After President Donald Trump’s successful visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel, he and First Lady Melania Trump went to Europe.

I covered their visit to Vatican City in the comments on the Israel post.

The next stop was Brussels.

The first item of business on Thursday, May 25, 2017 was to address the leaks that had emerged from US intelligence or law enforcement about confidential aspects of the suicide bombing that had taken place on Monday, May 22.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was furious that the US had leaked sensitive information. From the BBC:

Details about Abedi’s identity had already emerged in the US media less than 24 hours after the explosion and against the UK’s wishes.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she was “irritated” by the disclosure of Abedi’s identity and had warned Washington “it should not happen again”.

However, the pictures of debris – which appear to show bloodstained fragments from the bomb and the backpack used to conceal it – were subsequently leaked to the New York Times, prompting a furious response from within Whitehall and from UK police chiefs.

BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera says UK officials believe that US law enforcement rather than the White House is the likely culprit for the leaks.

Trump issued an official statement, which reads in part:

I am asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter, and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.   

There is no relationship we cherish more than the Special Relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.

The Daily Caller provided Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s comments:

I share the president’s deep concern and talked to Home Secretary Rudd yesterday about this matter. These leaks cannot be tolerated and we will make every effort to put an end to it. We have already initiated appropriate steps to address these rampant leaks that undermine our national security.

This was a temporary situation which the two nations quickly resolved:

However, Trump is unlikely to be in a good mood once he returns to the White House. Next week’s news cycle should be interesting.

This graphic describes Trump’s mood in Brussels (courtesy of a contributor to The Conservative Treehouse):

Unbelievably, French President Emmanuel Macron posted this video of Trump strongarming him into a handshake. Seconds earlier, Macron walked straight towards Trump before snubbing him for Angela Merkel:

Despite the smiles and hand gestures, their brief photo op and statements looked chilly:

In another group shot of NATO leaders, the following video makes it look as if the American president forced his way to the forefront:

A Washington Post reporter who lists her American allegiance last, tweeted:

In reality, Prime Minister Dusko Markovic of Montenegro had accidentally stepped on Trump’s foot.

A contributor at The_Donald couldn’t help but react:

Trump visited members of NATO today, and while walking with several members, is seen moving PM Dusko Markovic aside. The corrupt and fake media took this video clip and spun it completely into FAKE NEWS territory by saying:

“DONALD TRUMP SHOVES A MEMBER ASIDE IN ORDER TO REMAIN IN FRONT OF THE GROUP”

… You can CLEARLY see he winced in pain after his foot was apparently stepped on, and he moves the Prime Minister aside to get him off his foot. Even the PM reacts the moment he steps on Trump’s foot, knowing he caused him pain.

Here’s the clip in slow motion:

A ceremony took place for the new NATO headquarters and a memorial which included a metal remnant the 9/11 attack in 2001 and a chunk of the Berlin Wall from 1989. In his address, Trump said:

I want to extend my appreciation to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York for contributing this remnant of the North Tower, as well as to Chancellor Merkel and the German people for donating this portion of the Berlin Wall.  It is truly fitting that these two artifacts now reside here so close together at the new NATO Headquarters.  And I never asked once what the new NATO Headquarters cost.  I refuse to do that.  But it is beautiful.

Each one marks a pivotal event in the history of this Alliance and in the eternal battle between good and evil.  On one side, a testament to the triumph of our ideals over a totalitarian Communist ideology bent on the oppression of millions and millions of people; on the other, a painful reminder of the barbaric evil that still exists in the world and that we must confront and defeat together as a group, as a world.

This twisted mass of metal reminds us not only of what we have lost, but also what forever endures — the courage of our people, the strength of our resolve, and the commitments that bind us together as one.

We will never forget the lives that were lost.  We will never forsake the friends who stood by our side.  And we will never waiver in our determination to defeat terrorism and to achieve lasting security, prosperity and peace.

Thank you very much.  It’s a great honor to be here.  Thank you.

However, it’s what he said before that really matters:

The following graphic from a contributor at The Conservative Treehouse explains Trump’s objections. Out of each nation’s GDP, the percentages reflect how much goes towards defence, NATO and otherwise:

We pay 4% to NATO defense budget.
We will pay 36% for our defense overall.

They pay less than 2% of their GNP for practically their entire defense overall.

NATO ally flags were raised cermonially:

The flypast:

Whereas Trump diplomatically summarised the meeting as being one of united interests:

Emmanuel Macron made it a Europeans-only occasion:

Fortunately, the NATO spouses and partners seemed to get on better. Melania Trump was buddied with Brigitte Trogneux, Macron’s wife and his former high school teacher.

The group went on a tour of the Magritte Museum (Magritte misspelled below):

The Daily Mail, with excellent photos, reported on the visit to the royal palace:

Melania and Brigitte, who met while touring the Magritte Museum in Brussels earlier in the day, posed for pictures alongside the royal [Queen Mathilde] and the other spouses at the royal residence

Mrs Trump also had her own engagements that day:

The next and final stage of the trip is the G7 conference in Taormina, Sicily.

The Trumps left Brussels on Thursday, flying to Italy, then onto Taormina. Watch the Italian guard at 43 seconds in sneak a brief smile to the Trumps:

Trump tweeted:

Taormina is a beautiful ancient city:

This was the schedule and list of participants for Friday, May 26:

The 43rd G7 summit is taking place in Taormina, Sicily, between May 26-27. Attendees will include the leaders of the Group of Seven member states, as well as representatives of the European Union.

The summit is set to be the first for British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, and US President Donald Trump.

Other participants include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe. The EU will be represented by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk.

COVERAGE SCHEDULE:
06:00-08:00 GMT – Arrivals from Sigonella airbase.
08:00-09:00 GMT – Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk press conference.
09:30-10:30 GMT – Welcome cerimony and family photos at Greek Theatre.
10:00-10:30 GMT – Moving to Hotel San Domenico.
10:45-11:30 GMT – Arrivals at Hotel San Domenico. Tour de Table.
17:00-18:00 GMT – Concert for the opening of the G7 Summit at Greek Theatre.
18:15-18:45 GMT – Welcome ceremony and family photo at Hotel Timeo. Official dinner hosted by Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

A concert by La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra and dinner with President Mattarella followed.

Foreign Policy reported that Trump has an important American objective at the G7:

President Donald Trump’s controversial senior advisor and speechwriter, Stephen Miller, has led White House efforts to undercut an initiative by Italy to place the migration crisis at the center of this week’s Group of Seven major summit meeting starting Friday in Sicily.

For Italy, the summit in Taormina, Sicily, was to provide a poignant opportunity to raise awareness of the plight of hundred of thousands of refugees who cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy’s shores each year, and to reach agreement on a plan to find them permanent homes.

But the Donald Trump White House has largely blocked its Italian host from putting forward an initiative addressing the need to resettle millions of refugees and migrants who have poured into Europe on rickety boats or crossed borders on foot over the past decade. Instead, the United States has pressed the leaders to cap the session with a stern declaration on the need to fight terrorism, a cause that gained added urgency following a grisly suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester.

The rearguard action was led by the 31-year-old Miller, who has exercised outside influence over the summit’s response to the worst refugee crisis since World War II.  In line with President Trump’s pledge to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of the United States, the White House has been pressing the G-7 leaders to focus more attention on the need to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing borders than on finding migrants who make the journey a permanent home.

Trump also intends to push back on other G7 preoccupations:

including climate change, trade, and migration that until recently aligned closely with President Obama’s foreign-policy vision.

This G7 summit should prove to be a delicate one to be navigated diplomatically. The summit concludes on Saturday, May 27.

On Monday, May 15, President Donald Trump’s final cabinet choice was sworn in, Robert Lighthizer as US Trade Representative:

That day, buoyant housing market results were released (emphases mine):

New home sales have been one of this year’s best surprises and home builders are reporting strong activity this month and see even better times ahead. The housing market index topped expectations in May, rising 2 points to 70. Current sales are also up 2 points to 76 with 6-month sales up 4 points to a very strong 79. And traffic, in a key reading, is at 51 and over breakeven 50 for the 5th time in the last six months. The West leads the regions with a 3-month composite score of 80 with the Northeast trailing at 50.

Even though traffic is nearly 30 points behind sales, it is still the highlight of the report. This is its best run by far of the expansion and offers a hopeful hint that first-time buyers, who have been priced out of the new home market, may begin to be a factor. Today’s report is a plus heading into tomorrow’s housing starts report where similar strength is expected.

Returning to cabinet choices, it has taken Trump an eternity to get his nominees approved.

Although past presidents in living memory also faced one or two significant delays, a useful chart from CNBC shows that nearly all — from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama — had the bulk of their appointments confirmed within 60 days, generally sooner.

During the Obama presidency, there were only two major delays. His choice of Gary Locke for Commerce did not receive confirmation until April 2009. Kathleen Sebelius did not receive confirmation to Obama’s cabinet until May that year.

Outside of those exceptions, however, it actually has taken a record amount of time for President Trump to get his nominees confirmed.

At least his cabinet is now in place.

The title of the United States Trade Representative is Ambassador, by the way. Lighthizer is the 18th person to take on that role:

At the time he was chosen by President Trump to serve as USTR, Ambassador Lighthizer was a partner at the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP (Skadden), where he practiced international trade law for over 30 years. His work there on behalf of American workers and businesses in the heavy manufacturing, agricultural, high-tech, and financial services industries opened markets to U.S. exports and defended U.S. industries from unfair trade practices. He was lead counsel for scores of trade enforcement cases and was a well-known advocate for the type of “America First” trade policies supported by President Trump.

Before joining Skadden, Ambassador Lighthizer served as Deputy USTR for President Ronald Reagan. During his tenure, Ambassador Lighthizer negotiated over two dozen bilateral international agreements, including agreements on steel, automobiles, and agricultural products.  As Deputy USTR, he also served as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.

Prior to becoming Deputy USTR, Ambassador Lighthizer was Chief of Staff of the United States Senate Committee on Finance for Chairman Bob Dole.  In this position, he was a key player in enacting the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, which was the most significant tax reform in decades, as well as the other basic elements of the Reagan economic program.

Ambassador Lighthizer earned a Bachelor’s degree at Georgetown University and his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center. He is a native of Ashtabula, Ohio and has two children. 

He looks too young to have all that experience behind him. He will bring a wealth of knowledge to the role. Check for further news on Twitter.

In other news, Trump’s overseas trip has given him a boost in US presidential popularity, at least with Rasmussen. Bear in mind that most polling companies have not been honest in their polling methods, e.g. favouring Democrats over Independents and Republicans. Matt Drudge tweeted:

OK. Trump approval pops to 48% today… Obama Averaged 47.9% Job Approval as President..

The Rasmussen link says, in summary, that the visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel, particularly when the Manchester bombing took place on Monday, got voters thinking more about the dangers of terrorism. Voters tend to agree with Trump that the Saudis need to do more to fight terror. They also think that a good relationship with Israel is essential to the prospect of peace in the Middle East.

jesus-christ-the-king-blogsigncomThis year Ascension Day falls on May 25.

The feast of the Ascension is always on a Thursday, 40 days after Easter.

Here are past posts about Christ’s return to His Heavenly Father:

Acts 1:9-11 on the Ascension

A Reformed view of the Ascension (Christ as prophet, priest and king)

Ascension Day 2016 (John MacArthur on Acts 1:11)

I feel bad when I read of people who think this was a made-up event. In fact, I read a post on it just a few weeks ago by someone claiming to be ‘spiritual’.

I hope the aforementioned posts will convince those who are doubters that Christ had to ascend to heaven in order for the Holy Spirit to be present at the first Pentecost.

Incidentally, this coming Sunday is known in the Lutheran church as Exaudi Sunday. You can find out more in the post below:

Exaudi Sunday: between the Ascension and Pentecost

After visiting Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump flew to Israel for two days of meetings on Monday and Tuesday, May 22 and 23, 2017.

For the most part, American media are ignoring this leg of his Middle Eastern-European trip, preferring to focus on impeachment and James Comey.

On Monday, May 22, Fox News interviewed the Saudi foreign minister, who was most pleased with the outcome of the Riyadh Summit. ‘Drain the swamp’ has also made it into his vocabulary:

The foreign minister also said that the summit was a promising start in fighting terrorism together:

That evening, a horrific suicide attack took place at a pop concert in Manchester, England. As I write earlier today — May 23 — 22 people are dead. Sebastian Gorka said that the explosion happened on the fourth anniversary of Fusilier Lee Rigby’s equally horrific murder in South London.

And, no, the world should not have to accept terrorism as a way of life, regardless of what the London mayor said in September 2016.

Another helpful possibility from the Saudi trip is that Trump might have an easier time getting a travel ban through the US courts. Remember, all he asked for earlier this year was a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries with poor security. Also, it was only going to last for 90 days. For that, Trump was labelled an Islamophobe. Wake up, everybody! Stop believing the media and left-wing judges.

Two items of news from the past 24 hours need to be cleared up.

The first is the reporting that Ivanka Trump personally raised $100m in Saudi Arabia for something called the Ivanka Fund, aimed at helping women. The Federalist, citing a Washington Post article, stated (emphases mine throughout):

As the Washington Post‘s David Fahrenthold explained, though, “the first daughter would have no role in raising money for such a fund or deciding where its money would be spent, a Trump administration official said.” He noted that the idea for a fund for women entrepreneurs was Ivanka Trump’s, but that the World Bank and White House issued a statement that the fund would be managed by the World Bank.

The second item is that First Lady Melania Trump batted away her husband’s hand upon arrival in Israel.

In truth, as you can see from the Gateway Pundit article and video, Mrs Trump was too far at the edge of the red carpet, so she was signalling that she was back in position:

So now the media is scrutinizing POTUS and FLOTUS over what appears to be a ‘low five’. Every couple has their way of communicating but leave it to the hateful media to turn such a beautiful meeting with Israel into something negative.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli people were absolutely giddy to see the new US president land in Tel Aviv after eight dark years under Obama which is why the fake news is attacking them for NOTHING. Absolutely pathetic!

Here’s the real news, folks! Our President and beautiful First Lady were all smiles after they landed in Israel.

On the topic of lies, last week, Caroline Glick wrote an incisive article for the Jerusalem Post on how the American Deep State has affected Israel over the years and is now attempting to damage the Trump presidency:

Trump and Israel – the twin targets of the US intelligence community’s felonious and injurious leaks.

The fact that Trump will be coming to Israel next week may be a bit of fortuitous timing. Given the stakes involved for Trump, for Israel and for US national security, perhaps Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can develop a method of fighting this cabal of faceless, lawless foes together.

How such a fight would look and what it would involve is not immediately apparent and anyways should never be openly discussed. But the fact is that working together, Israel and Trump may accomplish more than either can accomplish on their own. And with so much hanging in the balance, it makes sense to at least try.

Absolutely. That needs to be repeated time and time again.

Fortunately, the Netanyahus and the Trumps are good friends. The Kushners are also close to the Israeli prime minister and his wife.

Therefore, it was great to see Sara Netanyahu tell the Trumps at the airport that the Israelis like them a lot and are delighted about this trip:

It is a big deal:

In addition to the Netanyahus, Israeli president Reuven Rivlin also welcomed the Trumps. A reception ceremony and related speeches took place at Ben Gurion Airport:

Later that morning, the Trumps, Kushners and other members of their entourage visited the Western Wall. Trump is the first US president to make that visit:

The president placed a prayer request in the wall:

Supporters stood nearby:

The Trump ladies also paid their respects:

Mrs Trump was moved by the occasion:

Trump and his host held a joint press conference in the afternoon:

On brokering peace, Trump said:

It’s not easy, but I have a feeling that we’re going to get there eventually.

Netanyahu complimented his guest. From the Washington Examiner:

“The people of Israel applaud you” for visiting the Western Wall.

Afterwards:

Then:

Apparently, when greeting the Trumps, Netanyahu shared his customary wit in reference to Riyadh. I read anecdotally that he said, ‘Welcome to my palace. I had the walls painted for your visit.’ I hope that’s true. I’ve been chuckling all morning.

The Netanyahus hired a celebrity chef:

Here are two sets of good friends ready to break bread together:

Incidentally, in 2010, Avner Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, won the Jerusalem Bible Quiz in the Jerusalem Public School District. I’m not sure if he was the son the Trumps met before dinner. However, the Netanyahus gave the president a 150-year-old Bible as a gift. The text is in English.

Then, it was time to rest:

Tuesday’s front pages were positive:

Trump went to meet with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday. He made reference in his speech to Manchester:

The first lady expressed her condolences on Twitter.

The Trumps and the Kushners went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial:

Amy Spiro from the Jerusalem Post reported:

Trump at Yad Vashem: “This place and this entire nation are a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people.”

Trump spoke with the sister of a Holocaust victim:

Earlier today, the Jerusalem Post reported:

US President Donald Trump concluded his lightening visit to Israel on Tuesday with a speech in which he did not mention moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, settlement construction or a Palestinian State.

It seems a bit too early for him to be able to say anything specific. As Amy Spiro tweeted:

Everything still remains to be seen.

Indeed. Patience and prayers are required. Rash speech and decisions never solved a long-standing issue.

The Trumps are now in Rome, where they will meet the Pope.

President Donald Trump just completed a historic trip to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

It was his first trip abroad as president and the Saudis gave him and his family a royal reception the entire time.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the media continued to weigh in on possible impeachment proceedings, James Comey and anything else that detracted from the present occupant of the White House.

This is what many American viewers of Big Media missed.

The Arab Islamic American Summit — the Riyadh Summit — took place on Saturday and Sunday, May 20-21, 2017 in Riyadh. Fifty-five of the 57 Islamic nations — see the list — sent representatives to discuss with President Trump how they could prevent the spread of extremist ideology.

The summit’s slogan was ‘Together We Prevail’. Al Arabiya reported (emphases mine below):

In an unprecedented political event, Riyadh will host three summits on Saturday and Sunday

The three summits advertised under the slogan “Together We Prevail” are hosted by Riyadh, to reaffirm the shared commitment to global security, profound economic partnerships and to enforce the determination for constructive political and cultural cooperation.

Although it appeared, from White House releases, that this was a rather spur-of-the-moment trip, it had been in the planning for months:

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi told Egypt Daily News:

… co-operation with Saudi Arabia is currently “at its highest point.”

… In response to a question about efforts to revive long-stalled negotiations between Palestine and Israel, El-Sisi said that Trump is the “decisive player” in this matter.

“I believe he does not take time in resolving matters he’s a capable person who does not work like others,” he said. The president also said that the country’s counter-terrorism situation “has significantly improved.”

He said the government is formulating a law to create a supreme council that will combat terrorism and extremism. This initiative was announced in April following two deadly bombings on churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria …

The Saudis gave the president and first lady a right royal welcome. White House cabinet members and other close aides also accompanied him on this trip.

.

There was also a flypast:

The Saudis also had special lighting effects on the Ritz Carlton where the Americans stayed.

The Saudi king presented the American president with the highest civilian honour, the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud, at the royal palace. The Arab News reported that only other non-Islamic leaders this has been given to are:

Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama.

The king gave the Trumps a sumptuous lunch, which Arab News said was:

replete with cuisines from around the world.

You can see a photo of the menu at the link above.

Trump signed a historic agreement to help bolster KSA’s defence needs:

More about that in Trump’s speech below.

During the summit, Trump met separately with the Emir of Kuwait, the Emir of Qatar, the President of Egypt and the King of Bahrain. He also held a private meeting with the President of Afghanistan. The White House issued a brief statement.

Melania and Ivanka Trump had also attracted much attention and were fully accepted without veils. The Saudis treated them like a queen and a princess, respectively.

Arab News reported that Saudis viewed the first lady’s arrival attire as ‘classy and conservative’:

“Melania Trump before leaving the United States vs. Melania while landing in Saudi Arabia. Respect for the country’s traditions,” one Twitter user said with a thumbs-up. “Not only modest, but elegant at the same time.”

The loose outfit almost resembled the traditional black abaya — a loose over-garment, essentially a robe-like dress — worn by Saudi women.

Later, Mrs Trump changed into a striking magenta full length evening gown with long, flowing sleeves:

.

One report said that the Kushners received a rabbinic pass to travel on the Sabbath. Whatever the case, Arab News reported that Ivanka took the country ‘by storm’:

The hashtag #Trump’s_daughter, in Arabic, is the top trending hashtag in the country as Twitter fans heaped praise on the first daughter.

Ivanka, who is set to take part in roundtable discussions during the president’s first official visit abroad, wore a long navy dress as she arrived in Saudi Arabia as part of the US delegation.

That Saudi gave Ivanka instructions on how to stop coffee refills:

Arab women were annoyed at the attention Ivanka received. This is also worth checking out for a chuckle.

The Trump ladies had planned visits.

Mrs Trump visited the American International School:

She then went to the GE Saudi Service Center:

Ivanka met with Princess Reema to discuss women’s initiatives:

On Saturday evening, a sword dance took place. This celebrated the coming together of Arab and American leaders to celebrate a unified alliance — peace after conflict:

A Saudi-American popular music concert also took place, starring Rabeh Saqer and Toby Keith.

On Sunday, May 21, Trump gave a speech that lasted 34 minutes. The incomparable Stephen Miller co-wrote it. Excerpts follow:

My meetings with King Salman, the Crown Prince, and the Deputy Crown Prince, have been filled with great warmth, good will, and tremendous cooperation. Yesterday, we signed historic agreements with the Kingdom that will invest almost $400 billion in our two countries and create many thousands of jobs in America and Saudi Arabia.

This landmark agreement includes the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase – and we will be sure to help our Saudi friends to get a good deal from our great American defense companies. This agreement will help the Saudi military to take a greater role in security operations.

We have also started discussions with many of the countries present today on strengthening partnerships, and forming new ones, to advance security and stability across the Middle East and beyond

I have had the pleasure of welcoming several of the leaders present today to the White House, and I look forward to working with all of you.

America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership – based on shared interests and values – to pursue a better future for us all …

The Middle East is rich with natural beauty, vibrant cultures, and massive amounts of historic treasures. It should increasingly become one of the great global centers of commerce and opportunity.

This region should not be a place from which refugees flee, but to which newcomers flock

Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death.

If we do not act against this organized terror, then we know what will happen. Terrorism’s devastation of life will continue to spread. Peaceful societies will become engulfed by violence. And the futures of many generations will be sadly squandered …

This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations.

This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.

This is a battle between Good and Evil.

When we see the scenes of destruction in the wake of terror, we see no signs that those murdered were Jewish or Christian, Shia or Sunni. When we look upon the streams of innocent blood soaked into the ancient ground, we cannot see the faith or sect or tribe of the victims – we see only that they were Children of God whose deaths are an insult to all that is holy

America is prepared to stand with you – in pursuit of shared interests and common security.

But the nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children.

It is a choice between two futures – and it is a choice America CANNOT make for you.

A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out.

DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship.

DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities.

DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and

DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH …

Amazingly — and I saw the YouTube of Trump delivering his rousing speech — Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, 78, fell asleep. Maybe the sword dance the night before exhausted him. It’s just as well that Reince Priebus was between him and Ivanka:

After Trump’s speech, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a press conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir, a brief excerpt of which follows:

I think on this trip, I know the entire delegation traveling with the President has gained a much greater appreciation for this region, the rich history, the rich traditions and cultures of this region, and also a much better understanding of the Muslim faith by traveling to this special place, the special place of the two holiest sites. All of this is, I think, useful to us understanding everyone better here, and we hope – we hope people in the Muslim community will make a similar effort to understand the American people’s interest and concerns that they may have.

But I think importantly, out of this speech the President delivered this afternoon, what he said, again, is this fight is ours together. It is not between us. It is ours together. And it’s only together that we will ultimately prevail and that it is not a fight among religions, not a fight between Shia, Sunni, it’s not a fight between Christians, Jews, any of the faiths. This is a fight of good against evil, and in all of those three great faiths that millions of Americans follow, we are guided by that same tenet. This is what unites us in attacking this evil face of terrorism that has befallen us and has hurt so many around the world.

Breitbart‘s London editor Raheem Kassam contrasted Trump’s speech with Obama’s. Kassam points out that Obama prostrated himself before the Saudis in an Islam-heavy speech apologising for colonialism. Trump, on the other hand:

continued full speed into making demands of the people in the room.

Trump’s introduction of thanks was gracious yet brief:

Instead, President Trump dived right in, spending less than a page on the flattery — and there was scarcely any in that section anyway — getting to the first action point by page two of his speech: “This landmark agreement includes the announcement of a $110 billion Saudi-funded defense purchase…”

If America is going to deal with the Arab world under a Trump presidency, it is at least going to get something out of it for the American people. Cash, jobs, and importantly, leverage.

Wait, you thought that was all? The very next sentence announced the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology.

On matters spiritual:

Where Obama declared “Islam has a proud history of tolerance” as the Mullahs prepared their latest homosexual to be thrown from a building, and the most recent woman to be stoned in the street, President Trump demanded: “Your soul will be condemned” for barbaric acts, a sentiment that found its crescendo when he declared: “This is a battle between Good and Evil”, insisting that Arab and Muslim leaders “drive out” the forces of terror and extremism within their ranks.

With regard to the ‘T’ word:

President Trump used the word “terror” in some way — terror, terrorism, terrorists — a whopping 31 times in his speech in Riyadh. In Cairo, President Obama used the word an even more whopping ZERO times.

Obama described 9/11 as an “enormous trauma” rather than a terrorist atrocity, opting to deploy the word “extremism” 11 times in his speech, which President Trump also used nine times.

As a result, Obama lacked action points, policy goals, or anything of substance when it came to tacking terrorism. President Trump on the other hand announced the formulation of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, insisting: “Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden, if we are going to defeat terrorism and send its wicked ideology into oblivion”.

Oh yeah, and President Trump said: “Islamic terrorism”, just FYI.

The summit’s climax was the the Inauguration of the Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology. This included a symbolic gesture of international unity as the principal leaders involved touched a glowing orb. With Trump below are his new good friends Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi:

Many online viewers compared the scene to Lord of the Rings, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and other films.

The United States and Saudi Arabia will also co-chair the new Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC), a collaborative approach to confronting new and evolving threats arising from terrorist financing. The initiative will also include partners from the Gulf states. A statement from the US Department of the Treasury explained:

With today’s announcements, the United States, Saudi Arabia, and other strategic partners in the Gulf are confronting new and evolving terrorist networks including ISIS, al Qa’ida, Hizballah, Lashkar–e-Tayyiba, the Taliban, and the Haqqani Network. This collaboration will also address a host of other transnational threats emanating throughout the Middle East, including from Iran, the Assad regime, and the situation in Yemen.

The Riyadh Summit concluded:

The Saudis have clearly been forward planning for the KSA.

The Saudi press viewed the visit — and the Trumps — most favourably. It must have irked CNN’s Jim Acosta to tweet these photos (click on each one to enlarge):

The Trump entourage left Riyadh the morning of Monday, May 22. Note that Melania is wearing a long dress with a slit up the back. The strong winds revealed a view of the back of her calves. Ivanka wore a midi-dress revealing her lower legs. How long before modernising Saudis change their dress code for women?

Sarah Huckabee Sanders (yes, Mike’s daughter, who works with Sean Spicer) tweeted this:

They arrived in Israel a short time later. Like the RSA, the Israelis were also preparing and rehearsing for Trump’s visit.

As I was writing this, welcome speeches took place at the airport:

More to come on Trump’s visit to Israel.

Further reading:

Multibillion dollar deals sealed at Saudi-US CEO Forum

Kingdom, Washington agree ‘Joint Strategic Vision Declaration’

Raytheon, Saudi Arabia Military Industries in strategic partnership

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

These are the previous posts in the series:

Percy Dearmer on the Anglican Thirty-nine Articles of Religion

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

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

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

Percy Dearmer on the earliest church service manuscripts

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

Percy Dearmer on elements of worship in the New Testament

In today’s entry, still from Chapter 4, we look at Dearmer’s explanation of how liturgy came to be better defined and codified from the 7th century to the Reformation.

In Dearmer’s time, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer was the only Anglican book in use for communal worship, administering Baptism and Holy Communion, along with special rites such as Confirmation, Matrimony and Ordination.

In the 7th century, books were handwritten and paper was expensive. This situation existed until the printing press eight centuries later. Even then, the price of books was still prohibitive until the 19th century.

From the 7th century until the Reformation, liturgical rites had to be handwritten. Therefore, priests and deacons had small books with only their prayers and incantations. Furthermore, there were books for each type of liturgy:

the Divine Service, the Sacraments, and the Occasional Services, these latter including all the services used upon occasions such as Marriage, Ordination, and the Reconciliation of Penitents.

The Divine Service involved three different books, again, one for each role (e.g. priest, deacon) in that liturgy: the Psalter, the Legend and the Antiphoner. The Legend had the Scripture readings, lives of the saints and sermons. The Antiphoner had the musical accompaniments to the service.

The ancient Anglo-Saxon service for Holy Communion entailed a Missal, a Gospel book and an Epistle book. The Normans had a Missal but their other books were a Gradual and a Troper. Dearmer explains:

The Gradual contained the portions of the Psalter sung between the Epistle and the Gospel, and also those sung for the Introit and at other places in the Mass … The Troper consisted of interpolations into the chant: these additions to the traditional music became very large, but after the twelfth century little except the Sequences (sung after the Gradual and Alleluya, between the Epistle and Gospel) was left of them.

In the late Middle Ages — 13th century — different rites in Britain emerged in the cathedral cities and surrounding areas:

From the 13th century till the Reformation the use of Salisbury Cathedral was followed in the greater part of England (excluding Hereford which had a use of its own, and parts of the North which followed the York use), and also throughout the mainland of Scotland and in parts of Ireland and Wales.

The books used largely remained the same, although another book emerged for the Divine Service, e.g. liturgies which do not feature Communion, such as what we know today as Morning Prayer. The new book was called a Collectar. It had all the Collects (the emphasis is on the first syllable, as in ‘college’)  to be used on particular Sundays and feast days.

Collects are short petitioning prayers. In Morning Prayer, for example, three come at the end of the service. In the Communion service, one Collect is said after the introductory prayers, just before the Epistle is read.

Archbishop Cranmer, who first developed the first Book of Common Prayer, translated the collects from Latin. Dearmer tells us these had been in use for centuries and were in the priest’s liturgy book, the Sacramentary:

The majority of our Prayer Book collects are from three Old Roman Sacramentaries — the Leonine (6th century), the Gelasian (early 8th century), and the Gregorian (c. 800).

For centuries, Communion services used to have an Introit, a Collect and a Gradual. These were particular to specific Sundays and feasts. The Introit (Introitum means ‘entrance’ in Latin) is now called the Entrance Antiphon in Catholic Masses. The Gradual (possibly from gradus, the priest’s mounting the steps to the altar for the Gospel reading) was sung between the Epistle and the Gospel. Today’s liturgies no longer refer to a Gradual. In Protestant services, it is the Psalm for the day. Catholics call it the Responsorial Psalm.

By the late Middle Ages, the church service situation was such that it began to make more sense for these various books to be combined into one. A variety of Masses and other services took place at churches in cities. On the other hand, rural areas had fewer clergy. From this emerged the Breviary, still used in monasteries today, for daily services other than Communion; Missals for Communion services and three books for occasional rites.

The Antiphoner, for the sung parts, was still separate. From it, the hymnal emerged.

Dearmer’s book explains that the Reformation and the printing press in the mid-15th century brought an opportunity to make Protestant worship more communal. Instead of a priest and deacon reciting most of the prayers in Latin, people could worship in their own language and recite more prayers together.

It is also worth remembering that the Bible had been translated into English in the late 14th century, so the pathway was clear for church services to go the same route.

Until then, Latin was used because it was the lingua franca of Europe. All the educated people could speak, write and read it. It was the language of not only the Church but the professions (e.g. law) and diplomacy. People across Europe, including Britain, still had so many local and regional dialects, that it was sometimes difficult for citizens of a nation to understand someone else from another region in their own homeland:

and therefore it is no wonder that learned people wrote in Latin, which was for them a kind of Esperanto amid the babel of tongues.

Dearmer takes us to 16th century England, which led to the proliferation of the English Bible but also the introduction of the English prayer book (emphases mine):

It was therefore possible at the beginning of the 16th century not only to print the services, but to print them in an English which Englishmen all over the country could understand. Before the middle of that century the Bible had been printed in English, and thus became universally accessible and intelligible ; and just before the middle year— in 1549 — the First English Prayer Book was printed. It was no longer necessary to have but short extracts from the Bible in Divine Service; for the whole Bible — now a comparatively cheap book — could be used side by side with the Prayer Book; and these two volumes would supply every one’s need. Formerly the lay folk had only been able to follow the services in little simplified books of their own, and even these were an expensive luxury; but now every one could follow the services word for word, and those who knew their letters could read them in their own books. So the old books that we have described were further condensed into two, the Bible and the Prayer Book.

The last major revision of the Book of Common Prayer was done in 1662. Smaller revisions have been made since then. Most Anglicans probably did not notice much difference. During Dearmer’s time:

The last Lambeth Conference (1908) decided not to recommend the Unction of the Sick, but to allow its use, expressing a hope that the other apostolic act for helping the sick, the Laying on of Hands, might be used with prayers for the restoration of health. Those who are inclined to press the importance of Unction should remember that in the New Testament, and for long afterwards, the Laying on of Hands was used at least as much as Unction for helping the sick. It is therefore rightly to be regarded as an alternative form of the Sacrament of Healing; just as we administer Confirmation by the Laying on of Hands, whereas in the Eastern Church, and in most of the West, Confirmation is administered by anointing.

Dearmer points out that the various hymnals used in Anglican churches have denominational authorisation. To them have been added a few newer hymns from each generation so that the tradition remains, with continuing relevance:

they still keep us in touch with the thought and feeling of our own age, besides having the happy result of enabling Christians of other denominations, Protestant and Catholic, to contribute to our services. Closely allied to hymns are the modern anthems, which in cathedral and collegiate churches are collected in Anthem-books, thus adding a fourth to the volumes required for Divine Service each day. Hymns and anthems together place every form of sacred vocal music at the service of the Church. Nor are they unauthorized additions: the existence of these collections of hymns and anthems which provide Anglicanism with so precious an element of freedom has been sanctioned by authority ever since the 16th century (see pp. 65, 96, 97, 136), and the latter are mentioned in the twice repeated rubric, “In Quires and Places where they sing, here followeth the Anthem.”

Nowadays, it is increasingly difficult to find an Anglican church that offers any type of 1662 BCP service.

A new prayerbook superseded it in 1984 and Common Worship replaced it at the turn of the Millennium.

Although Common Worship’s traditional language liturgies are very close to that of the BCP, nothing compares to the 1662 book. One really feels as if one is worshipping with the many generations that went before us, praising Father, Son and Holy Ghost:

Thus are the needs of each generation brought within the scope of our common intercession and devotion.

I couldn’t agree more.

Next time: how the Reformation and royalty influenced the Prayer Book

Bible read me 2The 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 8:1-3

Saul Ravages the Church

And Saul approved of his execution.

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

——————————————————————————————

Acts 7 related the apologetic and death of Stephen, the first martyr.

Only his final words and his stoning are in the three-year Lectionary used in public worship.

Over the past few weeks, I have discussed what he said to the temple court and why.

Stephen, one of the first deacons, was also divinely given the gift of ‘doing great wonders and signs among the people’ (Acts 6:8). He also spoke openly about Jesus in Solomon’s Portico (Porch) at the temple. For this, he was arrested on charges of blasphemy: blaspheming God, Moses, the law and the temple. Acts 7 contains his address and the council’s action against him.

Stephen first got the council’s attention by saying he had revered the same traditions as they and respected the history of the people of Israel. He related the story of Abraham, then of Joseph.

At that point, he accomplished two objectives: holding his audience’s attention and defending himself against the charge of blaspheming God.

As Stephen related his scriptural knowledge of the early patriarchs, he also indicted his audience for rejecting Jesus. His reason for mentioning Joseph was to get them to realise that Joseph’s brothers treated him the same way the Jews treated Jesus.

Stephen went on to discuss Moses scripturally, to show that he had not blasphemed him. He began with Moses’s childhood, then his early adulthood, which included self-exile to Midian. After 40 years, an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in the burning bush and told him he would be going to Egypt to deliver the Israelites.

He then discussed the next part of the apologetic: the Israelites’ rejection of Moses and their turning to idolatry, which was part of their way of life for generations to come. God had left them to their own devices.

What Stephen did throughout his entire apologetic — case for, defence of religious doctrine — was to demonstrate that God’s chosen people had rejected those He sent to them. Similarly, they had rejected Jesus. Stephen exhorted them to consider those rejections very carefully.

Finally, Stephen had to defend himself against charges that he blasphemed the temple. He ended his apologetic by accusing the Jews of rejecting the Holy Spirit. That enraged them and they took him outside of Jerusalem to be stoned.

Among them was Saul, later Paul the Apostle. Acts 7 ends with this (emphases mine):

58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Matthew Henry’s commentary has this analysis:

Now, the stoning of a man being a laborious piece of work, the witnesses took off their upper garments, that they might not hang in their way, and they laid them down at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul, now a pleased spectator of this tragedy. It is the first time we find mention of his name; we shall know it and love it better when we find it changed to Paul, and him changed from a persecutor into a preacher. This little instance of his agency in Stephen’s death he afterwards reflected upon with regret (Acts 22:20): I kept the raiment of those that slew him.

Before I begin with today’s verses, it is also useful to look at the King James Version, which adds to the drama of the reality in Jerusalem.

I will be returning to these in the commentary below:

And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.

And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.

As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.

As Acts 8 opens, St Luke tells us that Saul approved of this execution (verse 1). We know how on fire the converted Saul — the Apostle Paul — was for Jesus Christ. He dominates the letters of the New Testament. Therefore, just imagine what he was like pre-Damascene conversion. I’ll return to this later, but he was a powerful man, both as Saul and as Paul.

For now, both Matthew Henry and John MacArthur believed that Saul had a lot to do with Stephen’s death.

MacArthur says:

He was involved from the very beginning of this conflict with Stephen …

And Saul was the leader, and it may have been that right there at the death of Stephen, he got the whole deal organized. “At that same time” it says. He might have pulled that mob around him, and the very seed of bloodshed was Stephen was dying, was the thing that really spawned the group of people that followed this man Saul around to kill Christians.

Henry’s commentary tells us that Paul probably asked Luke, the author of Acts, to insert the part about consent in the first verse as an expiation for his subsequent guilt:

We have reason to think that Paul ordered Luke to insert this, for shame to himself, and glory to free grace. Thus he owns himself guilty of the blood of Stephen, and aggravates it with this, that he did not do it with regret and reluctancy, but with delight and a full satisfaction, like those who not only do such things, but have pleasure in those that do them.

Saul wanted to ensure the Church died, hence St Luke’s mention of ‘a great persecution’ against Her in Jerusalem. MacArthur explains:

Now we don’t have any of the gory details of what Saul did specifically, we only have some general terms. But whatever it was, it resulted in the people being scattered all over everywhere and being driven out of the city. He just drove them out, and I am sure that the ones who were driven out were dominantly the Hellenistic Jews, the Grecian Jews who didn’t really belong there. And it may have been in these early times that the whole movement was still associated with Stephen as a Grecian Jew.

They fled to Judea and Samaria.

Only the Apostles stayed in the city. There were many converts in Jerusalem and they needed the Twelve. No doubt, they were also intent on converting more Jews. It could be that, as the Apostles came from the area near Jerusalem and spent the feast days there that there was a certain comfort level. It is possible that the converts who had lived in or near Jerusalem all their lives felt the same way.

John MacArthur explains that a whole host of dynamics were at work at this time, good and evil. Stephen’s death was a turning point for the Church, and Acts 8 demonstrates that. The Church was now largely leaving Jerusalem — God’s chosen who had rejected His Son — for the Gentile world. Also observe that what Jesus said quickly came true:

Here’s what Jesus says to be the pattern of the expansion of the church: “But ye shall receive power after the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be witness unto Me.” Now here comes the pattern. “Both in Jerusalem and all Judea.” Now, Jerusalem was a city in which, which was in Judea, as a province or country. And so He said “In Jerusalem and all Judea, then in Samaria, and then the outermost part of the earth.” Now there you have the outline of the book of Acts. First in Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria, then the world. And so in 8, we’re beginning to move out of Jerusalem, into Judea and Samaria; the gospel extending. And the Samaritans, I think, in the mind of God, formed a perfect bridge to the Gentile world, because the Samaritans were half-breeds. They were part Jewish, part Gentile. And so it was a little extension, then to go smack into the Gentile situation … So chapter 8, then, is the beginning of the church moving out. And it’s a sad thing in a sense, as well as a great thing, to see the gospel move out. It’s a sad thing to see the door shut on Jerusalem.

Therefore, although the Church remained there, Jerusalem was no longer the main focus. It was now time for the Church to expand elsewhere, to more favourable audiences. As we have seen in the preceding chapters in Acts, whenever there was a setback, God and the Holy Spirit gave the fledgling Church more grace and fortitude to move forward.

Here’s MacArthur’s take. I like his analogy of fire, very much befitting a discussion of the Holy Spirit:

The Holy Spirit is in the business of turning negatives into positives, of taking disasters and turning them into miracles. You can’t blockade the Holy Spirit. He likes to take those kind of tragedies and turn them into victory.

If you’ve been with us in our study of the book of Acts, you know what He’s done with Peter and John. Every time they got in a hopeless situation, it just was a greater opportunity to preach the gospel. Every time they got into a negative scene, the Spirit of God turned it into a positive. Every time the persecution arose, the preaching followed right on its heels. And God allowed the gospel to reach into areas and the hearts of people who could never otherwise be reached, other than through persecution. It’s kind of like trying to stamp out a fire, and the harder you jump on it, the more you scatter the embers and start fires all over everywhere. And that’s exactly what happened. They started jumping all over the church in Jerusalem and all they did was send the embers all over the world, because that’s how the Holy Spirit works.

Verse 2 tells us that Stephen had a dignified, religious burial. Our two commentators differ in their interpretation of ‘devout men’.

MacArthur thinks that the ‘devout men’ were, in fact, pious Jews who thought that his stoning was wrong. He reasons this from the wording:

If they were referring to Christians, it would have said “believers,” or “the brothers,” or something. But it says “devout men”. That’s a term that has to do with pious Jews. And what it says is this: “There were some Jews in Jerusalem, though not Christians, who still believed that the murder of Stephen was wrong.” That’s kind of nice to know. There was still some fertile soil for the gospel in Jerusalem. The apostles stayed; devout men carried Stephen.

Under Jewish law, criminals had to be buried, although Jews were not allowed to lament over them. Yet, these men openly and emphatically lamented him:

So in a very real sense – and incidentally it was probably very public. What they were doing there was reacting by protest to the murder of this man. Now here’s some fertile soil for the apostles to reach for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Henry surmised that they would have been fellow converts, which I am more inclined to believe, since Stephen was very holy and had been very visible at the temple during his brief ministry. Also, what Christians would have disowned such a man? Here is Henry on the devout men:

Stephen’s death bewailed by others (Acts 8:2)– devout men, which some understand of those that were properly so called, proselytes, one of whom Stephen himself probably was. Or, it may be taken more largely; some of the church that were more devout and zealous than the rest went and gathered up the poor crushed and broken remains, to which they gave a decent interment, probably in the field of blood, which was bought some time ago to bury strangers in. They buried him solemnly, and made great lamentation over him. Though his death was of great advantage to himself, and great service to the church, yet they bewailed it as a general loss, so well qualified was he for the service, and so likely to be useful both as a deacon and as a disputant. It is a bad symptom if, when such men are taken away, it is not laid to heart. Those devout men paid these their last respects to Stephen, (1.) To show that they were not ashamed of the cause for which he suffered, nor afraid of the wrath of those that were enemies to it; for, though they now triumph, the cause is a righteous cause, and will be at last a victorious one. (2.) To show the great value and esteem they had for this faithful servant of Jesus Christ, this first martyr for the gospel, whose memory shall always be precious to them, notwithstanding the ignominy of his death. They study to do honour to him upon whom God put honour. (3.) To testify their belief and hope of the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

It could have also been a mix of new Christians and empathetic Jews attending to Stephen’s burial.

Verse 3 brings us back to Saul and his vigilance and violence in going house to house to rout Jerusalem of Christian men and women.

The King James Version mentioned above says that Saul ‘made havock’, which means laying violent waste and ruin to something, in this case, the Church. Saul wanted to achieve the wanton destruction of Christ’s holy Bride.

Henry gives us a chilling description of Saul, a Pharisee, by the way:

Paul owns that at this time he persecuted this way unto the death (Acts 21:4), and (Acts 26:10) that when they were put to death he gave his voice against them …

He aimed at no less than the cutting off of the gospel Israel, that the name of it should be no more in remembrance, Psalms 83:4. He was the fittest tool the chief priests could find out to serve their purposes; he was informer-general against the disciples, a messenger of the great council to be employed in searching for meetings, and seizing all that were suspected to favour that way. Saul was bred a scholar, a gentleman, and yet did not think it below him to be employed in the vilest work of that kind. (1.) He entered into every house, making no difficulty of breaking open doors, night or day, and having a force attending him for that purpose. He entered into every house where they used to hold their meetings, or every house that had any Christians in it, or was thought to have. No man could be secure in his own house, though it was his castle. (2.) He haled, with the utmost contempt and cruelty, both men and women, dragged them along the streets, without any regard to the tenderness of the weaker sex; he stooped so low as to take cognizance of the meanest that were leavened with the gospel, so extremely bigoted was he. (3.) He committed them to prison, in order to their being tried and put to death, unless they would renounce Christ; and some, we find, were compelled by him to blaspheme, Acts 26:11.

MacArthur says that Saul genuinely believed he was doing the right thing:

Galatians 1:13 proves that: “Just as you heard of my manner of life in time past, in the Jew’s religion. How that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God and wasted it. And profited in the Jew’s religion above many my equals and mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. I thought I was pleasing God. I was so zealous for my religion.” But he was wrong.

MacArthur calls our attention to the KJV word ‘haling’, the antiquated form of ‘hauling’:

He just hauled them out of the houses. It means dragging, literally. It’s used in John 21:8 of dragging the fishnet in with all the fish. Remember when Peter caught so many fish he just dragged them? That’s what he did. He grabbed them, dragged them out into the street, and threw them in jail.

From this, we can better understand the violence of Saul’s conversion in Acts 9. It had to be that way.

Acts 8 goes on to follow the ministry of Philip in Samaria, which we will encounter next time.

As there are special Sundays coming up for the next few weeks, Forbidden Bible Verses will resume in June 2017.

Next time: Acts 8:4-8

Emmanuel Macron officially became France’s president on Sunday, May 14, 2017.

The Daily Mail has a good write up, with plenty of repetitive photos of Macron’s £380 suit from Jonas and Cie and his 64-year-old wife Brigitte Trogneux’s teenage legs. Trogneux wore a powder blue Louis Vuitton suit, price unknown.

On the night he won the first round, Trogneux wore skin tight black leather trousers and a cropped jacket. Seen from the back, she could have been mistaken for a much younger woman.

But I digress.

The Mail has a photo of Macron’s parents, likely the only contemporary one we will ever see.

Sunday began with a huge red carpet rolled out at the Elysée Palace. After the ceremony inside, Hollande stood on the Elysée steps for the final time to rapturous applause. Macron escorted Hollande to a waiting car.

From there, the new president then went up the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe to lay a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier. A military ceremony took place.

After lunch at the Elysée Palace, Macron made a traditional presidential trip to the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), which looked like this earlier in the day. Presumably, more people attended:

Then again, judging from the next tweet, I’m not so sure.

The caption translates as ‘The sadness of a president elected by default. No one there to acclaim him, nowhere. This pretence of a celebration!’:

It’s important to note the following:

Mr Macron, the former unelected Economy Minister, left Mr Hollande’s government to form his own electoral movement, En Marche! [On the Move], in April 2016.

Despite this, Hollande said he wanted today’s handover of power to be ‘simple, clear and friendly’…

The 64-year-old [Hollande] launched Macron’s political career, plucking him from the world of investment banking to be an advisor and then his economy minister.

‘I am not handing over power to a political opponent, it’s far simpler,’ Hollande said on Thursday.

Absolutely.

The plan from the beginning was for Macron to win. Macron is Hollande’s heir apparent.

Macron had to run under another label, hence he created his own movement.

This is because the weakness of Hollande’s presidency had tarnished the Parti Socialiste (PS) so much that everyone knew they would have a tough time winning.

That said, Manuel Valls, a law and order candidate, would have been a very strong favourite. However, through party machine sabotage, Valls came second in the PS primaries to the lacklustre former education minister Benoît Hamon. There was no way that Hamon could have beaten the conservative François Fillon, who was top in the polls in January 2017.

In order for Macron to win — the plan all along — Fillon, Nicolas Sarkozy’s prime minister, had to be brought down. This began happening on January 25, through a series of alleged financial scandals which dogged him until April, effectively stopping his campaign.

With Fillon out of the way, Macron had a clear path to victory. The French do not want Marine Le Pen in the Elysée.

The beauty of Macron’s En Marche! is that, even if he makes a total hash of his five years in office, the PS will have regrouped by then and En Marche! can be quietly put to sleep, with its leader likely moving on to bigger and better things in the private sector.

The following tweet sums up the situation as Hollande left office:

All the above points explain the highly negative tweets surrounding Macron:

To clarify: if a French traveller’s stay is under 90 days, there is no visa requirement.

French presidents traditionally make their first trip to Germany, a pattern that Macron duly followed.

This will not end well.

I will have two posts on Macron’s private life coming up soon.

On Friday, May 12, 2017, I posted a timeline of French media articles about the new French president Emmanuel Macron, most of which concerned his finances.

Anti-Macron French people wonder if the lack of transparency about his personal finances could, if investigated, turn out to be as significant as the Cahuzac affair which saw a former minister of François Hollande’s jailed for three years last December. Dr Cahuzac, originally a surgeon, is also prohibited from holding office for five years.

In February, someone pointed out that Macron, economics minister for François Hollande’s administration, got his start in politics from Cahuzac:

My post also mentioned an article from the Médiapart readers’ site, Club Médiapart, which proved explosive, creating a firestorm of media reaction. Essentially, it asked if Emmanuel Macron is a new Cahuzac.

Médiapart‘s editor Edwy Plénel had to tell the media that the views expressed on Club Médiapart have nothing whatsoever to do with Médiapart‘s editorial line. That said, despite numerous requests to take the article of April 14 down, Plénel refused, saying it did not violate any of their terms and conditions.

The Club Médiapart article did not have much on Cahuzac himself. Most of it focussed on Macron, 39, being an establishment creation, and — although the author did not use the following words, I will — a Manchurian Candidate.

Excerpts and a summary follow, translation and emphases mine.

First, how can one explain the meteoric rise of the youngest president in France’s history?

… the facts are stubborn. Macron’s journey does not go unnoticed without raising some questions: by what means can an individual, unknown until a few months ago, find himself in such a position? To be sure, talent and self-discipline can explain the stunning rapidity of such a trajectory, but, on the other hand, political life is far from linear, and to play a certain role in it, as in the theatre, one must have great directors.

We are convinced that Emmanuel Macron, contrary to appearances and his repetitive chant on reforming the practices of the political world, is not exempt from the old constraints which govern this particular world.

Then there is a certain irony of the public seeing early photos of Macron as a boy acting in a school play, which provides a reference point for his future as an adult. Even better, his drama teacher — now his wife — Brigitte Trogneux had directed the production. What did that portend for Macron’s future?

There is the stage where Emmanuel Macron performs and plays a tailor-made role, and then there is the backstage, where we find characters as diverse as Brigitte Trogneux, Henry Hermand ([recently deceased] multimillionaire, great financier of the Second [modern] Left, and mentor of Macron), François Henrot (Director of the Rothschild bank), David Rothschild (head of the business bank), Jean-Pierre Jouyet (secretary general of the Elysée) and, of course, Francois Hollande.

And there are more establishment figures in Macron’s universe:

So many complex characters, who have alternately played a considerable part in the rise of Macron to the highest levels of the republic. So many characters to whom Macron is devoted, and necessarily indebted. To these key players, we must add the media and financial ecosystem that has anointed him. Alain Minc, Jacques Attali, Pierre Bergé and Patrick Drahi, all these actors have played a more or less direct role in his political journey.

In other words, Macron is anything but an anti-establishment candidate. He is a globalist of the first water.

Don’t be deceived by the media craze. In fact, a radio programme that went against the grain was not allowed to be rebroadcast:

At the beginning of April, a show on LCI, Médiasphère, revealed candidate Macron’s artificiality. Depicted as a puppet serving extraordinary interests, Macron was laid bare during the show. The media effect of this broadcast of a few tens of minutes was such that LCI was forced to cancel the repeat of Médiasphère.

My post of Friday, May 5 explained how two strong candidates — the conservative Francois Fillon and the socialist Manuel Valls — had to be cleared out of the way for Macron to win. The Club Médiapart author says Macron is far from a genius:

Macron is a theatre actor, endowed with a questionable talent, as shown by his poor performance in the various presidential debates. Behind the scenes, a crowd of individuals, more or less commendable, write his role for him, draw up his replies, choreograph him and create the backdrop.

The author concludes that Macron we see is not the true Macron. Who is Emmanuel Macron really?

Mother’s Day in the US — Sunday, May 14, 2017 — brought tributes to President Donald Trump’s mother Mary on The_Donald which included this tweet:

I did a little more digging and found two interesting videos on the former Mary Anne McLeod (1912-2000), who emigrated from the Isle of Lewis in 1930 and arrived in New York to live with her sister Catherine on Long Island.

Mary worked as a domestic servant, possibly as a nanny to a wealthy family. She lost her job during the Depression, but presumably was re-employed in another household.

Catherine introduced Mary to the enterprising property developer Fred Trump at a dance a few years later. The two fell in love and married in 1936. They moved to Jamaica Estates in Queens. Mary was a homemaker and charity volunteer.

The following video describes Mary McLeod’s family history, going back to the 19th century:

Genealogist John Lawton, cited in the film, says that no one on Lewis used surnames until the 19th century. Mary McLeod’s ancestors were Smiths and McLeods. The men worked as fishermen and crofters in the 19th century. Many families were relocated on the island during that time, and Mary’s ancestors ended up in Tong, a village three miles away from Stornoway.

In the early 20th century following the First World War, so many of Lewis’s young men had lost their lives that it was difficult for the island to revive their fishing industry and crofting. That was also true of other Scottish islands in the Outer Hebrides.

Most young people, including young women, left for North America to pursue a better life. Mary, Catherine and another sister left at different times for the United States. It is unclear what happened to their other seven siblings.

Their parents ran a small shop in the village, and the croft house still stands. Mary’s cousins live there now but do not give interviews about the Trump family.

Locals say that the McLeods were better off than most in the village. Certainly, the family homestead is larger than one would expect, but with 12 people living there, there was probably just enough room for everyone.

Mary’s first language was Gaelic. She returned to visit family 20 times once she moved to New York and always spoke Gaelic during her stay on Lewis. She also attended church on every trip.

The next video describes more about Fred and Mary Trump’s home life and the influence they had on the US president:

Fred Trump had firm ideas on how Mary was to run the household and raise their five children. Mary had to give him a daily report on the children’s behaviour.

Their daughters — Maryanne and Elizabeth — were closer to their mother than the three boys, Fred Jr, Donald and Robert. Fred took the boys to his building sites to pick up discarded nails and bottles. Fred gave the nails back to the workmen to straighten out and reuse. The boys collected deposit money for the bottles. Fred raised the boys to be tough. He lost his own father at the age of 13 and went into business with his mother at the age of 15. By the age of 18, he had built and sold his first house.

As a child, Donald doubted his mother’s intelligence, because, she was, after all, either at home or volunteering for charity. His sister Maryanne set him straight one day and told him things he didn’t know or hadn’t noticed about Mary. He changed his mind and began looking at his mother in a new light.

Mary later went to work for Fred. She would ride in her chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce to the various Trump properties to collect the coins from the washing machines. She was known to wear fur coats on these trips. As she grew older, her personal style became more extravagant. She was also known to be the life and soul of the party, but in a congenial way, making everyone feel comfortable.

Donald picked up a lot from both parents, which affected his own family life. Donald Trump, like his father Fred, is the head of his household. What he says goes. Like Fred, he, too, expected his own children to behave in a certain way that would not disgrace the family. He wanted his wives to be mothers first and foremost. They were also active in charity work.

What the video did not say was that Mary gave her five children Bible lessons. Trump was sworn in on that Bible on Inauguration Day, with the Lincoln Bible underneath it.

The following video shows what he inherited from his mother — facial expressions and hairstyle:

Mary gave a short interview to two Irish people. This took place at her son’s Taj Mahal resort in Atlantic City in 1994. (Three years earlier, at the age of 79, she had been the victim of a brutal mugging. She tried to fight off a 16-year-old mugger and sustained severe injuries, some of which were permanent. Fortunately, a delivery driver came to her rescue and apprehended the assailant. Donald paid off the man’s mortgage as a reward.)

In the video, Mary says that she was always close to the Irish people in the New York area. She was a personal friend of the man in the video, who is a singer and was performing at the Taj Mahal.

Mary says that she and Donald even went to a benefit for the Carmelite nuns in New York and raised a substantial sum of money for them. This seems to be where he got his admiration for Catholics, even though Mary was a Presbyterian and the children were also raised in that denomination.

Her son has picked up her talent for being courteous and generous with everyone.

I quite like the Instagram that President Trump posted on Sunday showing the First Lady and their son Barron. It’s clear that Barron idolises his mother — and quite rightly. Melania tweeted the photo:

The second video above said that Trump idolised his mother and that part of the reason for his earlier marriage difficulties was that no woman could possibly measure up to Mary.

The same could happen with young Barron. Melania will be a tough act to follow.

Further reading:

Mary Anne McLeod Trump (Wikipedia)

Daily Mail story on Trump’s Scottish golf course (2013)

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