Called to Work by the Power of the One Who Saves Us
I preached on Philippians 2:12–2:16 at Grace PCA over Memorial Day weekend. We often look at the first part of Philippians 2, where we find Paul's beautiful description of Jesus's incarnation and sacrifice for us, but what does it mean when Paul follows those familiar words with a call to work out our salvation in fear and trembling? It means there is road work ahead in our lives as Christ transforms us to be more like him.
A very encouraging ruling today in New York concerning the All Writs Act and the government's desire to force Apple to sabotage its security model:
“Apple is not doing anything to keep law enforcement agents from conducting their investigation. Apple has not conspired with [the defendant] to make the data on his device inaccessible,’’ the judge wrote. “The government’s complaint is precisely that Apple is doing nothing at all.”
The judge also offered an opinion, which I believe is correct, on why the government would try to accomplish this through the courts rather than through new legislation:
“It is also clear that the government has made the considered decision that it is better off securing such crypto-legislative authority from the courts…rather than taking the chance that open legislative debate might produce a result less to its liking,” he wrote.
I fear legislation could easily pass in our current political climate that values security more than liberty, but it would at least be more challenging than trying to move this through the courts further away from the spotlight.
I tweeted this article about the severe implications of the government's request for a backdoor in Apple's products and included the comment “Imagine the 1st missionary killed in a hostile land, found via an FBI mandated backdoor. This is why Apple is right.” A friend of mine asked me on Facebook why it is so crucial Apple not be forced to create a system that would allow the unlocking of the San Bernardino terror suspect's phone. I want to answer my friend's question by exploring two different parts of the problem.
To understand where this all starts, it starts with Apple creating an encryption system that they did not have the key to unlock. After the revelations about the NSA that Edward Snowden released, Apple created such a system for a very simple reason: it became clear that the government intended to vastly exceed its constitutional surveillance powers and the only way a company like Apple could avoid becoming a collaborator was to remove itself from the key equation so that it genuinely could not access customer data. If a company has the key, the government can demand the key not only to see what a terrorist has on his or her phone, but also for other, less desirable searches like the warrantless, broad data collection the NSA has been doing over the last decade. Worse, when the government utilizes these unconstitutional powers, it imposes gag orders on the companies it interacts with so they cannot even say anything about what is happening.
It bears repeating: while there is broad support for breaking into a terrorist's phone, the only way Apple can legally avoid being made a tool for the government against all of us, not just terrorists, is to create a product that does not have a backdoor. So, Apple did the logical thing: it created a product without any backdoors. Apple is now being asked not just to “unlock” its phone, but to create a new version of its software that has an intentionally broken security system. If it exists, even if it were installed on only this one phone, we will be only a few secret FISA orders away from it being installed on thousands or millions of phones. If an iOS variant that creates a vulnerability exists, the NSA can just contact Apple six months from now and order that same backdoor be included in every iOS device the next time a software update goes out. And, it could gag Apple so that the company could not warn anyone.
A Restored People are Comforted and Become the Comforters
I continued the homily series “Bound” with a message from Isaiah 40:1-9. As we contemplate the Servant, we find the comfort of God's salvation for his people and a call to provide news of that comfort to others.
My Dear Friends,
Sadly, this is my last day as University Chaplain of Lindenwood University. As I depart, I wanted to reach out to you to say goodbye before I go. In doing so, I want to thank you for the blessing it has been to be your chaplain. For those whom I taught, it was a supreme honor to be your professor and for those whom I worked with, it was a joy to be your colleague. I have loved this university since I first set foot on it as a college freshman over 13 years ago and all of you who have made it what it has been will be sorely missed.
Though I will no longer be at Lindenwood, my prayers continue to be with you, and it would be a delight to continue to hear how the Lord is working in your lives. I invite you to stay in touch via Facebook (Timothy R. Butler), Twitter (@trbutler) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). I too would appreciate your prayers as I seek to discern where God is calling me next.
As a conclusion, I have one final video to share, a retrospective of the Chaplain’s Office that was formed as part of my proposal to become Lindenwood’s chaplain and the events God allowed us to start in it. Please join me in rejoicing in what God has done here at Lindenwood. Many of these events included you and I hope you enjoy getting to see how what you served and participated in came together into something beautiful.
As I end my time as your chaplain, let me close with these words from Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” May the peace of Christ be with you all.
2015 was a very hard year for me and for my family, as many of you know. It began on January 6 when my dear friend and colleague Roy did not show up for an Epiphany service he and I were to lead together at Lindenwood. As it turned out he had fallen unconscious at home the day before due to a very aggressive infection. Heartbreakingly, he was not able to overcome the infection and he died a few weeks later; his absence loomed over many of the ministry events in 2015, as things he and I dreamed about happened, but he was not there to see them. Though I did not know him for all that long — just a few years — he was a dear friend and his huge personality has been sorely missed.
A series of other painful difficulties have mounted since then with family and work, not the least of which being my dad's stroke in May. Much of 2015 seemed like an ever more uphill battle in which the terrain just grew steeper as the year went on. While there may be no substantive difference between yesterday and today, it feels promising to turn over the page and start with the fresh canvas of a new year.
I'm praying all of you have a very happy New Year!
Meditating on the Incarnation During Christmastide
For the last three years, I've had the blessing to preach the last Sunday of the year at Grace. I love getting the opportunity to meditate on the Christmas season during this Christmastide; this time allows us to reflect with a little less stress than is often present prior to Christmas (see my post on a Twelve Days of Christmas devotional booklet). This year, my message was from John 1:9-13, looking at Jesus's determination to save us that is demonstrated by his birth. You can listen to the message and find a fill-in-the-blank outline below.
A Devotional Booklet for Meditating on the Season
During the season of Advent, we look forward with great anticipation to celebrating the birth of Jesus, when God took on flesh and was born of a virgin more than 2000 years ago. However, often December 26 feels like such a letdown and we think, “What is there left to do but clean up after Christmas?” But we forget that Christmas Day is the beginning of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
When we think of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind is the famous old Christmas carol of the same name. But, the Twelve Days of Christmas are the days between Christmas and Epiphany, the day we celebrate the visit of the Magi to Jesus. Last year, my friend Patrick and I put together a devotional to help us meditate on the meaning of Christmas over that twelve day period. Our little booklet of devotionals explores the responses to the birth of Jesus found in Scripture, both good and bad.
If you would like to join us in celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas, please download the booklet The Twelve Days of Christmas: Twelve Responses here.
God's Ultimate Promise of Restoration Gives Us Hope As We Wait
I concluded the series Chapel at Lunch homily series “Bound” (and the final Chapel at Lunch) with a message from Revelation 21:5-8.
God's Promises from the Beginning Point to Our Future
This message started the series “Bound,” a four week journey through the promises God gives us in his Word. This series served as the 2015 pre-Advent series for Chapel at Lunch.