for fish lovers who dine out at the weekend or on a Monday (emphases mine):

The fish specialty is reasonably priced, and the place got two stars in the Times. Why not go for it? If you like four-day-old fish, be my guest. Here’s how things usually work. The chef orders his seafood for the weekend on Thursday night. It arrives on Friday morning. He’s hoping to sell the bulk of it on Friday and Saturday nights, when he knows that the restaurant will be busy, and he’d like to run out of the last few orders by Sunday evening. Many fish purveyors don’t deliver on Saturday, so the chances are that the Monday-night tuna you want has been kicking around in the kitchen since Friday morning, under God knows what conditions. When a kitchen is in full swing, proper refrigeration is almost nonexistent, what with the many openings of the refrigerator door as the cooks rummage frantically during the rush, mingling your tuna with the chicken, the lamb, or the beef. Even if the chef has ordered just the right amount of tuna for the weekend, and has had to reorder it for a Monday delivery, the only safeguard against the seafood supplier’s off-loading junk is the presence of a vigilant chef who can make sure that the delivery is fresh from Sunday night’s market.

Generally speaking, the good stuff comes in on Tuesday

Steaks

I cannot emphasise enough this bit about well done steaks. For those who missed the tweet above:

In many kitchens, there’s a time-honored practice called “save for well-done.” When one of the cooks finds a particularly unlovely piece of steak—tough, riddled with nerve and connective tissue, off the hip end of the loin, and maybe a little stinky from age—he’ll dangle it in the air and say, “Hey, Chef, whaddya want me to do with this?”What he’s going to do is repeat the mantra of cost-conscious chefs everywhere: “Save for well-done.” The way he figures it, the philistine who orders his food well-done is not likely to notice the difference between food and flotsam.

Vegetarians

Apologies to any vegetarians reading here, but this is what chefs think. Bourdain prefaced this by saying serious cooks find preparing brunch dull:

Even more despised than the Brunch People are the vegetarians. Serious cooks regard these members of the dining public—and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans—as enemies of everything that’s good and decent in the human spirit. To live life without veal or chicken stock, fish cheeks, sausages, cheese, or organ meats is treasonous.

Butter

Whether we realise it or not, a good restaurant will use butter — and a lot of it:

In a good restaurant, what this all adds up to is that you could be putting away almost a stick of butter with every meal.

Leftover bread and butter

Speaking of butter — and bread — you might wonder (as I did) what happens to whatever you leave on your table.

It gets re-used:

Recently, there was a news report about the practice of recycling bread. By means of a hidden camera in a restaurant, the reporter was horrified to see returned bread being sent right back out to the floor. This, to me, wasn’t news: the reuse of bread has been an open secret—and a fairly standard practice—in the industry for years. It makes more sense to worry about what happens to the leftover table butter—many restaurants recycle it for hollandaise.

Food handling

If you’re wondering (as I did) if line cooks and chefs wear gloves in the kitchen, the short answer is ‘rarely’:

As the author and former chef Nicolas Freeling notes in his definitive book “The Kitchen,” the better the restaurant, the more your food has been prodded, poked, handled, and tasted. By the time a three-star crew has finished carving and arranging your saddle of monkfish with dried cherries and wild-herb-infused nage into a Parthenon or a Space Needle, it’s had dozens of sweaty fingers all over it. Gloves? You’ll find a box of surgical gloves—in my kitchen we call them “anal-research gloves”—over every station on the line, for the benefit of the health inspectors, but does anyone actually use them? Yes, a cook will slip a pair on every now and then, especially when he’s handling something with a lingering odor, like salmon. But during the hours of service gloves are clumsy and dangerous. When you’re using your hands constantly, latex will make you drop things, which is the last thing you want to do.

Hair

Bourdain says that toques or other head coverings are not generally worn:

For most chefs, wearing anything on their head, especially one of those picturesque paper toques—they’re often referred to as “coffee filters”—is a nuisance: they dissolve when you sweat, bump into range hoods, burst into flame.

Bourdain’s conclusion

Despite having raised the hairs on people’s necks by revealing all this insider information, Bourdain is adamant that a top restaurant kitchen is cleaner than that of the average home:

The fact is that most good kitchens are far less septic than your kitchen at home. I run a scrupulously clean, orderly restaurant kitchen, where food is rotated and handled and stored very conscientiously.

My conclusion

Having read Bourdain’s article, I am happy I do not eat out all that often — at most, 10 to 12 times a year — and always in good restaurants.

I would dispute that their kitchens are cleaner than mine at home.

And finally, although I disagreed with his politics, I am sorry that Anthony Bourdain is no longer with us.

Bible openThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (here and here).

Acts 24:10-21

10 And when the governor had nodded to him to speak, Paul replied:

“Knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation, I cheerfully make my defense. 11 You can verify that it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem, 12 and they did not find me disputing with anyone or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues or in the city. 13 Neither can they prove to you what they now bring up against me. 14 But this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets, 15 having a hope in God, which these men themselves accept, that there will be a resurrection of both the just and the unjust. 16 So I always take pains to have a clear conscience toward both God and man. 17 Now after several years I came to bring alms to my nation and to present offerings. 18 While I was doing this, they found me purified in the temple, without any crowd or tumult. But some Jews from Asia— 19 they ought to be here before you and to make an accusation, should they have anything against me. 20 Or else let these men themselves say what wrongdoing they found when I stood before the council, 21 other than this one thing that I cried out while standing among them: ‘It is with respect to the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you this day.’”

——————————————————————————————————————

Paul was on trial before Felix, the Roman governor, in Caesarea.

Last week’s entry discussed Tertullus’s attempt to smear Paul’s reputation for his clients, the Sanhedrin. He made outrageous accusations.

Now it was Paul’s turn to speak. He addressed Felix not with flattery, as Tertullus had, but by simply acknowledging Felix’s authority and that he had confidence the governor would hear him favourably. Therefore, he would make his defence ‘cheerfully’ (verse 10).

Although it seems an odd thing to say, given Felix’s corrupt nature as a governor, Paul was effectively telling him, ‘When you hear what I have to say, you will know this is a religious matter, not one of sedition against the Roman government. You have been in this region long enough to know what this dispute is about.’

Matthew Henry’s commentary offers this analysis of the message Paul conveyed to Felix (emphases mine):

1. He could say of his own knowledge that there had not formerly been any complaints against Paul. Such clamours as they raised are generally against old offenders; but, though he had long say judge there, he never had Paul brought before him till now; and therefore he was not so dangerous a criminal as he was represented to be. 2. He was well acquainted with the Jewish nation, and with their temper and spirit. He knew how bigoted they were to their own way, what furious zealots they were against all that did not comply with them, how peevish and perverse they generally were, and therefore would make allowances for that in their accusation of him, and not regard that which he had reason to think came so much from part-malice. Though he did not know him, he knew his prosecutors, and by this might guess what manner of man he was.

Paul wisely ignored Tertullus’s accusations and went on to restate his case, as he had done in Jerusalem.

He began by saying that he had arrived in Jerusalem only 12 days earlier, ‘to worship’ (verse 11). Paul stated that he did not start any disputes either in the synagogues or in the city (verse 12) — therefore, nothing of either a religious or a secular nature.

Of those 12 days, Paul had been a prisoner for six, which Felix would have known. He was saying that he would not have had a chance to organise an uprising against Jew or Roman.

Paul added that neither Tertullus or the Sanhedrin could prove any of their accusations against him (verse 13).

St Luke, the author of Acts, gave us much detail about Paul’s time in Jerusalem. Looking back in the previous chapters, when Paul arrived in Jerusalem, the Church leaders there told him that he should complete his Nazirite vow with four other men and pay for all the animal sacrifices involved. This, the elders said, was necessary to placate local Jews.

When he attempted to complete the Nazirite vow with the men, a group of Jews falsely accused him of stirring up trouble in Asia Minor, probably Ephesus. This resulted in a mob physically and verbally attacking Paul.

Then, the Romans took Paul prisoner. The Roman tribune in Jerusalem, Claudius Lysias, could not get a reasoned set of accusations from the Jews, at least 40 of whom vowed to murder Paul, so he had the Apostle escorted from Jerusalem to Caesarea and effectively escalated the Apostle’s case to Felix.

Now back to Paul’s self-defence. Paul responded to Tertullus’s accusation that he was a member of a sect of Nazarenes (who did not have a good reputation) by saying that he belonged to the Way, the commonly used term for Christianity in that era. He rightly described the Way as the true worship of the Jewish God of our Fathers (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and correct interpretation of Scripture (verse 14).

Paul went on to say that, because he truly hoped in God, he knew there would be a final resurrection of the both the ‘just and the unjust’, Judgement Day (verse 15). For that reason, Paul said, he made sure that his conscience was clear before God and man (verse 16).

John MacArthur tells us that Paul was not only explaining the Way but was also pointing a finger at his accusers for falsely worshipping God by denying the Messiah:

“The Way” is the title of Christianity; the unsaved people used to slur the Christians by calling them “Nazarenes” or slur them by calling them “Christians,” “little Christs,” but the Christians called themselves “The Way,” members of The Way. That’s good, isn’t it?

We say, “Where did they get that name?” Well, it’s pretty obvious; there is no other way. Jesus said, “I am the way.” Peter preached, “There is no other name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” Peter even uses it in II Peter 2:2. He says that “False teachers, by their pernicious ways, cause the way of truth to be evil spoken of.” So this was a title for Christianity used by Christians: The Way.

Yes, he says, “I confess to you that after the Way which they call heresy” – yeah, they call it heresy – “…so worshiped I the God of my fathers, believing all things written in the Law and in the Prophets and have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust.” You can see the High Priest saying, “Yuck! Here we go again on the resurrection,” because the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, right? That’s what started the fight in the Sanhedrin.

So you know what Paul says? “I would just like to say that it is true that I am a believer in the Way and consequently, I truly worship my God; I believe all of His revelation, including the part about resurrection,” as if to say “take that.” Who’s the real heretics? The high priests who have ceased worshiping God because there is only one way to God; Jesus said, “No man comes to the Father but by Me,” who have ceased believing all the Law and the Prophets because if you believed all the law and the prophets, you are going to have to believe in Christ because all the Law and the prophets talked about was Christ. “And who have ceased believing in the great hope of Israel, the hope of a resurrection.” They’re the heretics. It’s a pretty strong argument.

Henry makes this point about the resurrection of the dead. It was fundamental to the Jewish faith, too:

The resurrection of the dead is a fundamental article of our creed, as it was also of that of the Jewish church. It is what they themselves also allow; nay, it was the expectation of the ancient patriarchs, witness Job’s confession of his faith; but it is more clearly revealed and more fully confirmed by the gospel, and therefore those who believed it should have been thankful to the preachers of the gospel for their explications and proofs of it, instead of opposing them.

MacArthur provides scriptural citations:

The traditional hope of the Jew was the resurrection. You say, “Did the Old Testament teach a resurrection?” Of course it did! Isaiah 26:19, Job 19:26, Daniel 12:2, and elsewhere the Old Testament taught a resurrection.

I believe in my heart that Abraham believed in a resurrection, that’s why he was willing to sacrifice Isaac. I think that was ultimate faith.

Over time, MacArthur explains, the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible) became the only ones that were legally binding on the Jews:

the Sadducees standing there didn’t believe in a resurrection. You say, “How did they get around it if it’s in Isaiah, Job, Daniel, etc.?” They got around it because they said this, “The only binding truth in the Old Testament is what Moses said out of the first five books. That’s it.” That’s why, when Jesus was having an argument about resurrection, He quoted Exodus 3, because He knew that was the only thing that they would adhere to. He used it by implication; the name of God being the indication of resurrection.

The Sadducees were not traditional; they were heretics. They denied that which the Old Testament taught. They were modernists. They were the aristocratic family and they were the modernists theologically. They were not traditional Jews, and I’m sure the accusers here are mostly Sadducees. The high priest was a Sadducee, and most likely the other elders were as well. So Paul says “boy, I’m the guy that believes in the truth, the resurrection of the dead, the just and the unjust.” Yes, there will be a resurrection of both. Unsaved people? Yes, they will be resurrected physically, in some form.

Then Paul moved on to discuss his purpose in going to Jerusalem. He said that he was coming with alms and offerings for his ‘nation’, meaning the Christians of that city (verse 17). Paul had collected offerings from the various Gentile churches he visited elsewhere to bring to the poor congregation in Jerusalem.

MacArthur explains the difference between alms and offerings as well as why Paul said ‘my nation’. The recipients were the Jews who believed that Christ Jesus fulfilled Holy Scripture:

And so, he said, “I came to bring alms to my nation, even offerings.” And the idea of offerings – you say, “What’s the difference between alms and offerings?” Alms is the definition of what he brought; offering is the source of what he brought.

It was the money for the needy given by the Gentiles. “They were offerings,” he said, “that I brought to give to the needy. That’s why I came.” Now, I want you to notice something interesting. He says, “After many years I came to bring alms to my nation.” You say, “Well, wait a minute. He didn’t give them to the nation. He gave them to the Christian Jews.” … The only true Jew in existence is what? The Christian Jew, the one who is a Jew not outwardly, but inwardly. And so, there’s no reason to qualify that.

You say, “Well, maybe Paul is kind of getting himself off the hook by using a generality.” Not really. Paul did not distinguish the Christian Jew from the rest, because, in his mind, a true Jew was one who believed in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and he was right. And so, he did bring to his nation these things. “I came here,” he says, “To bring alms to my nation, offerings. And there I was in the temple, minding my own business” – that’s in the white spaces between 17 and 18.

Paul went on to say that he was completing his Nazirite vow quietly in the temple when ‘Jews from Asia’ (verse 18) began shouting false accusations about him. He left that bit unspoken, but covered it by saying they are the ones who should be before Felix, not the Sanhedrin, defending their accusations (verse 19).

However, Paul said, as the Jews from Asia are not present, then the Sanhedrin should say what they think he is guilty of (verse 19), other than a robust defence of the resurrection of the dead (verse 20). That pointed the finger straight back at the Sadducees.

Henry clarifies Paul’s message:

When I was there, they could not take offence at any thing I said; for all I said was, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day (Acts 24:21), which gave no offence to any one but the Sadducees. This I hope was no crime, that I stuck to that which is the faith of the whole Jewish church, excepting those whom they themselves call heretics.”

MacArthur says that, with his statement, Paul had exonerated himself from any civil charges. In other words, this was a purely theological matter, which a Roman court did not handle:

Paul knows that that’s no criminal issue at all. That’s a theological discussion. These guys were standing right there; they had been in the council. They had nothing to say. There was no accusation given. The only thing they could say was that he had said something about the resurrection and everybody got uptight about it. That’s all. It was theological; no issue for a court. And incidentally, Felix knew this. He knew it even before Paul’s testimony, because in chapter 23:29, he got a letter from the tribune of Jerusalem, who explained it.

“Whom I perceived,” he said, “to be accused of questions of their law but having nothing laid to his charge worthy of death or bonds.” In other words, Claudius Lysias, when he sent Paul to Felix, sent this letter along, and said, “Hey Felix, this guy hasn’t done one thing to break the law. It’s a whole theological issue between the Jews.” And so, what Paul does in the last of his testimony is in verse 21. What he does is, he throws the whole case back into theology, and it’s a very wise move. Here he is as wise as a serpent.

He just throws the whole case into the theological area, and he knows from experience that a Roman judge cannot make a determination in a case or regarding Jewish theology. There is no crime, there’s no criminal act, there’s no civil crime; there’s nothing. Felix knew that, he knew the real issue. Paul just gave him the responsibility. He says, “The only thing they’ve got that hassles them is that I made a statement concerning the resurrection of the dead, and I said that’s probably the issue, that that’s the only thing that they could bring up.”

The story continues next week, turning to Felix’s spiritual health.

Next time — Acts 24:22-27

Below are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, February 10, 2019.

These are for Year C in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Emphases mine below.

First reading

Isaiah receives his divine commission to be a prophet. There is much to study here. Matthew Henry’s commentary on this passage is powerful and well worth reading. The purpose of the coal placed on Isaiah’s lips during his vision of God’s dominion was not to inflict pain, but to cleanse him from sin so that he could go and preach to the people to persuade them to reject the world and return to Him.

Isaiah 6:1-8, (9-13)

6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.

6:2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew.

6:3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

6:4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke.

6:5 And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

6:6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.

6:7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”

6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

6:9 And he said, “Go and say to this people: ‘Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.’

6:10 Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed.”

6:11 Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is utterly desolate;

6:12 until the LORD sends everyone far away, and vast is the emptiness in the midst of the land.

6:13 Even if a tenth part remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains standing when it is felled.” The holy seed is its stump.

Psalm

In this Psalm, David looks back in gratitude for all that God has done for him. He looks forward to the future in faith, confident of His continuing guidance and love.

Psalm 138

138:1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;

138:2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness; for you have exalted your name and your word above everything.

138:3 On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul.

138:4 All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth.

138:5 They shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.

138:6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly; but the haughty he perceives from far away.

138:7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies; you stretch out your hand, and your right hand delivers me.

138:8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

Epistle

When Paul wrote this letter, there was a dispute in Corinth about the truth of the resurrection of the dead. Paul reassures the Christians by discussing witnesses who saw Jesus after the Resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand,

15:2 through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you–unless you have come to believe in vain.

15:3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,

15:4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,

15:5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.

15:7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

15:8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them–though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

15:11 Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Gospel

This reading from Luke is the famous ‘fishers of men’ passage. It is unfortunate that the compilers of the New Revised Standard Version thought they had to change what was beautiful, and universally understood, wording.

Luke 5:1-11

5:1 Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God,

5:2 he saw two boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.

5:3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

5:4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.”

5:5 Simon answered, “Master, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.”

5:6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break.

5:7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink.

5:8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”

5:9 For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken;

5:10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who are partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”

5:11 When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.

The readings from Isaiah and Luke tie together nicely. Both the prophet and Peter were so awestruck by their respective experiences that each proclaimed himself unworthy through sin to serve the Lord.

I suspect were we to have one of these divine encounters, we, too, would be seared with the awareness of our own iniquity and inadequacy. Yet, even without such experiences, the Lord lifts us up in love and encouragement. May we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear, giving Him praise, just as David did.

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