At this time of year, every four years, the president submits his Cabinet appointments to Congress for approval. This is an important tradition. The Cabinet was designed to be the president’s advisors. They were not to make his decisions or his laws, but they were to provide the president with wisdom in their areas of expertise. Very important roles. The Congress has the job of making sure each cabinet member will provide good advice and will uphold the Constitution. Also important.
President-Elect Trump has submitted his cabinet picks to Congress as the 44 presidents before him did. He has done his best to pick a cabinet that will provide him good recommendations for the four years ahead. I commend him for his and his team’s efforts, though I don’t necessarily agree with all of his choices.
Picking a group of advisors is important, as I have repeated. We all need to surround ourselves with wise people, men and women, who will help us make good decisions. Without a community around us, we are bound to make bad choices. Proverbs makes this quite clear:
Plans fail for lack of counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22)
For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisers. (Proverbs 11:14)
Surely you need guidance to wage war,
and victory is won through many advisers. (Proverbs 24:6)
However, it is not enough to have many people whispering in our ear, we need to make sure those people are wise and will speak truth, even when it hurts.
Kings take pleasure in honest lips;
they value the one who speaks what is right. (Proverbs 16:13)
Once we have surrounded ourselves with these truth-tellers, we need to listen to them, even when we don’t want to.
King Rehoboam learned this lesson the hard way, by having his kingdom disintegrate because of his decisions. In 1 Kings 12, we read:
Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone there to make him king…. The whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”
Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.
Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.
They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”
But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?”
The young men who had grown up with him replied, “These people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’ ”
You can guess what happened next. The people of Israel were not happy. The majority of the kingdom split off and appointed a new king. Rehoboam was left with a meager one-fifth of his original nation.
Rehoboam had some wise advisors. However, he did not listen to them. Instead, he listened to men who were not wise but who gave him the answer he wanted. We all have this tendency.
Mr. Trump, take care to choose men who will tell you the truth, even when it hurts. And, when they do, listen to them. Do not make the same mistake as Rehoboam.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison enjoys trying new things. They pride themselves as being “a catalyst for the extraordinary” (according to their website). Their guiding principle is that “education should influence people’s lives beyond the boundaries of the classroom” (again from the website). In keeping with this principle, they have tried to influence their students thinking on how cultures relate to each other, taking stands against violence, rape, and racism. Some of their programs have been lauded. Others have been ridiculed.
Last fall, they began a new program, building on the foundation of these values and influences. They called this program, “Men’s Project”, answering the question “What is masculinity”. You can find information at https://www.uhs.wisc.edu/news/campus/mens-project/. They hope to explore all the many expressions and types of masculinity. Sam Johnson of UW says, “We know that men are underrepresented on campus when it comes to campus leadership roles and getting needed medical and mental health services. They’re also overrepresented in acts of violence and use of drugs and alcohol. With this program, we want to find out why this is and how we can change that culture campus-wide to encourage healthier expressions of masculinities.” She insists that there is no rule of how a man is supposed to be. Therefore, the cohort will explore each other’s experience to create awareness about unhealthy interaction and how perceptions of masculinity “impact the student experience, including gender-based violence on campus, alcohol, vulnerability, media sexuality, and relationships.”
I applaud the University of Wisconsin for trying to change culture for the better. They see needs all around them, and they do what they can. However, their efforts are misguided and could produce more harm than they think.
What is masculinity? According to Merriam-Webster, it is the “qualities appropriate or usually associated with a man.”
Well, this doesn’t help us much. What are these “qualities appropriate” to a man? What makes a man masculine? The answer to this question has changed over the years. In the past, a man was someone who was strong, authoritative, who was a provider, who didn’t show unnecessary emotions. He led his home and his country, but didn’t mind taking some time to smoke and drink with his peers. Later, men were asked to become more in-touch with their emotions, but they were derided as not able to be good leaders in home and society. They were “all that is wrong in this world.” They were playboys, not able to keep their desires in check. They were irrational, not able to make good decisions about children and education. They got in the way of advancement.
Both past and present cultural expectations were wrong. Now, universities around the US, including the University of Wisconsin, are calling for masculinity studies to counter the harm that has been done in cultural expectations.
Unfortunately, each program insists that there are no rules for what is masculinity, but everyone who identifies as male can build their own masculine legacy, as long as they are not violent and they make good citizens. This is false.
There is a standard for masculinity. There is a rule for the “qualities appropriate” for a man.
This rule is found in the Bible.
The Bible is very clear on masculinity and femininity. There are standards that must be kept for a man to be appropriate. Unfortunately, there are too many to be discussed in a short blog post. So, the list has been drastically shortened.
Micah 6:8 (NIV)
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah bemoans the fact that of his sin, that he has nothing to offer God for his past life or for the sins of his nation. There is nothing that God would accept, because they have not acted as men and women should. The standard God has across the board, not just for women, but for men too, is that all would have a relationship with him and that this relationship would affect all aspects of their lives. By humbling ourselves before the Creator of the Universe, admitting our need for Him (through the blood of Christ), we enter into an amazing relationship, that shows us how to act with justice in all situations, and to love extending mercy to all that we can.
A man is one who walks with God, and allows this relationship to make him strongly principled, and tenderly merciful.
1 Peter 3:7 (NIV)
Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
I am not going to touch the concept of wives as “the weaker partner”, except for this: God made men and women different, in order that they would fill needed roles in society and in family. Men need to realize that women are different, and they need to interact with their wives according to that fact, with consideration and respect.
Paul, in Ephesians 5, compares the man to Christ in the marriage relationship. As Christ has loved the church and died for the church. The husband is supposed to give himself for his wife, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This is a high calling. Women don’t have this calling. Only men.
A man is one who dies to himself that his wife might live, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, realizing that she has been designed by God as different than him.
Ephesians 6:4 (NIV)
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Men have a duty to train their children to walk with God and to have that relationship affect their lives, according to Micah 6:8. Unfortunately, all men, even those walking with God, have a propensity to mess up. One big way is to “exasperate” their children. In our zeal to teach truth and justice, we forget to “love mercy”. And, we drive our children away from ourselves and our faith.
A man is one who actively passes on his faith, both in knowledge and application, to his children, taking care to treat them with love, mercy, and understanding.
Though the last two verses seem to be only applicable to married men, all are useful as one, whether single or married, seeks to have “qualities appropriate” for a man. These qualities do not come naturally, but must be practiced continually.
Well, University of Wisconsin, will you add these standards to your program?
Recently, I met Bernard Wilson. Those who live in my area may recognize him as the author of The Book of Life. He knows that I do not agree with him or with his book. However, he graciously gave me a copy of his book to read. I read it and wrote this review, which I will be giving him.
Bernard Wilson has seen a lot of life. He has seen the world change in his lifetime. He grew up in the depression and saw his dad lose his farm during that financial crisis. Later, Wilson joined the US military during WWII. There, he experienced the effects of war and seemed to ponder the causes. He married during the war and raised two girls afterwards. After sixty years of marriage, his wife died. The cause is not listed in the book. Throughout the book, he seems to be yearning for the life of his youth, before the pain of war and the pain of life had touched him. He asks, “Why is it we never see the bright blue sky or feel the pure fresh air… as it was in the 1930’s?” (page 66). Whether the reader believes the thesis of the book, one cannot deny the experiences Wilson has gone through, making him want to recreate his childhood and to guard against pains he experienced early on. Unfortunately, to do this, Wilson twists Scripture and denies the foundation of Christianity throughout this book.
Wilson insists that due to humanity’s misuse of the earth and each other, the earth will soon be destroyed by global warming. The only way to stop this catastrophe would be humanity’s acceptance of the Lord’s plan, as related by Wilson, the self-proclaimed Messiah and special messenger of God. This plan of the Lord is the abolition of money. With a money-free society, all economic and environmental problems would be solved, along with the extinction of immorality, crime, war, and poverty. This is the salvation of the world, resulting in eternal life as humanity works together to heal all diseases.
There are many problems with these claims. The first and biggest problem is his view on the Bible and inspiration. He does quote 2 Timothy 3:16 (though he misspells the reference as Timothy 1:3), “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” He admits that “all scriptures are true” (page 4). However, he does not accept the fact that God inspired the entire Bible as a cohesive unit. He believes that the Bible was not meant to be read consecutively, but “here a little, there a little” (page 4). He quotes Isaiah 28:10 for proof. However, this verse relates the people of Ephraim mocking the teaching of God. The result of their mocking is judgment by God through confusion. Not really the best verse to use as the instruction of God for how to read Scripture.
Wilson doesn’t stop there. Not only does he believe that Scripture should be read in piece-meal, but he believes that only the one who has been led by the Spirit of Truth can know how to arrange the puzzle pieces of the Bible into the plan of the Lord. He believes that the Lord, even though He inspired the writers of Scripture, actually hid the truths of Scripture from all of humanity since Creation (Page 61). Only Wilson, the chosen of the Lord, taught by “the Spirit of Truth” (which was never defined), knows divine knowledge.
Wilson claims that he is the only one who knows the Spirit of Truth (page 61); that he is the chosen Angel, as seen in Revelation (page 4); that he is Elijah (Elias) (page 4); that he has lived 6000 years (page 66); that he is the brother of Jesus (page 47); and that he is the Messiah (page 17). How can he claim all these things? Sometime in the mid 1990’s, a women appeared to him in the middle of the night, looked at him without saying anything, and then disappeared. This was the sign of him being chosen as the vessel of the Spirit of Truth. He verifies his knowledge with three main predictions: 1) a major earthquake would hit the world around 2012, causing a major catastrophe like the volcano in the Canary Islands to fall into the sea (page 13); 2) Wilson would start looking younger, beginning with growing a full head of hair (page 47); and 3) That he will be raptured before the rest of the world as a sign for the truth of this book (page 48).
Unfortunately, for any prophet, the proof of their veracity is if what they say comes to pass. So far, all three of Wilson’s predictions have not come true. The Bible is clear, if a prophet predicts something that does not happen, he should not be believed. He is a false prophet (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
If Wilson was a prophet, having special knowledge from the Spirit of Truth, he would speak consistently from what has already been revealed. Wilson admitted that all Scripture is true (page 4). However, he contradicts Scripture in the name of the Spirit of Truth.
Wilson claims that God is only human (page 7). However, this contradicts Jesus who stated “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Wilson claims that Jesus was not the Messiah, though He did come to earth, die and rise again. He even states the Jesus is part of the Trinity (page 62). If Jesus was not the Messiah, why did He come to earth and why did He die? What was the purpose?
Matthew 1:1 says that Jesus is the Messiah. He came so that we might have life in His name (John 20:31). Wilson claims that the problem with society is money (page 7). If all of society moved to a money-less system, all crime, immorality, global warming, poverty, greed, wars would end. Life would be peaceful. However, Wilson chooses not to believe Romans 3:23, which states that all are sinners, to the depths of our person. Even if money were taken out of the equation, humanity would still be proud, greedy, angry, immoral. We need more than a check on our actions, more than a band-aid for this Earth. We need a savior for our souls.
Wilson claims that salvation for the Earth is a communist system with no money. Everyone shares everything in common and everything we need, from food to vacation, is free. We’ll be able to solve our own problems of global warming and disease by pooling our resources without compensation (pages 40-42).
This is not the salvation the Bible speaks of. Paul was asked: “What must I do to be saved?” He answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). Humanity needs saving from their sins and their desire to sin, apart from money. Jesus came to earth so that he would die, taking the penalty for our sins. Everyone who believes in Him will be saved. Upon believing in Christ, the believer receives the Spirit of Truth, so that each will be able to know God and Scripture (1 Cor 12:13).
Once someone places their faith in Christ, their names are written in the Book of Life. Wilson claims that the only places “Book of Life” is found is in Revelation 20:12,15 (page 3). However, the phrase is also found in Psalm 69:28; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; and Revelation 21:27. Each of those passages refers to a believer’s name being written in the Book of Life. This book, according to Scripture, is the list of those who can enter into Paradise with God, through the saving work of Jesus Christ. This is directly opposite of what Wilson teaches in his Book of Life.
I can see that Wilson is responding to pain in his life and that he has a desire to restore that which he has lost. However, if Wilson truly believes that Scripture is true, He would not contradict Scripture so much. Unless Wilson accepts the gift of Jesus Christ, aligning his beliefs with the Bible, his name will not be written in the true Book of Life, and he will be doomed to an eternity apart from God. At that point, all he wishes to keep will be lost. I pray that he will accept Christ.