Archive for the ‘#truth’ Tag

The Media’s Fake News about Obamacare | Alyene Senger   Leave a comment

Leave it to the media, which spent the latter half of 2016 highlighting how outrageously expensive Obamacare premiums were becoming, to suddenly shift gears in 2017 and stress the health law’s many “pluses.”

Such was the case in a recent interview with Heritage President Jim DeMint, in which CNN anchor Carol Costello suggested that lawmakers would need to preserve the so-called benefits of Obamacare if they repealed it.

In Costello’s words:

For example, this is according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the Federal Reserve in Dallas. Preventative care provided by Obamacare … saves money and health care costs overall. In 2015, the cost of health care services increased 0.5 percent. The typical price increase before Obamacare, it was around 3 to 4 percent. Obamacare will lower the deficit by $143 billion over the next 10 years. So, there are pluses to Obamacare. So, how do you keep the pluses and get rid of the minuses?

DeMint shot back that those “facts” could fall “under the category of fake news.” This set Costello off to correct him that the numbers had come from the Congressional Budget Office.

Well, here’s what the Congressional Budget Office actually said about the cost of preventative care in 2009:

“Although different types of preventive care have different effects on spending, the evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall.”

For Americans paying premiums, this year’s price increases speak for themselves. According to the Obama administration, on the exchanges, the average increase this year in the benchmark plan premium is 25 percent across the 39 states that use the platform. Certainly this cannot be considered a “plus,” even by the law’s most zealous supporters.

It is true that the Congressional Budget Office did originally say that the law would reduce the deficit, but that analysis was always based on questionable assumptions and the double-counting of Medicare savings.

Indeed, in 2014, the Senate Budget Committee went back and used the Congressional Budget Office’s same scoring conventions and found that Obamacare would increase the deficit by $131 billion over the next decade.

Americans now have fewer insurer options, higher insurance deductibles, and higher premiums than prior to Obamacare.

Although the details of this year’s repeal bill are not yet known, the Congressional Budget Office’s latest score of an Obamacare repeal—based on the reconciliation bill passed by the last Congress, which repealed the law’s major spending provisions and tax increases—was projected to reduce federal deficits by roughly $516 billion over the 2016-2025 period, accounting for the economic benefits that would result.

But on CNN, Costello wasn’t finished. “So, all those 20 million people enrolled in Obamacare, they’re all going broke and it’s not working for any of them?” she asked. Actually, 20 million is a debatable enrollment figure, given that it is based on survey data that can be off by millions of people.

Using actual insurer enrollment data, which is only available through the end of 2015, there was an increase in coverage of only 14 million Americans from 2013 to 2015, with the vast majority (11.7 million) being pushed into Medicaid coverage.

Moreover, the actual net increase in private coverage during this period was only 2.3 million due to a decline in employment-based coverage, which offset the increase in the individual health insurance market.

Furthermore, Costello forgot about all of the people (over 10 million) who purchase coverage in the individual market and receive no Obamacare subsidy. These people have been getting hammered by premium increases caused by Obamacare every year and have to pay the full cost on their own.

Costello asked, “How do you take care of people much better than they’re taken care of now?”

Considering that many Americans are now facing fewer insurer options, higher insurance deductibles, and higher premiums than prior to Obamacare, the need for real cost relief is immense.

The first step in providing relief is to quickly repeal the law and then do the legislative work that will allow for patient-centered reforms.

Source: The Media’s Fake News about Obamacare | Alyene Senger

Race with Us? Really?   8 comments

This is a 2015 post that I decided to rerun because it somehow feels timely. I also ran the companion piece “On Being a Racist.” Lela


Pouring my coffee over her head occurred to me!

In case you don’t know, Starbuck’s has decided to instruct the rest of America on race relations in this country. In doing so, they’ve managed to lose my business for a while.


It’s what was scribbled on the side of my husband’s coffee cup last night. It was also scrawled on the side of his friend PJ’s cup. We ran into PJ and Susan in the parking lot of Barnes & Noble. Susan and I talked quilting while PJ and Brad discussed how the early spring is messing up their snow machining. The guys got coffee and the gals got coffee. Susan is Athabaskan Indian. I’m part-American Indian (but white people don’t usually see it unless it’s pointed out or if I’m with someone for them to compare me to and see similarities). Brad is Irish-American, I think PJ is German-American – blond and his last name could be German (okay, I never thought to ask).

The problem?

Susan and I had no such missive on the sides of our cups!


It is not just white people in this country that need to have a conversation about racism. I’m a tribal member. Trust me. Reservation Indians are the most racist group I know personally. The Tanana Chiefs Conference just called for a 100-year plan that includes (in my opinion, but Susan agreed with me) some highly racially-oriented ideas. My black-nephew-in-law took the election of Barack Obama to start having a race conversation in which he has decided all “white” people are racists who need to be confronted about what he supposes is going on in our heads.

Kind of like Starbuck’s.

Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of a day when a man might be judged by the content of his character not the color of his skin. I thought we were there when we elected Barack Obama. That would seem to have been a pretty clear indication that blacks at least were welcomed into the circles of power not just by the elites, but by the voters. Sadly, I was mistaken. This has been the most racially-divisive presidency since Richard Nixon.

These days having “white” skin immediately means you need to be educated about race relations by bigots with dark skin. Brad and PJ, two white men, need the conversation. Susan and I apparently do not. The message I got was that if you’re a person of color, you’re exempt from this race conversation. Or maybe it’s that if you’re hanging out with a person of color, you don’t need that conversation. If you are white and you have friends who are white then you clearly need the conversation. For the record, PJ and Brad are married to BIA-recognized tribal members and have children who are BIA-recognized tribal members.

So now you know why I wanted to pour my coffee over the barista’s head.

I resent the insinuation that if I am not of a certain racial group I must be a bigot. Until this conversation started coming up every other day, I personally hadn’t thought much about racial issues for a long long time. That’s right. I’m an American Indian who had not thought much about racism. Why? Because I don’t experience a lot of racism in my life. That may be because I don’t go looking for it. The world is full of rude people of every skin color. I don’t assume they are rude because they are racists. I assume they are rude because they are human. Maybe ignorance is bliss or maybe I only encounter racism when the person is truly being a racist, when I can’t avoid the reality.

Like when the Starbuck’s barista scribbles “Race with us” on the side of my husband’s coffee cup, but not on mine.

And, by the way, overt racists are (in my experience) almost always people of color. White people got it knocked out of them a long time ago. Maybe there are still racist thoughts kicking around in their heads that come out when they drink heavily, but for the most part they don’t say it and they don’t act on it. Reservation Indians and certain communities of black people, however ….

If we want to have this conversation, let’s invite everybody to the table. Let’s be honest about racism in America and admit that while white people have learned to keep their heads down and their mouths shut on the subject, people of color feel their skin color have been given a pass on their own racism.


Posted January 6, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in racism, Uncategorized

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On Being a Racist   1 comment

This is a post from 2015 that I just feel is timely. I’m also going to post the companion piece.  Lela


Hello, my name is Brad and I am a racist.

I must be a racist because the barista at Starbuck’s scribbled “Race Together” on the side of my cup. Apparently I look like a racist. Apparently Lela does not because her cup just had her name scrawled on the side along with the secret code for how she likes her coffee. Her friend Susan, who looks very Alaska Native, was also not blessed with the invitation to have a conversation with a white coffee-dispensing college student about race. My friend PJ — RACIST!

Lela and I are generally opposed to putting our images out on social media. It’s not like the NSA doesn’t know who we are or what we look like, but we don’t want to make it any easier for them. You’ll just have to take my word for it — I’m white. My eyes are blue-green, my hair is sort of honey brown and my skin — well, this time of year, it’s blindingly white. We don’t get a lot of sun in Alaska in the winter and since it rained all last summer, it’s been about 18 months since I’ve tanned. So I think this is the whitest I’ve ever been.

I know — disgraceful! How can I have any understanding of what darker-skinned people feel when my skin is this white? And I was buying coffee with another white guy at a bookstore! Can’t you just smell the white privilege?  White men who can read at a 6th grade level and afford designer coffee! Obviously we need to discuss race relations in America with our barista! I mean, she has dreds. She can’t possibly be a racist!

So here’s something to know about the inner workings of my mind. Like most human beings on the planet, I do have some prejudices. I prefer vanilla over chocolate ice cream, for example. I discriminate against flavorless Lower 48 blueberries in favor of tart Alaska blueberries. I like Jeeps better than Subarus which I prefer over Fords. If given a choice, I will choose movies that feature explosions over romantic comedies. I don’t like some people and love to hang out with others. I discriminate all of the time. We all do and that is not necessarily an evil thing. Trust me on this — Alaska blueberries — WAY better than Lower 48 blueberries!!!!

Ah, but is my choice of coffee companions an indication that I discriminate in favor of white people? Could be. I grew up in a rough New York City neighborhood during the bussing era of the 1970s. In the 5th grade, I was stabbed by a Puerto Rican girl for no reason I ever knew and I haven’t really had much use for Puerto Ricans since, but if you are a friendly Puerto Rican and don’t try to stab me, I’ll eventually warm up to you. You know the saying — once stabbed, twice shy, but you can prove to me that I can trust you. And, then I was once beaten up by two drunk (Alaska) Native men, so if you’re a drunk Alaska Native man harassing people in downtown Fairbanks Alaska, you might want to steer clear of me. I’ve learned to growl and threaten to bite rather than get kicked in the ribs again.

See — RACIST! Or maybe the Puerto Rican chick and the Native guys hurt me and I learned the lesson they were trying to teach me.

In high school, I was smitten by a black girl in my history class who would never give me the time of day. My best friend is an Alaskan Eskimo. My wife is part-American Indian. My very beloved daughter actually looks more Indian than her mother. Once I was the only white man on a remote job site and three of my black coworkers announced I could call them the “n-word”. I guess these non-whites have f failed to notice that I’m a bigot, huh?

I’m Irish American and like most American whites, I am uncomfortable with this topic. In fact, I feel like I don’t have a right to have a contrarian opinion on this subject. The only reason I’m posting this is that Lela insisted. It was about 17 years ago that my coworkers honored me by trying to let me into their group. I couldn’t say the “n-word” without blushing and choking. They thought it was funny and tried to get me to practice it, but I never could do it. Finally, they took pity on me and said I didn’t have to. But why was it hard for me to say it? They called each other “nigga” all the time. It appeared to be a term of endearment and camaraderie. I was honored that they gave me permission, but I couldn’t say it. Since then, I’ve asked quite a few white people if they could say “n-word”. I haven’t found any that could. They are absolutely embarrassed by the term.

Why?Because we’ve all been indoctrinated to never have bigoted thoughts about people of color and to never, ever say the n-word. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, but I want to just point out that there’s a double standard. White people have been taught to be careful of the sensitivities of non-whites, but non-whites are not necessarily held to the same standard.

Have you ever seen an Indian fella wearing a “Native Pride” hat? You see it a lot here in Alaska. I’ve often wondered what would happen if I wore a “white pride” T-shirt, but I fear getting beat up again, so I’ve never run that experiment. This week in Fairbanks, we’re having the Festival of Native Arts, where Native people get together for Native dancing and eating ethnic foods (muktuk and seal oil, yummo!) and non-Natives are expected to plunk down big money to go watch this, but they aren’t permitted to participate. We’re supposed to respect this exhibit as healthy cultural pride. What if Irish people were to get together for jig dancing or Germans were to get together for beer drinking and glockenspieling and say it’s okay for non-Irish to pay money to watch, but they can’t participate — what would be the reaction?


But what really bugs me is that 17 years ago, I could say “nigga” to a black man and he would call me friend, but today I don’t think those same men would honor me with that privilege because black people today are no longer judging white people by the content of their character, but by the color of our skin. White people are expected to apologize for being white, as if that is anything we can control any more than a black person can control being born black.

Doesn’t that sound a lot like racism to you? It sure sounds a lot like racism to me.

Source: On Being a Racist

Posted January 6, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in racism, Uncategorized

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Remember What Was Leaked #2   Leave a comment

In October and November, WikiLeaks released an avalanche of tens of thousands of other messages, hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s gmail account that provided an unprecedented window on the inner workings of a presidential campaign.

With brutal candor, voters got to see the office politics, the egos, the cliques, the evolving attempts to package a candidate who admits she is not a natural political performer like her husband or Barack Obama. The hoard offered insights that would not normally see the light of day until memoirs published years or decades hence.

The Clinton campaign has blamed the Russian government for breaking into Podesta’s account and passing on the material to WikiLeaks in an attempt to help Donald Trump win the general election.

Clinton’s handling of classified information as secretary of state had cast a shadow over her entire campaign and been a source of much angst at her headquarters. When the issue first reached public attention in March 2015, Podesta wrote of three fellow Clinton aides: “Speaking of transparency, our friends [David] Kendall, Cheryl [Mills] and Philippe [Reines] sure weren’t forthcoming on the facts here.”

Related imageThe message was sent to Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress thinktank in Washington, who showed up frequently in the emails. She wrote back: “This is a Cheryl special. Know you love her, but this stuff is like her Achilles heal [sic]. Or kryptonite … Why didn’t they get this stuff out like 18 months ago? So crazy.”

Podesta replied: “Unbelievable.”

Tanden added: “I guess I know the answer. They wanted to get away with it.”

Both Tanden and Podesta were unswervingly loyal to Clinton, but could be described as critical friends. In another exchange in September 2015, Podesta warned that the campaign has “taken on a lot of water that won’t be easy to pump out of the boat. Most of that has to do with terrible decisions made pre-campaign, but a lot has to do with her instincts. She’s nervous so prepping more and performing better. Got to do something to pump up excitement but not certain how to do that.”

Tanden assented: “Almost no one knows better [than] me that her instincts can be terrible.”

When the seemingly innocuous leftwing senator Bernie Sanders came out of nowhere to challenge Clinton in the Democratic primary, there were fears of a repeat of her shock defeat by Obama in 2008. Tanden warned Podesta against attacking Sanders too aggressively.

“Just game out what that does to Hillary,” she wrote in August last year. “When we went after Obama, she got killed for it. Reaffirmed all her negatives, strengthened him. We had no idea it was kryptonite for us to do that, but it was. I don’t know if it was Obama or Hillary (I suspected Hillary), but it’s really something to focus group beforehand.”

In December, when Tanden wrote in praise of the Paris climate deal, Podesta responded: “Can you believe that doofus Bernie attacked it?”

Then, in March this year, Clinton strategist Minyon Moore opined: “I think Sanders is a rule breaker and has no institutional loyalty to the Democratic Party; we should expect him to ignore the rules and persist in his quest to flip superdelegates despite overwhelming evidence that reflects his considerable weaknesses with the Democratic base and no doubt in the general.”

Tanden, meanwhile, pulled no punches when Clinton’s campaign hesitated over whether to condemn Democratic activist David Brock for demanding Sanders’ medical records. She wrote: “Hillary. God. Her instincts are suboptimal.”

A stout defender of Clinton in public, in private Tanden injected some bracing honesty that suggests the candidate is not surrounded by sycophants. After the former first lady described herself as a moderate, Tanden asked of Podesta:

“Why did she call herself a moderate?”

He wrote back: “I pushed her on this on Sunday night. She claims she didn’t remember saying it. Not sure I believe her.”

Tanden replied: “I mean it makes my life more difficult after telling every reporter I know she’s actually progressive but that is really the smallest of issues. It worries me more that she doesn’t seem to know what planet we are all living in at the moment.”

The daily dump of stolen emails uncovered Clinton’s lucrative Wall Street speeches, lists of 39 potential vice-presidents and 84 potential campaign slogans, fresh questions over a conflict of interest with the Clinton Foundation and alleged advance warnings of debate questions. The Guardian opined that there had been few revelations likely to alter the course of the race for the White House.

In fact, just as WikiLeaks’ release of US embassy cables often showed diplomats’ judgment in a flattering light, so the Podesta emails have illuminated a micromanaged campaign operation with a laser-like focus and little by way of ill-discipline or even foul language. The nerve centre is, however, all too aware of its candidate’s weaknesses and sensitive to media criticism, and as prone as any other office to personality clashes, terse exchanges and mutual exasperation.

I suspect the Guardian lacks true insight into how Americans think. The email treasure trove also lifted the lid on the complications of celebrity endorsements. In August 2015, Betsy Jones, assistant to the hip-hop star Q-Tip, wrote to Podesta to propose a meeting with Clinton “to discuss ways he can be used as bridge to the hip-hop generation during the 2016 presidential campaign”. Q-Tip “even served as DJ for Chelsea Clinton’s 25th birthday party in 2005”, she noted.

Podesta forwarded the email to colleagues, one of whom was Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin. “Q-Tip? Seriously?” she wrote. “I am so old.”

Another, Kristina Schake, weighed in: “I’ve actually seen Q-tip in concert and if this meeting happens I would like to staff her.” She elaborated: “With both the Beastie Boys and the Chemical Brothers!”

But then the conversation took a darker turn when another member of Clinton staff, presumably responsible for background checks, raised concerns over Q-Tip: “There are a couple of altercations he pleaded guilty to, but they were from a while back. However, more recently shouted ‘pigs’ at NYPD officers while protesting the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson.”

It took a while, but the meeting did go ahead.

The emails revealed campaign surrogates sometimes go rogue. Lanny Davis, a lawyer and former special counsel to Bill Clinton during his presidency, put his foot in it when talking about Clinton’s email server on TV. Later that day Robby Mook, who became campaign manager, emailed Podesta: “We gotta zap Lanny out of our universe. Can’t believe he committed her to a private review of her hard drive on TV.”

In May last year, Podesta wrote of longtime Clinton family friend Sidney Blumenthal: “It always amazes me that people like Sid either completely lack self awareness or self respect. Maybe both. Will you promise to shoot me if I ever end up like that?”

Podesta ran a tight ship and had an unenviable job. Countless people wanted to give him advice or meet him for dinner. In September 2015, columnist Brent Budowsky wrote a long, panicked email about visiting a university campus where Sanders had a booth but Clinton did not. “This is happening at every major campus in America,” he warned darkly.

Referring to a Politico story about attacks on Sanders by Clinton surrogates, Budowsky went on: “The way NOT to handle Bernie is to telegraph how afraid the Clinton campaign is of him, and then dispense covert talking points that cannot be put in writing that embody the oldest politics that will only infuriate many liberal Democrats and give an already-biased media a legitimate story line to push.”

Podesta gave a characterically brisk response that ended: “Why do you think that story is not just a bunch of hyped up BS intended to have exactly the kind of reaction you are exhibiting?”

Voters aren’t stupid … despite what Clinton and her elitist crowd believe. Reading this drove some voters who might have voted for her to decide not to vote for her. Some stayed home. Some voted for Trump because they saw him as the only alternative.

The people have a right to know what our public officials … or would-be public officials … are doing. They are not private individuals. I think if we knew what was going on behind the scenes, voters would reject a lot more candidates. WikiLeaks did us a favor.

I’m not a Trump supporter. I worry about him being our president. But I worried more about Hillary being our president. And it turned out, according to their own emails, Hillary’s people were worried too. And that was something the voters had a right to know.

Posted January 5, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in politics, Uncategorized

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Food for Thought in an Era of Lies   Leave a comment


Posted December 6, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Political Philosophy

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There Are NOT 100s of Pipeline Explosions A Year   2 comments

The other day, I ran across a post on Twitter saying there were 130-odd pipeline explosions in the last year “caused death and mayhem”.

Image result for alaska pipeline shot by drunkLiving in a big oil state, I thought I’d have heard of that if pipelines were that dangerous. So I decided to research it. It’s what I do, right.

There was a pipeline explosion in Shelby County, Alabama, back in October. It killed one worker, injured five others and sent a massive plume of flames and smoke into the sky.

That’s scary, but pipeline explosions are pretty rare and it is rarer still that such accidents cause a fatality.

In the last 10 years, there have been 135 excavation accidents involve pipelines carrying hazardous liquids such as gasoline or crude oil, according to Carl Weimer, executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust, an industry watchdog group. That’s about one a month. In those same 10 years, there was one fatality from such an accident, a Georgia man killed when a liquid propane pipeline ruptured in 2010.

Before that, the last fatal accident was in November 2004 (six years earlier) when five workers were killed when a jet fuel pipeline in Walnut Creek, California, was hit during a construction project.

Liquid pipelines are typically made of thick steel … the earlier ones were made of cast iron. Due to cathodic protection to prevent corrosion (rusting), sparks are generally suppressed. Excavation accidents generally just cause spills rather than an explosion.

In Alaska, we have this 800-mile-long pipeline that literally anyone can walk up to. That’s going to give people some ideas. In the 1970s, some guys tried to blow it up with a truck filled with dynamite. They damaged the insulation and the vibration knocked the pipeline off-line, but no oil was spilled.

In 2001, a drunk managed to shoot a hole in the TransAlaska Pipeline with a hunting rifle. He got lucky and hit a weld and bathed a part of Alaska countryside with a lot of oil at high pressure. My husband worked on the clean-up because only electricians are allowed to touch the cathodic protection. Nothing caught fire. Nothing exploded, even with a hot bullet piercing the pipeline.

Most hazardous liquid pipeline fatalities are due to causes such as improper operation of the pipeline or equipment failure. Fatalities are far more common when a natural gas line is ruptured. There were 116 deaths involving natural gas pipelines in the last 10 years, 32 of which were caused by excavation accidents. Most of those excavation deaths involved the relatively small pipes carrying natural gas into homes and businesses, which are often made from polyethylene instead of metal.

The number of natural gas accidents isn’t that much higher, but a lot more people are killed and injured because gas explodes easily.

The discussion of the Dakota Access Pipeline has been blown way out of proportion. Pipeline transportation of crude oil is much safer than tank car or truck transportation. I understanding the environmental concerns, but there are already existing pipelines crossing the Missouri within that corridor. Why are these older pipelines not a concern, but this brandnew pipeline built with modern safety protocals is considered a disaster.

This protest isn’t about the pipeline’s safety. It’s about the environmentalists’ desire to control the rest of us by reducing us to poverty by taking away efficient energy sources.

To a large extent, the Standing Rock Indians are completely on the wrong side of this debate. The pipeline is a bit of infrastructure that is part of improving the economy of the area, creating jobs that Standing Rock Indians could take if they weren’t so busy being pawns in the environmentalist design.

Just ask yourself this. Which is a better paying job? Working as wait staff at a casino or working in the oil patch? We could perhaps argue about which commerical venture causes more harm to the human spirits involved in the enterprise.My tribe has a casino. I live in a state with a large oil patch. What do you think I might know about both topics?

No, the Rest of the World Doesn’t Use ‘Single Payer’ | Eli Lehrer   Leave a comment

There’s plenty of reason for free marketers to be skeptical of proposals, like the ones emanating from Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and hinted at by Republican Donald Trump, that would create a single-payer healthcare coverage system in the United States.

But, if only because these proposals have resonance with the public, they’re certainly worth debating. A rational debate depends on getting the facts straight and there’s one fact that both left and right often get wrong: “single payer” healthcare of the sort Bernie Sanders proposes isn’t universal in the developed world and the US system isn’t particularly free-market by the standards of peer nations.

Although definitions vary slightly, a single payer healthcare system is one where a single entity — a government-run insurance plan — pays all bills for a variety of medical care, and private payment for these same services is more-or-less banned.

Source: No, the Rest of the World Doesn’t Use ‘Single Payer’ | Eli Lehrer

Who Are You Going To Believe?   Leave a comment

This is part of a series What if Truth Went Viral. Check out the Bible’s truth claims.

Jesus explained to Nicodemus that he must be born again in a spiritual way in order to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus, a well-educated, elite member of theological society, was dumbfounded.

Nicodemus replied, “How can these things be?” John 3:8

Nicodemus had been at a loss for words ever since our Lord’s response to him in verse 3. In verses 4 and 9, Nicodemus asked two different questions, but both begin the same, “How is it possible …?

He was so dumb-struck by what Jesus told him that he could not conceive of how Jesus’s words could be true. Nicodemus was so much a part of the natural world that he could not fathom the possibility of anything spiritual and supernatural.

Theoretically, the Pharisees believed in the miraculous (see Acts 23:6-8), but in practice, Nicodemus appears to have been anti-supernatural. Truthfully, we do the same thing. We claim to believe God is in control, and that He is all-powerful, yet we often fail to live like it is true.

Jesus answered, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you don’t understand these things? I tell you the solemn truth, we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. If I have told you people about earthly things and you don’t believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up  the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” John 3:10-15

Jesus’s words were a gentle rebuke. He asked, “Can you really be the teacher in Israel and not grasp these things?” Nicodemus is not only a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, he is “the teacher of Israel” (verse 10). It is generally understood that the definite article here indicates that Nicodemus was the most prominent and respected teacher of his day. How could a renowned teacher of the Old Testament not know what Jesus is talking about? It really seems incredible. In verse 12, Jesus contrasted “earthly things” with “heavenly things.” He placed the things of which He had been speaking in the category of “earthly things.” “Heavenly things” would to those things associated with the coming kingdom of God, things presently beyond our comprehension.

How could Nicodemus, a teacher of the Old Testament law, not grasp those things the law teaches? The problem with mankind has always been with the heart (Genesis 8:21; Exodus 7:14; Deuteronomy 5:28-29; 8:14; Isaiah 29:13; Jeremiah 17:9), a problem which God alone can solve by giving an individual a new heart (Deuteronomy 30:6; Jeremiah 31:31-34). To be reborn by the Spirit of God makes one a new person (see 1 Samuel 10:6-13), and it is the Spirit who enables humans to see such truths (see 1 Corinthians 2). Paul carried this even a step further:

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we behave with great boldness, and not like Moses who used to put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from staring at the end of the glory that was fading away. But their minds were closed. For to this very day, the same veil remains when they hear the old covenant read. It has not been removed because only in Christ is it taken away. But until this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; 16 but whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:12-18).

In verse 11, Jesus once again underscored what He was about to say with the words, “I tell you the solemn truth.”  He was imparting true truth. He assured Nicodemus, “We speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen.” He then contrasted what he was teaching with the reaction of the Pharisees, “… but you people do not accept our testimony.” The NET Translation informs us that the “you” is plural. Who is the “we” Jesus is speaking of, and who is the “you people”? The “we” may refer to be John the Baptist and Jesus, both of whom had testified to what they had seen. The “we” might conceivably include the Old Testament prophets, though this is less likely. I personally favor the royal “we” of the Godhead, but scholars don’t much apply that to this passage. The “you people” is Nicodemus and his fellow-Pharisees.

John the Baptist bore witness to the coming of Messiah. The Pharisees sent a delegation to inquire of John just who he was and what his message might be (John 1:19-25). They obviously did not accept John’s testimony because they refused to be baptized by him (Luke 7:30). The Pharisees also assembled in large numbers, coming from all over the land of Israel to hear Jesus and to judge His message and ministry (Luke 5:17). They certainly did not submit to Jesus as their Messiah. Thus, the witness of both John and Jesus was rejected by the Pharisees.

Jesus had been speaking of re-birth, a re-birth which comes from above. It is the work of God’s Spirit, Who sovereignly brings about new life (verses 7-8), and it is a work that comes “from above” (verses 13-15). Did Nicodemus believe in a heavenly kingdom? He certainly should, as did the Old Testament men and women of faith (see Hebrews 11:13-16). If anyone could ascend into heaven, they must first come down from heaven. It is a round trip, with heaven as the point of origin. Only the Son of Man can return to heaven, because this is where He came from (verse 13). This is why salvation is “from above.”

The story of the bronze serpent, recorded in Numbers 21, foreshadows the salvation which God will provide through the “Son of Man.” The Israelites had been complaining against God, grumbling about the journey and their apparent lack of food and water. They did not like the manna God gave them day after day. And so God sent fiery serpents among them, and many of those who were bitten died. God provided a salvation for this disobedient people, so that they might survive divine judgment. He instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and to set it on a pole, so that anyone who was bitten by one of the serpents could merely look up at the serpent and be healed. This is precisely what happened. All who were bitten and looked up were healed.

This Old Testament provision for Israel’s healing is illustrative of the salvation God was about to accomplish through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. As the serpent was lifted up, and thus became a source of salvation, so the Son of Man must be “lifted up,” so that those who look up to Him in faith can be saved from God’s wrath. The snake-bitten Israelites were smitten of God for their sin. They deserved to die, and apart from His provision of the serpent, they would have. Those who did not look up to the bronze serpent died. The act of merely looking up to the bronze serpent was an act of faith. So far as the people could see, there was no direct link between the snake bite they had received and the healing for which they hoped. But it was the means God provided for their salvation. It was the means God declared through Moses. It was the one way God said His people could be saved. Those who looked to the bronze serpent were saved from the death they deserved.

In verses 14 and 15, Jesus connected the serpent, which was lifted up on a pole, with His own death at Calvary, when He would be lifted up on the cross. Nicodemus asked how a man can be reborn from above. Jesus first explained through analogy; now He explained more directly. If anyone is to be saved from the penalty of their sins, they must “look up” to Him for salvation. He, like the bronze serpent of old, will be “lifted up” on a cross, and He will later be “lifted up” in His resurrection and ascension. In so doing, He will be “lifted up” in another way—He will be exalted by God for His sacrificial obedience at Calvary. All those who “look up” to Him in faith, trusting in Him to remove the judgment for their sin, like the Israelites of old, will be saved.

Rebirth – True Truth Continued

Posted June 23, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

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Rebirth – True Truth Continued   Leave a comment

This is part of a series What If Truth Went Viral. Check it out.

Nicodemus came to Jesus for answers and his first question was “How can I be right with God?” Jesus’ answer perplexed this teacher of theology. After saying “this is a true truth”, Jesus told him he had to be “reborn from above.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time, can he?” John 3:4

Nicodemus chose to understand Jesus’ words literally. He assumed the expression “reborn from above” must refer to some kind of literal re-birth. There are scholars who will insist that Jesus’s choice of words forced Nicodemus in that direction, but I agree with other scholars who say Nicodemus did not wish to pursue the implications of the only other direction open to him. It is easier to scoff at the physical impossibility of a grown man reentering his mother’s womb. Jesus’ words can be brushed aside as ridiculous and absurd, if taken that way.

We have an advantage over Nicodemus. Reading John’s gospel, we know he has already identified Jesus as God. The creation of life was His work in the beginning, and that included creating spiritual life. We have also read that those who become God’s children are those born by a divine act of creation (John 1:12). Nicodemus had not had those lessons yet, so he embraced a crass literalism and scoffed at Jesus’ words, not because Jesus was wrong, but because Nicodemus didn’t understand him.

Jesus answered, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ The wind blows wherever it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:5-8

Once again, Jesus began His response to Nicodemus by indicating the true truth of what He was saying. He then answered Nicodemus’ objection Nicodemus: “… unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (verse 5).

I believe we can safely reason that to be “reborn from above” is synonymous with being “born of water and spirit.” People ask, “What is meant by the terms “water” and “spirit”? Some take the term “water” to refer to natural birth, while they believe “spirit” refers to one’s spiritual re-birth from above. If this is what Jesus intended, then He said that a man must first be born naturally (“of water”) and then supernaturally (“of the Spirit”). According to my Bible guides, the support for interpreting “water” in this way is not strong and frankly I don’t see it as necessary for Jesus to argue the need for both physical birth and spiritual birth.

I personally favor understanding the terms “water” and “spirit” as one expression, “water and spirit,” which together refer to spiritual rebirth. Again, according to the Bible analysis I have available, several Old Testament texts seem to justify the conclusion that both “water” and “spirit” refer to one’s spiritual rebirth:

“’For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring; They will spring up among the grass Like willows by the watercourses.’ One will say, ‘I am the LORD’s’; Another will call himself by the name of Jacob; Another will write with his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ And name himself by the name of Israel” (Isaiah 44:3-5, NKJV).

“For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:24-27, NKJV).

This work of regeneration is also described in the Old Testament as the work of the “wind”:

Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.”’” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army (Ezekiel 37:9-10, NKJV).

The New Testament describes God’s work of salvation as the “washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit”:

For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another. But “when the kindness of God our Savior appeared and his love for mankind, He saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life” (Titus 3:3-7).

I believe that the “water” of which Jesus spoke  here is also related to the “water” of baptism. The Pharisees are most concerned to know why John is baptizing (John 1:25). Immediately after Nicodemus’ meeting with Jesus, John’s disciples express their concerns to him about the rising popularity of Jesus. Jesus has been spending time with His disciples and baptizing (3:22). John’s disciples then protest to John: “Rabbi, the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan River, about whom you testified—see, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him!” (3:26). I believe the Savior’s baptism and John’s baptism are, at this point in time, one and the same. It is the baptism of repentance, in preparation for Messiah’s coming. Baptism was a part of the message and the ministry of both John and Jesus, and baptism by the Spirit is what John said distinguished the Messiah’s ministry from his own (John 1:33). Thus, to be born of water and the Spirit is to be “reborn from above,” to be saved.

Now let’s be clear (especially since we’re dealing in true truth here). Baptism is a good work that we perform as a result of salvation. It does not impart salvation and to push that theory would be to argue against what Jesus told Nicodemus. John’s baptism was viewed as preparatory to the coming of the Savior. It was a baptism of repentance. By being baptized, one testified that he or she was renouncing Judaism (law keeping) as the means of their salvation. This was precisely why unbelieving and unrepentant Pharisees refused baptism:

(Now all the people who heard this, even the tax collectors, acknowledged God’s justice, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. 30 However, the Pharisees and the experts in religious law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.) (Luke 7:29-30)

Jesus was very careful to identity Himself with John and his ministry. If a Pharisee or anyone else wished to enter the kingdom of God, they must do so through the means God had appointed—identification with John and with Jesus, the One of whom John bore testimony.

I do believe baptism was expected, but Jesus did not emphasize human action, but rather the sovereign work of God in salvation. To be born from above is to be born of God. To be born of God is to be spiritually born by the work of His Spirit (born from above). Jesus then described the sovereign saving work of God through His Spirit by using the analogy of the wind.

The effects of the wind can be seen, but the wind itself is not seen. Neither can the wind be controlled. The wind goes where it wishes and does what it will. Men do not control the wind. The Spirit’s saving work is like this. The Spirit goes about His life-giving work, and no man controls Him. No one, by his own works or manipulation can direct the Spirit in His work. But when the Spirit brings about the new birth, the effects are evident. We know it is the work of God’s Spirit, unseen and beyond man’s control. In this sense, neither Nicodemus nor anyone else can save themselves, nor anyone else for that matter. Salvation is the sovereign work of God, accomplished by the Holy Spirit.

Pharisaism saw itself as the guardian of the Law of Moses. It viewed itself as the pure remnant of Judaism – the “gatekeeper” of the kingdom, governit it by the rules and regulations it had added to the law through oral tradition (see Matthew 23:13-15). Like his peers, Nicodeumus felt as though the Pharisees had the kingdom under control. Jesus shocked him by saying that part from being reborn from above, Nicodemus and his fellow moralists would not be seeing heaven anytime soon. In fact, Jesus was set to blow this myth right out of the water.

Posted June 17, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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I Tell You True Truth   1 comment

This is Part 10 of a series What If Truth Went Viral? Check it out.

John the apostle wrote his account of Jesus’ life decades after the events. What are termed the synoptic gospels had already been written and were in circulation. As an elder in Ephesus, John no doubt read one of the traveling copies. Why did John feel he needed to write his own gospel? There is a theory that Luke asked him to and there is some evidence for Luke’s involvement (I’ll get to that someday).

John may have been the last of the apostles still living by the time he set pen to parchment. The others had all died in persecutions. Although he wrote his gospel later, he had to have written before AD 79 because there is no textual evidence that he knew about the destruction of the Temple. He speaks of the Temple as though it still existed. So it’s about 30-35 years after the events he wrote of, but he had the other gospels to refresh his memory and Luke may have been there as well. Luke was not witness to the events of Jesus’ life, but textual critics say his gospel evidences the skills of a historian.

I suspect John had found something missing in the other gospels. The other gospels were not inadequate for their own purposes, but John had a somewhat different message. Thus, his gospel (while a book of history) is really a book of theology. It focuses less on details of where Jesus traveled when and more on what Jesus taught.

Thus the exact chronology of the gospel may not be wholly accurate and that’s why the gospel is not “synoptic”. It doesn’t matter because it is a book of theology and not a historical text.

At the age of 12, Jesus accompanied Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with them. When His family left for home, Jesus stayed behind, His absence unnoticed. When Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem in search of Jesus, they found Him in the temple listening to the teachers and asking questions (Luke 2:46). It wasn’t long before they were asking Jesus questions, and they were amazed at His answers (2:47). Jesus was already an astounding teacher at 12 years of age, whose understanding of the Scriptures amazed Israel’s finest scholars.

Several years later, John the Baptist commenced his public ministry, proclaiming the Word of God and calling Israel to repentance in preparation for the coming of Messiah. The Jewish religious leaders took note of him and sent a delegation to inquire about his ministry and message. It is apparent that the Pharisees chose not to identify themselves with John and his preaching, as they refused to be baptized by him (Luke 7:30).

Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, but not to talk about himself or Pharisaism, but to learn more about Jesus, His message, and His relationship with God. What does Jesus say about Himself? Nicodemus opened the door by assuring Jesus that he sees Him as a man with a mission and a message from God. All Jesus had to do is pick up from here and tell Nicodemus what His mission is. I think Nicodemus was surprised where the conversation ended up.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is [re]born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus began by indicating to Nicodemus that the words He is about to speak convey a most solemn truth. He uses an expression unique to this Gospel, which in the King James Version is rendered, “Verily, verily …”  In essence, Jesus said “This is true truth” and then He swept away all that Nicodemus stood for and demanded that he be re-made by the power of God.

Nicodemus’ brand of Judaism did not know anything of re-birth. Quite frankly, the Pharisees thought one birth of the “right kind” was quite enough.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit worthy of repentance! And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ because I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 10 Even now the ax is ready at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:7-10, emphasis mine).

To many Jews, to be born a Jew was to be born into the kingdom of God. We know the Jews also believed that Gentiles are born “lost.” Even the Jerusalem church leaders had to be forcefully convinced that God had purposed the salvation of Gentiles (Acts 10; 11:15-18), and even then, the practice of many Jewish believers did not match their profession (Acts 11:19). Paul, likewise, hit hard at this point. All Israelites are not true Israelites (Romans 9:6). Those who trust in the atoning work of Jesus Christ for salvation are true Israelites, whether their racial origins are Jewish or Gentile (Galatians 3:28; 6:16).

I can imagine the shocked look on Nicodemus’s face when Jesus told him that his natural birth (as a Jew) wouldn’t save him, and that he must be reborn from above. The implication was (and remains) clear: Unless Nicodemus was reborn from above, he would not see the kingdom of God. Here was a man who thought he had reserved seats on the blue line of heaven. Jesus told him that he was not even going to get into heaven as he was. He first must be born again, from above.

And that, folks, is Jesus’ brand of true truth.

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