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Friday, February 22, 2019

Mascot Roller Mill, Lancaster County, PA  2/21/19 (Click to enlarge)
"The Demonization Of Virtue"
(Calling Good Evil)

Message summary: Today let us remain faithful to the perspective that God gives us through the inspiration of Scripture and demonstrate godly virtues.

Listen to our message on your audio player.

"For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge" (2 Peter 1:5). "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter" (Isaiah 5:20).

Virtue signallingA phrase popularized in the last several years is "virtue signaling", a term that refers to the conspicuous communication of moral values and good deeds, especially using social media. I read that to some an act as trivial as hitting a "like button" can boost self-esteem and a sense of being virtuous!

As followers of Christ we are not to just signal virtue but to genuinely demonstrate virtue. However in our culture Biblically-based virtue is increasing demonized.

I visited with a pastor friend who shared that he was working on a series of messages dealing with the current moral conditions of our land. With society's increasing permissiveness, acceptance, and even celebratory attitude toward sin, he's aware that he might face some backlash. He will likely be misunderstood by those who are being shaped by today's culture. Addressing subject matters that would have been universally condemned just 25 years ago will now get you labeled intolerant, ignorant or even hateful (three popular designations used by the forces of evil to silence truth).

We need to pray for leaders like this who stand up for righteousness and speak the truth, whether on a national level or in our local churches. A growing form of persecution are the recurring efforts by those with an ungodly worldview seeking to silence or even demonize those who hold to Biblical standards.

A number of times throughout this series we have written about "calling evil good", but today let us deal with the inevitable corollary "calling good evil".

Ladder of virtuesOur first daily text is from a portion known as the ladder of virtues which we memorized many years ago, but now as we've aged we need to rememorize. Virtue is the second step following the foundational step of faith. Other versions translate it "moral excellence", "goodness", "excellence of character" all translating the Greek word "arete".

Like many of you we keep up with the current news regarding world conditions. This can be helpful in understanding the times, in knowing how to pray, and in keeping up our guard to resist and combat the enemy's tactics. There is no shortage of current illustrations regarding this act of "calling good evil". Biblically literate readers can find multiple illustrations in today's newspaper, on the internet, or any other form of media.

Among the signs of our culture's moral downfall is the failure to uphold the Creator's standards. Confusion is spreading like a raging forest fire even among those who at one time were not hesitant to recognize good from evil as taught in the Scriptures. As a result evil is called good and good is called evil.

Another major contributor to our present cultural outlook is that a growing majority are defining evil and good solely by the philosophies and academia of our current generation rather than time honored and proven truth as established over the centuries with its origins from the Bible. Dietrich Bonhoeffer's former student and close friend, Eberhard Bethge, gives further insight when he describes that which shaped Bonhoeffer's philosophies, convictions, and steadfast courage during World War 2:

"The rich world of his ancestors set the standards for Dietrich Bonhoeffer's own life. It gave him a certainty of judgment and manner that cannot be acquired in a single generation. He grew up in a family that believed the essence of learning lay not in a formal education but in the deeply rooted obligation to be guardians of a great historical heritage and intellectual tradition." *

Isaiah's "woe" in our second text is timeless. "Woe" is a literal transliteration of the Hebrew. In other words it's an expression that sounds the same in Hebrew, English or any language (similar to the word, "hallelujah"). Woe is also an onomatopoeia, which is when the formation of a word imitates the natural sound associated with the object or action involved. Consider the sounds of deep, painful wailing.

Woe is an exclamation of pain and grief. As our culture drifts farther and farther from its Biblical moorings we see the truth of Isaiah's proclamation. Do we also feel his exclamation of woe?

What is the source of this woe? Three are listed in the Isaiah 5:20.

    1) who call evil good and good evil,
    2) who put darkness for light and light for darkness,
    3) who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

Biblical morality is turned on its head, not only in Isaiah's cultural setting but also in our lifetime. Sometimes I am stunned by what is now so contrary to the right and wrong I was taught as a child and that which was commonly believed by believers and non-believers alike.

Today let us remain faithful to the perspective that God gives us through the inspiration of Scripture and demonstrate godly virtues. As unpopular, intolerant, socially insensitive, and politically incorrect as it may be let us continue to call evil "evil". As God's children let us hear the words of the apostle Paul and "hate what is evil; cling to what is good" (Romans 12:9).

Be encouraged today,

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Praying manDaily prayer: Father, as we hate that which is evil and cling to that which is good we must be clear in our minds about good and evil. We don't write our own playbook based upon popularity polls or by that which makes us "cool to a particular segment of society". We look to the ancient words of Scripture, honored by godly men and women, boys and girls throughout the centuries who believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures, who held to its teachings and lived by the standards as prescribed within the Word. May it always be our reference point in judging that which is evil and that which is good. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

For further insight:
(I found this quote in my notes from a blog link that is no longer active!)

Without a firm foundation we find ourselves confused. Today, one person's opinion is considered equivalent to another's. A common misconception is epitomized in this often used statement: 'We will listen to one side and then to the other and the truth is somewhere in the middle'.

In fact, one opinion could be 100% correct and the other 100% wrong. If this is true, the middle is also wrong, likely even 100% wrong as well. As an example, if someone asks which city is the home of the Lakers professional basketball team and one answers "Chicago", they are completely wrong. So is Kansas City or Denver or other 'middle' answers.  Compromise may be appropriate when it comes to issues lacking a moral absolute and
which are merely simply a matter of personal preferences. Yet, to our shame, truth is often foolishly discarded in the name of tolerance. The truth? Whenever it is ignored or willingly discarded, it will come back to bite us.  

In the great Greek and Roman civilizations, scholars and philosophers sought truth and understood the importance of achieving understanding. Christian critical thinking that formed our great nation gave us the Bible as the primary source of truth with reasoning to find truth in those things not expressly taught in the scriptures. Our current mindset has not only allowed but we have come to fully embrace concepts we know through reason as false. Why? We don't want to acknowledge the truth of the scriptures. We don't want God.

Yesterday we made our chaplain visits in eastern Lancaster County after our snowy Wednesday.

Lancaster County, PA farm 2/21/19 (Click to enlarge)
It was still cold early in the morning when I took this photo from Smucker Laser.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Mennonite school 2/21/19 (Click to enlarge)
Late morning the children were enjoying playing outside as the day warmed up at this one room Mennonite schoolhouse.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Mennonite school 2/21/19 (Click to enlarge)
When the children aren't throwing a ball, running, or otherwise active they engage with passersby as evidenced in this photo.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Hard-working Vietnamese immigrants 2/21/19
These hardworking Vietnamese immigrants were pleased to have their photo taken.

Convene meeting 2/21/19 (Click to enlarge)
We visited our local Convene group for a few minutes yesterday morning. They were meeting at Blessings of Hope, a wholesale like food distribution ministry that has distributed over $61,000,000 of food to other ministries such as rescue missions and food banks. Convene is an association of business leaders who seek to honor God in the manner they run their business. We have been associated with them for 12 years now and work with several business owners who are part of Convene. Ron Hoover is the local chairman.
(Click on photo to enlarge)

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Voice of Truth"  Video  Casting Crowns

"Refine Me"  Video  Travis Cottrell

"I'd Rather Have Jesus"  Video  Sung by Buller, Balzer and Aichele

Regarding virtue signaling count on the Babylon Bee satire site for some insight! "Sad: This Guy Just Tried To Virtue Signal On The Internet But He Doesn't Have Any Followers"

* "Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" by Eric Metaxas - This quote is from this inspiring biography on the first page of chapter one.

Finally today:
Squirrel feeding on corn
So, now we know where all that corn goes!

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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