Those Who Call Evil Good and Good Evil 

Those Who Call Evil Good and Good Evil 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Isaiah 5 is an interesting chapter. Isaiah tells the people how they’ve corrupted God’s vineyard (1-7). Isaiah then outlines Judah’s corruption (8-23). Lastly, Isaiah prophesizes that a foreign nation will punish Judah for her sins (24-30). As Isaiah speaks of Judah’s sins, he includes Judah’s political class in the middle section. It is hard not to think about how many of these sins given for Judah rings true for the United States today. 

Axios, not a news organization friendly to President Trump, hence “progressive,” wrote an article exposing the “relationship” between Representative Eric Swalwell and a Chinese spy named Fang Fang (aka Christina Fang). Fang began “associating” with Swalwell while he was just a city councilman in Dublin, California. Fang raised money for Swalwell’s campaigns for Congressional office. The question raised by those alarmed by Swalwell’s association with Fang, who left the country in 2015 after coming under investigation, is what information, if any, was leaked to China. Despite Swalwell’s assertion that it was not a “romantic” relationship, it is interesting to note that Swalwell’s brother and father likewise maintained social media connections with Fang until the story from Axios broke.  

Swalwell spoke to Politico and blamed President Trump for the Axios story. He says that the only crime committed was that someone leaked information to Axios. Swalwell is silent about whether he had a sexual relationship with the known Mata-Hari-type spy. As one commenter stated during a national talk show, though, it seems unlikely Fang would have “wasted four years drilling a dry hole” (an idiom from the oil industry). When money is involved, there is typically the expectation of something to be given in return. At least one news outlet, since the Axios story broke, has noted how “pro-China” Swalwell has been during his Congressional career. 

One of the signs of Judah’s corruption given in verse 23 was justifying bribery. Note that passage: “…Who justify the wicked for a bribe, And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!” (NASB) I do not mean to single Swalwell out. Nor do I wish to sound that only those sharing his political affiliation are capable of sin. The problem may well be how Christians view our democratic process. We continuously turn a blind eye to our political class because we are not a theocracy. Hence, we feel that we should stress their secular leadership qualities rather than their moral character. 

The older I become, the more I feel inclined to accept the judgment of brother David Lipscomb about the Christian’s political involvement. For those unfamiliar with brother Lipscomb’s view, he stated that since we are citizens of God’s kingdom, we do not involve ourselves in political affairs. Concerning voting, brother Lipscomb said that we don’t know the will of God concerning who the winner of a contest should be. Thus, to vote against the candidate that God has chosen to fulfill His purpose is to vote against God’s will. It is a complex subject falling within the realm of judgment rather than doctrine, however. While Paul shows us that one may utilize his citizenship rights (Acts 16.35-39;25.11), he did not live in a republic, as do we. Rome had already become imperial. Therefore, Paul was subject to the whims of an authoritarian leader. 

Thomas Jefferson famously stated that he feared that God’s justice could not sleep forever. The context of Jefferson’s words was the institution of slavery. Whether the American Civil War was of God or not, it took bloodshed to deal with an injustice ignored by our Founding Fathers. We might use Jefferson’s words out of their context, though, to warn that our God’s justice will not sleep forever when it comes to our rampant immorality from the ordinary citizen to those in leadership. In many respects, we have become a people who call good, evil, and evil, good.  Woe to us, indeed.  

Sources Consulted 

Allen-Ebrahimian, Bethany, and Zach  Dorfman. “Exclusive: How a Suspected Chinese Spy Gained Access to California Politics.” Axios, Axios Media, 8 Dec. 2020, www.axios.com/china-spy-california-politicians-9d2dfb99-f839-4e00-8bd8-59dec0daf589.html

Bresnahan, John. “Rep. Swalwell Says Trump Criticism behind Spy Story.” POLITICO, POLITICO, 10 Dec. 2020,www.politico.com/news/2020/12/08/swalwell-trump-criticism-spy-story-443845

Steinbuch, Yaron, and Mark Moore. “Swalwell Mum on Sex with China Spy, but Family Remains Facebook Friends with Honeytrap.” New York Post, New York Post, 9 Dec. 2020, nypost.com/2020/12/09/rep-swalwell-wont-say-if-he-had-sex-with-chinese-spy/

Moore, Mark. “Eric Swalwell’s Brother, Dad Finally Unfriend Chinese Spy Christine Fang.” New York Post, New York Post, 10 Dec. 2020, nypost.com/2020/12/10/eric-swalwells-brother-dad-unfriend-chinese-spy-fang-fang/

Gertz, Bill. “Security Questions Raised about Swalwell and China.” The Washington Times, The Washington Times, 9 Dec. 2020,www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/dec/9/eric-swalwells-china-views-raise-security-question/

Mysterious Seeds

Mysterious Seeds

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

In recent weeks, packets of seeds have been mailed to apparently random homes across the country. Dozens of folks received the seeds, which have Chinese labels but have not been confirmed as originating from China. A few days ago, the USDA confirmed that the seeds were harmless but still cautioned recipients not to plant them. The seed packets included mint, sage, cabbage, roses, and other plants. One working theory is that this was part of a “brushing scam,” where people receive unsolicited items from sellers who then post fake reviews (Joseph Wilkerson, msn.com, “Mysterious China seeds received by Americans identified by USDA”). But, given the current political climate, skepticism–and concern, suspicion, and even fear– abound!

One of the major projects Kathy has begun in our backyard is a “cottage garden.” You can research the origin and history of these gardens, which started in England perhaps as far back as the Medieval period. These gardens have a mix of flowers, herbs, and bushes, and the more elaborate of these gardens have trees, bees, and even livestock. Ours is simpler, with climbing roses on a trellis, boxwoods in the middle, herbs planted throughout, but included among the many packets of seeds planted was a mix called bee feed.  It has been fun to see a variety of mysterious seeds appear, like California poppies, Chinese forget me not, Coreopsis, and Sweet Alyssum. We’re not sure where the tall fringed bluebells came from, but it’s incredible to see such an eclectic mix growing and thriving and demonstrating Genesis 1:11 before our eyes. 

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches several parables involving seeds. In one, a man sows wheat seed in his field, then his enemy sows darnel, a weed resembling wheat. Only after they started growing could the two be differentiated. The landowner instructs his slaves to let them both grow up and separate them at harvest time (Mat. 13:24-30). This parable illustrates the lives of the righteous and unrighteous, whose destiny will be sorted out at the judgment (Jesus explains the parable in Mat. 13:36-43). It certainly can apply to true and false teachers (lawless stumbling blocks), who can seem similar but are also distinguishable to the discerning.

Jesus also teaches the parable of the mustard seed (Mat. 13:31-33), which shows God’s power to do great things through seemingly humble deeds attempted in true faith. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the parable of the sower, the soils, and the seed. Luke 8:11 identifies the seed as the Word of God. The soils represent the different conditions of heart, three of which are futile and one of which is fertile. The sower is the one who spreads the word to people. 

Then, there is the parable of the seed (Mark 4:26-29). A man casts seed on the soil, and then gets to behold the marvel of how it transforms from seed to sprout, the soil producing it from blade to head to mature grain in the head. Then, he harvests it. The power is not in the sower, who is not around (or, in the parable, awake) when the seed produces. The growth of the seed is a marvel even to the sower. Where is the power? In the seed!

There are certainly some malicious ideas and teaching out there in the world. Sometimes, even truth can be shared from improper motivation. But, God’s Word is a seed which can produce incredible things in a heart and life that is good and fruitful. Have you ever seen someone who seemed like a poor candidate to become a Christian, much less become a force for good in God’s Kingdom? How does that happen? We can talk about planters and waterers, but God causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6). You may not be an eloquent, sophisticated Bible teacher or soul-winner. You may feel you are unskilled.  But, when you share God’s Word with others, you will see the wonders of this mysterious process. It has been said that persuasion happens in the absence of the persuader, as the Word gets to work on a heart. The power is in the seed! Let’s be about planting it however, wherever, and to whomever we can, then witness the marvel of the seed producing in the recipients’ lives. It’s God’s plan! It works in mysterious ways! 

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HOW BAD DO YOU WANT THE TRUTH?

HOW BAD DO YOU WANT THE TRUTH?

Neal Pollard

Do you want the truth as bad as Jiang Xulian wanted a six-karat diamond from Thailand?  The 30-year-old woman stole the jewel from a jewelry fair in Nonthaburi, swallowed it, and tried to smuggle it out of the country.  CCTV caught the heist and an X-ray in Bangkok revealed the diamond in her large intestine.  Eventually, a surgeon removed the gem, worth $392,000, and Xulian faces three years in prison (read more here).

In successive parables, Jesus compared the search and pursuit of the kingdom of heaven to treasure, the first unspecified valuables and the second pearls (Mat. 13:44-46). David calls the law of the Lord “more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold” (Ps. 19:10; cf. 119:72, 127). Solomon adds his inspired counsel to “buy truth, and do not sell it” (Prov. 23:23).  Repeatedly, the Bible lays out the superiority of spiritual treasure above not only physical treasure but all else (Mat. 6:19-21).

  • Some do not stand in the truth (John 8:44).
  • Some question even the existence of truth (John 18:38).
  • Some suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).
  • Some exchange the truth for a lie (Rom. 1:25).
  • Some do not obey the truth (Rom. 2:8).
  • Some are not straightforward about the truth (Gal. 2:14).
  • Some do not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved (2 Th. 2:10).
  • Some do not believe the truth (2 Th. 2:12).
  • Some are self-deprived of the truth (1 Tim. 6:5).
  • Some have gone astray from the truth (2 Tim. 2:18).
  • Some are always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:7).
  • Some oppose the truth (2 Tim. 3:8).
  • Some turn their ears away from the truth (2 Tim. 4:4; Ti. 1:14).
  • Some lie against the truth (Jas. 3:14).
  • Some stray from the truth (Jas. 5:19).
  • Some malign the truth (2 Pet. 2:2).
  • Some do not practice the truth (1 Jn. 1:6).
  • Some do not have the truth in them (1 Jn. 1:8; 2:4; etc.).

The point of Scripture is that these are people who not only do not want the truth but are trying to avoid it.  They lack sufficient hunger and desire for the will of God or the rule of God in their lives. It is not something they treasure.

What about us?  Do we want God’s truth so badly that we are willing to sacrifice, pursue, and strive to obtain it? Its value is without comparison! Its reward is beyond comprehension. Let’s encourage each other to be truth-lovers, willing to pay whatever price is necessary to have it.