Letters

The Cutting of the Lord


Jesus promised us that our growth would be rewarded with pruning. We think, “Pruning? That’s cutting! That’s taking things away! That can’t be good!”


Here are some details about pruning.

• Pruning carefully will drastically increase the fruitfulness of the pruned tree. Cutting back results in a dramatic increase of fruit!
• Pruning at the right spot strengthens frame of the base plant. Pruning makes you stronger.
• Pruning is not actually optional (John 15:2). If we bear fruit, we will be pruned. If we do not bear fruit, we’ll be cut back very severely (but not killed), so that when we grow back, we’ll grow fruit. And when we do, we’ll be pruned for even more fruit.

So how does he prune us?

In John 15:3 Jesus says, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” So him speaking his word to us is part of our cleaning, our pruning. This is him speaking to us, mostly through the Book, and a lot of that is about how to respond to the crap in our life.

In Luke 13:8, he gives us more detail. The conversation is about pruning, and in that parable, Jesus says to the Father, “Leave [him] alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it....”

Fertilizer in that day was manure: animal poo. So pruning may show up as crap in our life.

Here’s an example: in Luke 9, the boys are arguing about who's greatest. That's poo. The ambition to be great is actually good. The competition apparently is the poo.

So in 9:48, Jesus prunes them. “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”

This is what pruning looks like. That’s not as bad as we feared, is it?


Standard
Symphony

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 12, 2018

Xi Jinping announced yet another new policy for China: Blaming other countries is wrong, each country must deal with its own economic and environmental issues without the problem being someone else's fault. While this 180° new direction should be welcoming to foreign companies whose intellectual property was taken by China, along with the neighboring lands that China has no presence in, yet threatened to invade, such as Taiwan, Xi gave no particular details as to how he planned to adjust China's current action plan. In fact, Xi's announcement came as if it was not any change at all, but a continuation of the current policy, that taking unoccupied territory and accumulating foreign technology without payment was necessary for China's economic and environmental well being within its borders. Perhaps his intention was to further confuse the West about China's international policy or perhaps he has made himself even more understandable than he ever has before. We'll have to wait and see what actions follow to interpret Xi's meaning.

China is growing its ties with Israel, for the time being. An infrastructure deal is said to be the kind that will irritate US President Trump. China, however, should be more concerned. Israel has some of the best counter-intel gathering in the world. If China does use the building contracts as an opportunity to spy, after Israel has a chance to respond, it might be the Chinese who break contract. Israel is one nation that China won't be able to bully. As stubborn as ancient Asian worldviews can still be today, Israeli culture can be more stubborn. It's not about race, it's about two cultures about to collide. 'Tis folly to double-cross a nation whose name means "wrestles with God"; and the name is not a reference to wrestling with China.

This week, Taiwan and Hong Kong did what they do best more than they have done before. When a Financial Times writer is banned from Hong Kong because he intends to interview an author—and that author's speaking engagements are shut down after Chinese requests—the wisdom of Roger Branigin returns to the western readership: "I never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel." China wasn't satisfied to argue with an author who is more famous for it, but now wants to argue with more in the ink business. But, that wasn't the most significant development of the week. Taiwan is labeled as the "island of hope" for Asia at an international forum for Human Rights hosted in Taipei.

continue reading

Standard
Symphony

Encore of Revival: America, November 12, 2018

This was an astonishing victory for Republicans for any year, especially a controlling party midterm. Senate Republicans have rarely held this many seats since the FDR days except Reagan and W Bush. Losses in the House were among the lowest losses for a controlling party midterm. By gaining seats in the Senate, Republicans are winning the long game. We are headed for a possible supermajority by the end of Trump's second term. In the next two years, House Democrats will have just enough power to be irritating, but not enough to make any difference, other than helping Trump get re-elected in 2020.

Democrats are darned if they do and darned if they don't. Trump's appointees can be approved faster and impeachment in the House would die in the Senate. Opposition party power is good for presidential elections. Trump's best course of action would be to deliver the strongest Conservative proposals so Democrats can go on record as obstructionists. The best course of action for Democrats would be to talk and vote like Republicans, which has always been historically favorable, proven with Democratic Rahm Emanuel -led "blue dog" victory in 2006.

Results are still being counted. At last count, Democrats gained 30 seats in the House and had control of the House by 7. Most of those states had Democratic Senate and gubernatorial victories. In this victory for Democrats, nothing seems out of the ordinary. The election results appear to be real and fair; Democrats won the House fair and square.

The question of some after-election counting and recounting, however, seems sketchy. The Arizona Senate race looks like a lost cause for the Republican candidate. Arguably from Senate voting records, the Arizona seat up for grabs was not gained by Democrats except in name only. That Senate seat will be up the election Trump leaves office. But, that's a different story from a cluster of recount fiascos in Florida and Georgia, where recounting is a matter of procedure, not questionable results. The losers in those elections are pushing in hopes that close results can easily be tipped. If recounts were to change those results, that would open bigger questions, bigger objections, and bigger investigations. So far, the number of ballots in question would not change the results; miscounts would.

Even with the ground Republicans took, Democrats outspent Republicans by roughly $300M. Ironically, Democrats campaign on a platform of opposing big money and suspect business man Trump of trying to buy the presidency. The spending was bad optics for them.

Trump's proved helpful on the campaign trail. Many Republicans who pushed him away lost. Senate Republicans defeated incumbents in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and North Dakota. Senate Republicans also held vacant seats in Tennessee and Utah. 26 Republicans retired, more than any midterm year since 1974, the greatest retirements being 27 in 2008.

FDR holds both the greatest midterm gain and midterm loss since his time as president. After FDR, the greatest midterm loss was Obama's first midterm. The greatest midterm gain in the Senate was Trump, the second-greatest being JFK with +3. This was a favorable midterm year for Republicans. But, already you read that right here at Pacific Daily Times before the election. So, while Republicans had a historic election, Pacific Daily Times has set a new standard for accuracy in the media.

continue reading

Standard
Columns

Whose Pockets Are Deep?

Once the city gets built, residents easily loose the conscience that built their city.

Projects yield good results because of wisdom, tough decisions, doing things that aren't popular everywhere, even paying above market value, firing friends, and hiring enemies, all because of the quality of work that will get done. But, after the hard work, hard thinking, and hard choices become history, human tendency is to take the yield for granted.

Pile that into urban populations with infrastructure and real estate unsustainable without farmlands. Understandably, urban populations favor public spending. But, it's big money, not bankrupt government, that spends big.

continue reading

Standard
Symphony

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, November 5, 2018

China is less and less popular in the news. It's almost conspiracy-like—how much negative news comes out against China in the Western press at once.

The Trump administration backs Micron with legal action against Fujian Jinhua, an American company vs a Chinese company, over tech theft. At the same time, Jeff Sessions suddenly decides to appear in front of cameras and decry China for cyberspying on the US—a completely unrelated matter except that it is bad press for China. Then, the Taipei Times runs a front page story on illegal Chinese crabs being imported, but not passing a health inspection, with involved companies given a hefty fine, while pushing a North Korean nuke "restart" story to page five! The Taipei Times ran another front page story of China creating fake social media accounts to meddle in Taiwan's upcoming midterm election.

The truthfulness of this flood of anti-China news is not as important as its timing and priority among headlines. Popular sentiment is more powerful than missiles in a conflict between nations. On that front, the West has already won. Don't think for a moment that missiles won't follow to secure what the war of words already won by a deck stacked in the news.

continue reading

Standard
Symphony

Encore of Revival: America, November 5, 2018

Doom and gloom flood the media on the eve of Trump's first midterm election. Americans come off the weekend onto a big, info-flooded single, day of business and news before voting on Tuesday. Will the country gain momentum after the sharp turn it took two years ago or will it do a 170° and head almost back to where it was going under Obama?

Polls and forecasts spelled constant doom for the Republican party these past few months, all while Trump pulls farther and farther ahead in presidential polls. Too many so-called "experts" in mass media predict failure for Conservatives no matter what the outcome will be. With the immature display from Democrats during the Kavanaugh hearings, compounded with the growing #WalkAway movement, Conservatives have become so victimized and energized that it's hard to imagine Republicans not gaining seats in both the House and Senate. A loss would be questions of meddling.

Ironically, this election will decide more about the mainstream news media than it will about the nation. A Republican agenda over the next six years is more foreseeable than the media would have the nation believe. But, less clear is how much faith voters will maintain in the media. No matter what party a voter casts a ballot for, news networks that are as wrong they have been the past three years should not be able to stay in business. While voters will likely choose Republicans two elections in a row, viewers—Democratic and Republican alike—will likely choose to keep watching news networks that were wrong about Republicans two elections in a row.

Considering the fact that news networks stay in business with how wrong they were in predicting Trump's 2016 loss, it's a miracle any of them are still in business, let alone if they are wrong again in 2018. This miracle of such inaccurate news networks staying in business for so long is a big enough miracle to make the most avid Atheist believe in God.

continue reading

Standard
Columns

Sugar Push

Backing down is not the same thing as being sweet and charming. Friendliness includes pushing forward, leaning on slow doors until they open.

Reject the lie that nice guys have to finish last. Actually, nice guys finish first so they can take the trophy home to their loved ones who supported them—and put up with them—through all the difficult training necessary to win.

Nothing gets done without turbulence. Races require sweat. Construction requires demolition and dust. Even trees break up the ground as they spread roots. Life grows better if you're sweet, but winning makes your sweetness worthwhile.

continue reading

Standard
Symphony

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 29, 2018

The Pacific Ocean has become a chess board of moving pawns, castling kings, bluffs, and propaganda. China offers the moon to small countries, the US warns that no "free" gift comes without strings attached. When Trump pulled out of the INF treaty for supposed Russian violations, Russia went on high alert at home and called it "preparing for war". Russia being ready for war means China feeling more confident about busting a move.

Given regional instability, Japan and India are talking big. They want cooperative military exercises. They will also need passage through that section of the ocean—the South Sea—that China drew a nine-dash line around. America won't be the only challenger to China's new notion of "ocean ownership". As China gets more and more assertive, even the British are on edge. Nothing happens in the Western Pacific unnoticed.

Is China strong enough to win a military conflict? A Chinese rocket failed at launch. In the news, it's reported as a "private company", but there is no such thing in China, by Western understanding of a "private company" anyhow. The reason it failed is probably rooted in the sister controversy to trade: reverse engineering and technology copying. China couldn't launch the rocket, in all likelihood, because too much of the technology used by China wasn't invented by China, but invented by someone else, made in China, and copied by China—but not understood by China. Such is the tech of this "private company" and the tech that made China so big as it is today and the tech it would use in battle. Russia would be wise to not depend on that tech. And, small countries would be wise to remember that the "great China" was made great by a tilted-trade, copied-tech cash cow that is no longer making milk.

China's National Tourism Administration suspended group tours to one of China's many coveted destinations in Taiwan. The delay is scheduled to last from early November into April. November is an election month for both the US and Taiwan. It's a big month for expos in Taiwan, especially a flora expo in the city where tours were suspended, Taichung. November is also when a large group from the US Navy will make a show of force near China's man-made islands.

continue reading

Standard
Symphony

Encore of Revival: America, October 29, 2018

This past week began rich in fodder for headline minions. Statements like "bomb delivered to home of... [insert prominent Democrat]" and "Kavanaugh recused in three cases..." might convince a non-self-educated idiot that something was wrong. But, anyone who reads past the headlines should know that these stories shouldn't even make the third page.

At least thirteen bombs were delivered, but none of them went off. That's not the work of a "mail bomber", but the work of a "fail bomber" or a "dud mailer". Kavanaugh was recused from the cases because he has already been a judge with a decision and an opinion in those cases. In other words, Kavanaugh was recused for being over-qualified as a judge and being such an honest person that he won't rule a second time on a case he already ruled on in a lower court.

Initially, the mailed duds looked like typical Democratic "wolf" crying. After the Ford testimony theater and unreported proof that another Kavanaugh accusation wasn't true, Americans suspected the mail duds were also a self-inflicted conspiracy for pre-election sympathy. But, as more and more high profile Democratic heavyweights received dud bomb packages, it seemed more like an unexpected ruse that the Democratic media machine was hoping to salvage.

Then, terror struck. For the Democratic media machine, this meant losing valuable headline space before an election. For Jewish families in Pittsburgh, it meant grief and loss.

Then, the caravan halted. Mexico offered refugee lifestyle—housing, employment, education—a few even applied, making the caravan smaller. A child was kidnapped and the caravan stopped moving.

Midweek, the usual headline fodder took a 110° jackknife turn. What happened?—A shot across the bow happened, from whom we just don't know.

Whatever story lays behind this "fail dud bomber", this week was a warning to Democrats at the highest levels. Whether this was a self-inflicted media stunt that failed to get whatever victim election favor status was hoped for or if it was a genuine surprise, Democrats no longer have power. Their caravan can't move on schedule. They aren't as popular as they once thought. And, most sacred to Democratic elite class party bosses, their home addresses are known to scary people. If that's not a shot across their bow, nothing is.

continue reading

Standard
Columns

Treat Friends as Friends

Treat your friends well. Friends are friends as long as you treat them like friends. The moment you fail to forgive, fail to show mercy, or even fail to share is the moment you make your best friend into your enemy.

It's not that your lack of compassion and kindness will offend your friend, though there is that. The problem runs deeper: Men are not inclined to die quietly.

When you fail in friendship to share and show mercy, you require that former friend to fight you to survive. That choice adds insult, so such friends won't object to fighting.

continue reading

Standard
Symphony

Cadence of Conflict: Asia, October 22, 2018

By not labeling China a "currency manipulator", the US is extending an olive branch to Beijing. But, things aren't as they seem. On every level, China is reaching—almost grasping—to save face.

This new artificial moon is honest and runs deep in Chinese culture. As part of being the center of the universe, Chinese culture arguably orbits the moon. The Lunar New Year is celebrated far more, in Chinese culture, than the Western calendar New Year. While the Western press tells of the man-made moon from China as a kind of narcissism, it's genuine and normal interest. The threat is US strategy.

While the US throws olive branch after olive branch, the forest yields other fruit than olives. China is losing money fast. Trump tariffs are gobbling up China's reserves behind the reserves. No matter how friendly China tries to play at this point, the US will continue to deliver one provocation after another until China retaliates with basic human instinct. It won't matter how many "encounter codes" China and the US agree to. The US has decided that China is an enemy and has determined to convince the world as much.

This is not the first military provocation campaign from the US. But, if China wins, it would be a first naval victory for China. Calculate the odds.

continue reading

Standard
Symphony

Encore of Revival: America, October 22, 2018

Saudi leadership is deeply entrenched in an attempt to make the world a better place. Just as Trump has his enemies, so do the Saudis. The Saudi Crowned Prince did not visit Turkey and personally dismember and murder a news reporter, no matter how many anti- fake news activists might have liked him to. There are many alibis in defense of the Saudi royal family, among them that they have many enemies who want violence to continue, who are even willing to engage in violence and blame it on the royal family to stir dissent against the royal family that wants to end violence.

Trump pulled out of the INF treaty, prohibiting medium-range ground-based nukes. Gorbachev doesn't want Trump to pull out, but he hasn't seemed so outspoken about Putin violating the treaty. Trump's defense will be that the treaty has already ended, the US is merely jumping ship from the boat Russia has poked holes in for a long time. Putin's argument is that missile defense in Europe violates attack missile treaties, though that argument needs further explaining before the American public will agree. By having argued that NATO defense violated treaties restricting attack protocols, Putin is more or less acknowledging that he already has a good excuse to violate the INF treaty, but Trump does not. Either way, Russia has nothing to complain about at this point because both parties seem to think the treaty no longer applies.

When your enemy argues that violating a treaty is fair, it's stupid not to pull out of that treaty. Signed documents don't cause missiles to freeze in mid air. Tension between the US rises and lowers based on how much the superpowers want to get along—and signed documents trail after the ebb and flow of the greater tide.

continue reading

Standard
Columns

Yank the Cord

Everyone has opportunities and no opportunity lasts forever. So, everyone has a revolving door of opportunities that come and go. But, people tend to forget, which is why people tend to take opportunities for granted, thinking every opportunity will last forever.

Sometimes you are the opportunity for someone else. Accordingly, people will take you for granted and think that your time is limitless. When they do, don't stick around for them. It's always tempting to stick around while ambivalent people ponder nothing infinitely; don't.

One of the best opportunity teachers is the opportunity missed. Never miss your teachable opportunity to teach.

continue reading

Standard
Letters

What Covenant?

Abraham believed God & God made a covenant with him. (Gen. 15:6 & 18) That covenant was based on the fact that Abe believed God. Now he’s God’s friend, as well as his covenant partner.

But in Genesis 12, Abe is afraid & lies about Sara. He was afraid the king would kill him to get his hands on his hot wife, so he says, “She’s my sister, not my wife!”

Abraham is giving in to a spirit of fear, and he’s a liar. Those are bad. But God backs him up, IN THE LIE! He defends Abraham (and his marriage) from the ignorant, horny kings.

Wait, what? God defends the liar? And defends the lie? Why would he do that?

It was hundreds of years later that Moses comes down the mountain with The Law, which includes “Don’t sleep with another man’s wife,” and “Don’t tell lies” and such. Now, with coming of The Law, adultery and lying (and several other things) become a sin.

The Law is a part of Moses’ covenant with God. It’s not part of Abraham’s covenant with God, or Noah’s.

In Abraham’s day, there was no rule that said “Don’t sleep with his wife,” and no rule that said, “Do not bear false testimony.” These rules didn’t show up until late in Moses’ life. They weren’t forbidden in Abraham’s day.

Were they still stupid things to do? Of course. And Abraham paid the price for that. But they weren’t “wrong” in Abe’s day and age.

So it’s not appropriate (or even meaningful) to judge Abraham or Noah by a covenant that didn’t exist in their day. In the same way, it’s not appropriate to judge a Peruvian farmer by Norway’s laws, or to judge a Mostho factory worker based on Peruvian law.

And The Law not actually part of our New Covenant either. Therefore, it’s completely inappropriate to judge New Covenant believers by Moses’ covenant. Or Noah’s covenant. Or any other covenant.

Are you a New Covenant believer? Then it’s completely inappropriate to judge yourself by Moses’ covenant either.


Standard