The Decision Maker

President Donald Trump is unlike any other president this country has ever had. Every day of the week, even the usually slow news days of the weekend, gives us a new earth-shattering story about him. The kind of stories that once broke only three or four times during a presidency now come at us with each new day. Depending on your source for information, the news can be favorable or condemning of the president.

How should we respond to this?

The answer is easier than you might imagine. And, in what has become all too rare for these days, it’s an answer that conservatives and progressives can come to an agreement on.

Here it is.

We need to stop thinking about the president so much.

For some on the right, President Trump lives in their hearts as their functional god. Nothing he says can be questioned. Every transgression he has committed is simply the result of media bias. For some on the left, President Trump lives in their heads, like an opponent who has masterfully used his trash-talking skills to gain control of their minds and keep them out of the game. So every tweet has to be examined by a team of psychologists and equated to something Hitler said.

Each day, the president has a countless amount of decisions before him. These are important decisions that will impact the lives of many and even the direction of our country. But the president is by no means the most important decision maker in your life. It’s not even close.

When a father tells his young daughter to clean her room and she fails to obey, he has a decision to make. He can respond in anger and crush her, he can respond with apathy and fail her, or he can respond in love and correct her. In the moments like that in your life, what President Trump tweets doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you respond.

Decisions have been made and will continue to be made about immigration in this country. But what happens when those immigrants move into your neighborhood? You have a choice to make. You can either respond by submitting to the talking points of your favorite political hack or you can obey Jesus’ Great Commandment to love God and love neighbor. In the economy of heaven, the decision you make in that moment will matter much more to you than whatever decision the president makes.

When someone disagrees with you, you have a choice to make. You can follow the trends of the day and resort to name-calling, shunning, and victimhood. Getting blocked by someone on social media can become one of your sacraments. Or you can learn how to love the other guy, even if you fail to come to an agreement and even if they don’t love you back. You won’t have to give an account for the words that the president spoke or tweeted. You have enough of your own words and tweets to worry about. Consider the words of Jesus.

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37 (ESV)

There are people on the right who are so busy defending the indefensible decisions of the president that they no longer have the time, energy, or credibility to make the really important decisions in their lives. And there are people on the left whose rambling on and on about “speaking truth to power” really boils down to their resentment that their person isn’t in power. So in response to the president’s careless words, bigotry, and corruption, they give Hillary Clinton an open mic at the Grammy’s as if she didn’t build her political career by referring to black youths as “super-predators” or shaming the victims of her husband’s unwanted sexual advances. An inordinate focus on presidential power will turn us into deadbeats and hypocrites.

None of this is to say that we should be unengaged and never speak out against or in favor of something a government official does. Rather, we are to keep things in their proper perspective. The office of the president is a very powerful decision but it’s not as powerful as you think. Just because Hannity or Madow aren’t talking about the way you did or did not interact with your kids over the weekend doesn’t mean that it’s insignificant.

We would all be much better off if we devoted less of our energy to the decision maker in Washington D.C. and more of our energy to the the decision-maker in the mirror. The one in D.C. changes every four to eight years. You have to live with the one in the mirror for the rest of your life.

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Trading One Idol For Another

The only thing worse than worshiping an idol is replacing it with a different idol and then looking down on the people who worship the other one.

Many people who classify themselves as Evangelicals worship the Republican Party. It’s where they find their identity. Their joy is determined by how well the Republican Party does. Their hope is in the Republican Party. And as we have seen over the past year or so, their so called Christian morals take a back seat to the success of the Republican Party. This all became unattractively obvious over the past month as some Evangelicals defended Roy Moore by saying that teen girls should be flattered that a man of his stature would sexually harass them.

There is no denying the idol worship that takes place among those on the political right. But the same is true for those on the left.

In response to those naive Conservatives who were placing all of their hope in Roy Moore, Christians with a more Progressive slant commented on the absurdity of it all. And for good reason. But then they proceeded to do the exact same thing for the politicians and ideologies of their side of choice.

They rightly saw the harm that Roy Moore has caused teenage girls and their families but they turned a blind eye to Doug Jones’ history of condoning the murder of unborn babies.

They cringed as some on the right spoke of Roy Moore as if he were Moses coming down from the mountain with a brand new Contract with America. I cringed too. But then they proceeded to do their best Chicken Little impressions whenever leftists policies from the Obama administration were swept away.

The tax cuts will kill people.

The Net Neutrality decision will kill people.

Changes to Obamacare will kill people.

Oh, and God will judge everyone of a different political stripe.

This hyperbolic talk, of course, was taking place while the real killing of the unborn was going on. But we’re not supposed to be worried about that anymore, or so I’ve been told.

The Church is going to be just fine but I have my concerns about the American church. It’s like we’re in a fight over which golden statue we want to bow down to, the donkey or the elephant. Opinions are good and political engagement is necessary, even when we disagree. There’s enough room in the kingdom of God for a host of political philosophies and theories. But as long as the church continues to whore itself out to the Democratic and Republican parties, they will look less like the body of Christ and more like a very sick body. The answer to the Republican idolatry in the church is not Progressive idolatry. It’s repentance.

Jesus didn’t die so that His church could carry the water for Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump.

Until we learn that lesson, we’ll continue looking like the suckers that the political parties want us to be and less like the salt and light that Jesus called us to be.

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Stop Taking God’s Name In Vain

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Exodus 20:7 (ESV)

Most likely, you’ve done it before. You hit your thumb with a hammer, almost got into a wreck, actually got into a wreck, watched your favorite team blow a huge lead in the Super Bowl or witnessed your middle child spilling grape juice on the new carpet. And then you said it. You used the name of the Creator of the universe as a curse word.

Why do we do this? When we hit our thumb with a hammer, we don’t say, “Oh, Hitler!” Or when we try to check out at the grocery store and only one out of 13 lines is open, we don’t say, “Charles Manson!” Yet, for some reason, it comes naturally for us to use the name of God in that way.

But that’s not the only way that we break the third commandment. There is a more subtle way to use God’s name in the wrong way. If you pay attention, you’ll see it all the time. All you have to do is watch the way that people in this country talk about politics.

Judging simply by my Twitter feed over the weekend, it looked like the world, or at least America, had come to an end. People were losing their minds because of a tax cut that had been passed. Of course, there were the usual suspects who love paying enormous taxes who were not happy at all about this. But there was another group of protestors in the mix. They were the religious left. That’s right, the folks who can’t so much as mention the name of Jesus during a Sunday morning, ahem, sermon, started invoking his name to criticize this tax plan.

Their basic point was clear: if you support tax cuts, God’s going to get you for neglecting the poor.

This foolishness isn’t confined to the left side of the political spectrum. That’s right, even members of the religious right, you know, the ones who claim to revere Jesus, are guilty of using his name in vain. This happens when they declare that the hurricane that just wiped out a city was most definitely God judging the folks of that city for living a lifestyle that does not fit the GOP platform. It also happens when they constantly remind us that a certain politician is, “God’s man” even though the only qualifying attribute in that politician is that he happens to be a Republican. Republicans, some evangelicals would have us to believe, are God’s favorite political party. That’s why it’s okay for a grown man to have inappropriate relationships with  fourteen-year-old girls and it’s why it’s okay for another man to live his entire adult life as an adulterer, even going so far as to be caught on tape joking about his motives that, were he an average citizen would be called for what they are – sexual assault. But this is God’s man, they tell us. After all, they reason, the man did just give a great speech where he mentioned Mary and Joseph and said Merry Christmas. It was the greatest moment in church history since Johnny beat the devil in that fiddle contest!

The church should be ashamed. And, just a short time from now when we have lost any moral ground to stand upon as the sexual revolution continues to spiral out of control, we should not be surprised that no one wants to listen to what the crowd who supported two of the biggest partakers in the foolishness has to say on behalf of God.

For once, the left and the right have one thing in common. They both routinely break the third commandment because they have broken the first commandment.

“You shall have no other God’s before me.” Exodus 20:3 (ESV)

The god of the left is a bloated, angry and hateful beast who wears a disguise of compassion. The god of the right preaches a gospel of family values and the good old days but deep down he only cares about the same thing that the god of the left cares about. Power. That’s because the god of the left and the god of the right are the same. His name is Government.

Government is a gift from God (Romans 13:1-14). We need government. If you don’t believe me, visit a country where there’s a new military coupe every fifteen minutes or so. But here’s the thing about government. It makes a terrible god. Yet, for some reason, folks on the left and the right keep worshiping it. And when their god leaves them unfulfilled, rather than taking a second look at the object of their worship, they just cry for more of him while yelling louder at the folks on the other side. It’s like an addiction.

The early church sold their possessions and belongings and distributed, “the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:45). They somehow managed to do this without being coerced by the government, as some on the left would have us to believe. And their compassion was not limited to one group of allegedly deserving people (Acts 6:1-7), as some on the right like to model. Rather, they gave because of their devotion to the one true God. He had worked in their heart in such a way that they couldn’t help but live generously with their own money rather than ignoring the needs of others or simply relying on some bureaucracy to be compassionate for them.

Jesus Christ reigns supreme over all political parties and government institutions. He doesn’t need hucksters who pretend to follow him in order for his kingdom to advance, just as he doesn’t need the selectively outraged who only care about the poor online and when cameras are around.

He doesn’t need anything.

But we need him.

It’s time we cry his name out in repentance rather than using it to advance our favorite political cause.

Otherwise, when he says our name, it might just be to pronounce a curse on both of our houses.

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Unholy Alliance: The Grand Old Party and the Southern Baptist Convention

A few years from now, in the thick of some really important election, someone will spend a lot of money conducting a survey to see who evangelical Christians will be supporting in that really important election. I could save that guy a lot of time, money and trouble. I already know who evangelical Christians will be supporting in the next really important election. And the one after that. And the next one. And so on. Here it is.

The Republican.

But, some may wonder, what if the Republican isn’t all that great? Suppose his policies don’t make much sense. Or what if he’s just a really foul individual whose entire life contradicts traditional biblical teaching?

The Republican.

For as long as I can remember, so called evangelical Christians, and more specifically Southern Baptists, have been connected at the hip with the Grand Old Party. Most won’t confess that but it’s no less true. If you don’t believe me, you need look no further than one man for the proof.

Russell Moore.

Russell Moore is the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. For now. There are several influential churches and pastors in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) who would like to see him go. Some of those influential pastors have promised to withdraw their regular funds to the SBC because of Moore. The Louisiana Baptist Convention is even working to see Moore silenced, defunded or let go.

But why? What did Russell Moore do to find himself on the hot seat?

During the last presidential election, Moore did the unthinkable. He did the unforgivable. He went public in his opposition to Donald Trump. Gasp! In that opposition to Trump, Moore didn’t then throw his weight behind Hillary Clinton. But that didn’t matter. Simply not blindly following the Republican nominee and eventual president was enough to earn Moore the scorn of the convention he has devoted his life to.

Influential leaders were worried that Moore’s vocal opposition to Trump would cost them a seat at the table. They were not, however, worried about losing their seat at the table a few years ago when, as Dwight McKissic notes, Richard Land, Moore’s predecessor said that a black males is, “statistically more likely to do you harm than a white man.” For many in the SBC, it appears to be more important to have a seat at a table in the White House than it does to have a seat at your black neighbor’s house.

Here’s the sad reality that many SBC power players just can’t seem to learn. They are a joke. A punchline. A necessary evil. That’s how the elites in Washington, yes even the Republicans, view them. And that’s the best case scenario.

I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of George W. Bush’s devotion to God. I’m no supporter but I believe Mr. Bush to be genuine in his faith. And yet, even in his White House, influential leaders were referred to as, “nuts.” Behind closed doors, of course. That’s how Washington works. Democrats need the poor. Republicans need religious conservatives. Both parties are trying to get the same thing: power. Both groups, the poor and the religious, are left worse off than before as they sell their souls for a supposed seat at the table.

Many Trump supporters have fallen into the same trap that Obama supporters did eight years ago. Back then, if you questioned the president, you were a racist, flat-earther, and a bigot. Today, if you dare question President Trump, you are an elitist who is funded by George Soros. And no proof is needed to support such claims. That was only in the old days when truth mattered. If you want to know what idol someone worships, watch how they react when that idol faces the least bit of criticism. Sadly, many in the SBC worship a giant golden statue of an elephant with the phrase Grand Old Party carefully and lovingly carved on the side.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church. I currently serve as the pastor of a Southern Baptist Church. I say currently because who knows what will happen to me once the Louisiana Baptist Convention gets a hold of this. Anyway, I’ve got the SBC in my blood. When I was growing up, Jerry Falwell was Moses leading us into the Moral Majority Promised Land. Madonna was the devil because of her immorality and crude language. But I’ve learned something over the past year. If Madonna ever wanted to change her reputation among my kind, it appears that all she had to do was run for president as a Republican. She could’ve gotten away with whatever she wanted. Man, she’d even be compared to King David if she said the right things about the Supreme Court.

Thank God for President Trump. He’s exposed a lot. In just a short time, he’s shown us that much of the so-called conservative media wasn’t as much concerned with conservative principles as they are with getting their man in the White House. And he did the same to the church. As one friend put it, President Trump has revealed that whatever unity the SBC enjoys is not centered around Christ and his kingdom but rather being white and Republican.

Jesus didn’t die for the Republican or Democratic party. And he doesn’t need us having a seat at some table in Washington. He’d much rather us represent him before the people he has put next door to us. And get this. Some of the people who God, in his sovereignty, has put down the street from us are in this country illegally. Now, we can debate how to fix that. There is no doubt that reform is needed. But it is even more clear that we are called to love our neighbors, even the ones who, “don’t belong here.” Good luck trying to do that while getting your marching orders from the GOP rather than the King of kings.

The Southern Baptist Convention needs Russell Moore. But they want someone who will tickle their itching ears. They want a man who is much like many of the pastors in their churches – a hireling. And it appears that many within the convention are willing to go to extreme measures to get that man.

Keep in mind, Moore never criticized people for voting for Trump. On national TV he said that he understood the lesser of two evils approach but that he did not agree with it. Joe Sixpack (non-alcoholic for you SBC readers) was never in Moore’s crosshairs. An immoral candidate and institutions that bent over backwards to excuse that immorality as if God could only work through one political party were. And now one of those institutions is firing back.

I am a proponent of a very limited federal government. I can pretty much guarantee you that I’m more conservative than you are. I can say with certainty that I’m more conservative than the president is. So save the liberal tag for someone else. Our government has grown larger and more corrupt every year of my life. But I’m doing just fine. That’s because my identity is found in the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, not some silly donkey or elephant in Washington D.C.

I just wish that more people in the Southern Baptist Convention could say the same.

I Don’t Belong Here

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I don’t feel at home here. More and more, I’m feeling like an alien. Or the uninvited guest who brought the bad potato salad to the picnic. I just don’t belong.

When I watched the debate on Wednesday night where Hillary Clinton justified the violent murder of a full-grown baby, I kept thinking about how I don’t belong here.

The following morning I saw political experts on major news channels support her serial-killer like description of partial birth abortion as if it were nothing more than a trip to the dentist’s office. It made me feel out of place in my own home.

When I realized that out of all of the people who could have been standing opposite of Mrs. Clinton to defend the cause of life, we are left with a reality TV star who just a few years ago voiced his support for partial birth abortion and just a few months ago praised Planned Parenthood, the very organization behind most of the abortions in this country, I really felt out of place.

Over the past year, I’ve looked to the church as a whole for relief. Sadly, when I see many of her leaders justifying the evil of one candidate because it is somehow lesser than the evil of another candidate, I really feel like an alien. Big name Christian leaders who I once admired for standing against the current have contorted scripture simply to see their candidate get into office.

I’ve never felt more out of place.

Minutes before Wednesday night’s debate, my son asked me a question. He wanted to know why the culture was getting so bad so quickly. He had just seen a commercial on TV that sort of put it right before his eyes. I don’t remember what I told him. I hope it was good. But I’ll never forget his question. It’s one I ask myself quite often.

I think often about how quickly our world has changed and how out of place I feel in it. And in a way, I hope that both of my sons feel the same way. As parents, we do all that we can to make sure that our kids fit in. In reality, we should be training them to do the exact opposite.

Some find their identity in a political party. When I look in that direction, I see groups of people who care nothing about me or the God I serve. All they want is to stay in power.

When I look to the church, more and more, I’m seeing a body that has lost its way. Relevance and pragmatism have taken the place of salt and light.

The more I read my Bible and look at the world, the less at home I feel.

I think that’s sort of the point.

For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Hebrews 13:14 (ESV) 

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A Political Warning For The Church

Silver Islet, Sleeping Giant / Sibley Peninsula, Ontario, Canada

There are a few people in my church who will be voting for Hillary Clinton. There are more who will vote for Donald Trump. And then there’s me. I’ll find someone else to vote for because I don’t like either candidate.

But I love the people in my church, regardless of who they’re voting for.

We really need to be careful. This election year has been more intense than any I have ever seen. The country is divided. It’s been divided for a while but the divisions are becoming more and more obvious. And if we don’t watch out, those divisions will find their way into our churches.

Two emotions seem to rule our political age. They are anger and worry. People are angry with the way that politicians are representing them. And for good reason. But inevitably, that anger toward a broken system usually redirects itself toward other people. We’re not just angry at Washington D.C. We’re angry with one another.

And we’re afraid. Some are afraid of what might happen if Hillary is elected and rules the country with her progressive agenda. Others fear the chaos of a nation led by President Trump.

With that in mind, the words Paul wrote to the Philippian church two thousand years ago seem like they were written this morning.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Philippians 4:2 (ESV)

Some issue had divided these two Christian women. It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t simply tell them to figure out how to get along. And he doesn’t tell them to find some common interest that they can agree on. If he were writing it today, Paul wouldn’t tell these women to vote for the same person. Instead, he tells them to agree, “in the Lord.”

Everyone in our churches won’t vote the same. There will be people who have different opinions on education, state politics and who the next president should be. And not everyone will agree with the pastor’s political views. We shouldn’t want that. An assembly where everyone shares the same views on every single cultural issue is more like a cult than a unified body.

So the source of our unity will not be our politics. For the church, Christ is what binds us together. At the appropriate times, we can have discussions on school choice and Hillary and Donald. And we can agree to disagree. But we must always find agreement in the reality that Jesus Christ is the crucified and living God who died for the sins of his people and is coming again.

There’s another “in the Lord” phrase in this passage.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Philippians 4:4 (ESV)

The answer to your fear of Hillary is not found in Donald Trump. Your worries over a Trump presidency will not ultimately be relieved by a Clinton presidency. Yep, you guessed it. The remedy to our fears are found, “in the Lord.”

When we place our identity in a political party or candidate, consuming fear is a natural result. But when we realize that as believers our identity is found in Christ, we really start to respond to scary situations differently.

Instead of doubting God’s sovereign control, we worship him (Philippians 4:4).

Instead of lashing out at others, we treat them with grace and love, knowing that the Lord is always near (Philippians 4:5).

And rather than allowing ourselves to become consumed with fear, we take our concerns to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6).

That’s when we experience the peace of God (Philippians 4:7).

In just under a month, we will elect a new president. That new president will have a lot of power. But the next president of the United States will not have the power to heal fractured relationships. And that president will not have the power to bring genuine peace to our hearts and minds.

So, no matter our political differences, let’s remember to love each other. And let’s not believe those who profit from preaching a gospel of fear. Let’s not look to Hillary or Donald to give us what can only be found in the Lord.

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Is God Really In Control?

A while back I was having a theological conversation with someone. They were taking issue with my belief in the sovereignty of God, that is, the belief that God is in control of all things at all times. The person’s main concern was that if all Christians believed that God was in control of all things, none of them would do missions.

I thought about that on Wednesday night while I sat and heard a woman telling a story of the sovereignty of God. She and her husband and their five children packed up everything and left behind the comforts of Georgia for the challenges of Romania. For eleven years now the family has been working to break down barriers or racism, rescue women who are or otherwise might be caught in the sex trafficking industry, pulling children out of orphanages and giving them a better home, providing an education and yes, evangelizing the lost.

This family’s belief in the sovereignty of God didn’t keep them from the mission God had for them. It fueled their mission.

Christians like to say that God is in control but I wonder how many of us really believe that. Sure, we can say that he is in control on a random Tuesday morning. But what about on a Wednesday morning when a tornado hits? Or when there’s a bad phone call from your brother? Or when it feels like you can’t possibly go any further? Is God still in control then?

The Bible answers that question with a resounding yes.

I form light and create darkness;
I make well-being and create calamity;
I am the LORD, who does all these things. Isaiah 45:7 (ESV)

This would be quite scary were it not for God’s goodness. Hitler had a pretty good measure of control over Germany. An abusive husband can control his wife. But neither Hitler or the abusive husband are good.

It does us no good to speak of the sovereignty of God if we do not also speak of the goodness of God.

 

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the LORD, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the LORD is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100:1-5 (ESV)

So the sovereignty of God is not intended to free us from the mandate to make disciples of all nations or from any other more specific mission God may have for us. But there are a few things that the sovereignty of God, when understood in union with the goodness of God, will free us from.

Things like fear and anxiety.

It’s interesting to hear how people talk about the upcoming presidential election in the United States. Here’s a basic summary of one point I hear frequently.

“Well, neither one of the candidates are any good but we need to vote for ______________ because at least God can work through that one.”

But God can’t work through the other one? Read the Bible. It’s one big, long story of God working through tyrants to accomplish his perfect will for the good of his imperfect people. Or, to put it another way, the Bible is an account of God’s complete control over all things. That doesn’t mean that we have to support tyranny or some supposed lighter version of it. It just means that we don’t need to be afraid when it comes knocking on our door.

God’s sovereignty and God’s goodness work together to free us from the constant hand wringing that so many have given in to.

God was good and he was in control when he created the heavens and the earth.

God was good and he was in control when Jesus was crucified.

God was good and he was in control on the day that I was saved.

God was good and he was in control on the day that my parents divorced and on the day that my mother got sick and on the day that she died.

When we have our presidential election, God will still be good and he will still be in control, no matter who wins.

And, whether God calls you to Romania or to stay in the states to make disciples, he will still be good and he will still be in control.

Because God is both good and sovereign, we can trust that when bad things happen, God will eventually, some way and some how, work them for our good. We don’t need to know all of the details. When tragedy strikes, the world is better off without us trying to excuse God, speak where he has not spoken or explain away his sovereignty.

We say something much more powerful when we simply trust God and worship him.

He really is in control.

He really is good.

And that frees us to obey him boldly and worship him gladly.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
“Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Romans 11:33-36 (ESV)

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What America Needs More Than Trump And Clinton

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America doesn’t need Hillary Clinton.

America doesn’t need Donald Trump.

I’m a Southern Baptist pastor so here’s the part where I’m supposed to say that America needs Jesus. While I believe that to be true, that’s not the angle I’m going with this. Of course we need Jesus. But quite often, Jesus likes to make himself known through his people. Even a quick reading of the Bible reveals flawed followers of God who were beams of light in a dark world.

That’s what America needs.

America needs brave young people like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who remain standing while everyone else bows. And make no mistake, there are a host of 90-foot statues to kneel before today. The most prominent one in our culture is naked and painted in rainbow colors. We need young people with the courage and love to say, while standing outnumbered, “I love you but I worship a different God.”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Daniel 3:16-18 (ESV)

But that isn’t going to happen if parents care more about raising great athletes who make the family a lot of money than they do bringing up men and women with godly character. And it isn’t going to happen if students at church are fed a steady diet of entertainment and sermons about following their dreams. We need young people who stand for truth when everyone else bows but that only happens if the parents and pastors of those young people are committed to teaching them the truth.

America could use people like Daniel who aren’t afraid of the threats of the tolerance police because they know that the Lion they belong to is far more powerful than the lions sent to kill them. When the world opens up our closets to find a skeleton or two, they need to see us in there praying (Daniel 6:4-5). And when praying suddenly becomes an act of terror, they need to see us doing it anyway. Continually. With the windows opened.

When Daniel knew that the document had been signed, he went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously. Daniel 6:10 (ESV)

America needs prophetic voices like John the Baptist who aren’t afraid to speak up against evil, even when it means a trip to the guillotine. Far too many of our pastors are too preoccupied with building their brand or being buddies with the world to go through the trouble of being a light in the world. Others have no problem speaking out against the evils of the world but they do so in a way that leaves them only preaching to the choir. And that choir is made up of their own family members. Yes, I’m looking at you, Westboro Baptist Church.

John was different. He wasn’t afraid to confront sin but he did so in a way that the very man he confronted wanted to hear more. That’s because, unlike many today, John was fueled more by grace than anger. America could use a voice like that today.

And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly. Mark 6:19-20 (ESV)

America needs churches filled with people like the Apostle Paul who care more about winning people to Christ than they do winning people to their favorite political party (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). The church today has consumed itself with either fearing evil or embracing the supposed lesser version of it. We could do worse than praying for the human instruments of that evil to come to grips with their sin, repent and put their trust in Christ (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Paul had to stand trial for the terrible crime of lovingly proclaiming the gospel. As he stood before the king, he didn’t respond with the proverbial middle finger to the government, as many are quick to do today. Rather, he responded with compassion, boldness and gospel truth.

And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains.” Acts 26:28-29 (ESV)

America doesn’t need Hillary Clinton.

America doesn’t need Donald Trump.

And America doesn’t simply need a better candidate. The best president history has ever known would have no real success in leading a people whose hearts are turned from God. Our Lord can work through any means he chooses. He has worked through tyrants before to accomplish his will. More frequently, he works through his people. But he doesn’t work through his people so that he can make America great again.

His aim is to accomplish his kingdom purposes. And regardless of the opposition, his kingdom purposes will be accomplished. The only question is this. Will we be a part of his kingdom purposes or will we be too busy clinging to our own tiny, crumbling kingdoms?

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Beating Hillary And The Judgment Of God

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On Wednesday night I got to do something with my sons that I haven’t done in quite some time. I made them sit down and watch a man give a speech. I wanted them to see it because it was history in the making. By the time it was over, I was using the speech as an example of what it looks like when a man with a conscience stands for what he believes in, regardless of the consequences.

Ted Cruz was not my first choice for president. There are many issues where he and I disagree with one another. And Ted Cruz is no savior. No politician is. Our country needs another Great Awakening more than we need a great president. But with that being said, I was thankful that my sons got to see some integrity on display, at great cost, during the presidential election.

I know. I know. Ted Cruz committed to endorse the Republican nominee, whoever it may be. And for his failure to sing the praises of Donald Trump last night, a man who ridiculed Cruz’s wife and accused Cruz’s father of playing a part in the Kennedy assassination, there are some who are attacking Ted Cruz’s integrity.

I cannot speak for all Trump supporters so I’ll just speak for some of the ones who I have spoken to personally. They’ve spent the past year very well aware of Donald Trump’s morality issues. They know about his adultery. They know about his lying. They know about his support for killing the unborn, even in the late stages of the pregnancy. But when confronted on this, they say the same thing. “I’m not looking for a pastor in chief. I’m looking for a commander in chief.” Or, in other words, integrity doesn’t matter. Well, until Ted Cruz didn’t give the speech they were looking for on Wednesday night.

Again, Ted Cruz isn’t my savior. But if the worst thing you can tell me about him is that he didn’t keep his word to throw his support behind a tyrant in waiting, I’ll take it. Space and time would not permit me to list the transgressions of Donald Trump. And if I did, I’d be accused of judging Mr. Trump, otherwise known as King David. And who am I, a self-righteous Baptist preacher, to judge Mr. Trump’s heart? For many, it’s okay to judge the actions of another politician, just as long as it’s not their politician.

On Wednesday night, Ted Cruz, like him or not, stood by his convictions. That’s something that cannot be said of most other national politicians. Remember Bernie Sanders? It amused me on Wednesday night when all of the booing started. Perhaps you noticed what got the biggest reaction out of the crowd of Trump supporters. It was the part when Cruz told Americans to vote their conscience and when he said God bless America. At least for the crowd in attendance last night, talk of God and conscience can be quite convicting.

Pastors are supposed to be silent on these kind of issues. “Stick to the Bible,” they tell us. Well, I am. In the Bible, I don’t find talk of trade deals or the military industrial complex. But I do learn about the value of human life, something that Donald Trump has never supported right up until the time when he decided to become a Republican and run for president. I speak up because it troubles me that many believers will abandon the cause of the unborn simply to beat Hillary. And it troubles me that many believers will endorse a man who draws attention to the menstrual cycle of women who do not play nicely with him, mocks disabled reporters who are doing their job, and hates having blacks count his money because, “laziness is a trait in blacks.” All because they want to beat Hillary.

But Ted Cruz is the man with the integrity problem because he showed up to the pep rally without wearing the Trump jersey.

I am very concerned about what Donald Trump will do to the Church. I’m not talking about his policies but rather our reputation. How are we to take a stand for the life of the unborn with a straight face when it is revealed that we supported a man who was okay with pulling a six pound baby halfway out of the mother and ending the baby’s life? How will we be able to honestly minister to the non-whites in our community when it is revealed that we threw our support behind a man who calls them all lazy? How will our church leaders sincerely preach against the sins condemned in the Bible when those same church leaders condoned those same sins with their vote? How can we honestly obey Jesus and pray, “Deliver us from evil” when we embrace evil in the voting booth. All just to beat Hillary.

I get that every candidate, and every voter, myself included, has a problem with evil. We’re all evil to some degree. But some of us recognize our need for forgiveness. Others don’t. Instead, they celebrate their evil.

For all of our problems, God has given us a unique privilege in the United States. We get to vote for our leaders. I believe that this is a gift that requires wise stewardship. It is a gift for which we will all be held accountable (2 Corinthians 5:10). It bothers me that many in the Church seem okay with standing before a holy God with the excuse of, “Well, we had to beat Hillary.”

I tremble at our holy God’s response.

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 5:20 (ESV)

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Urban Legends, Marriage And The Hypocrisy Of The Church

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Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

It was the summer of 1972. A woman pulls into a gas station late one evening on her way home from work. As she walks in to pay, she passes by a large truck parked at the next pump. She doesn’t give the vehicle a second thought. And she pays it no attention as she walks by it on her way back to her car. It’s not until she pulls back onto the highway that she starts to pay real attention to the giant truck and the man behind the wheel.

Almost as quickly as she pulls out, the truck does the same. For the next ten miles the man behind the wheel follows her closely, even nudging her back bumper a few times. At other times he flashes his brights and blows his horn at her. She speeds up to lose the truck. And her plan works. As she navigated her way around a hairpin curve she saw through her rearview mirror that the driver of the truck wasn’t so lucky. He lost control and landed in a ditch.

But as she continued to look in her rearview mirror. She noticed something. Another man. But this man wasn’t outside of her car. He was inside, hiding in the backseat waiting for his opportunity to attack her. The man in the truck wasn’t trying to hurt her. He was trying to warn her. The real threat to the woman wasn’t in another automobile. It was much closer than she ever imagined.

That’s how hypocrisy works. It’s easy to spot it when we see it in other people but, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s much closer to us than we think it is. It’s inside of our own hearts.

The world likes to pretend that hypocrisy is a problem only for church people. How quickly they forget about their talk of tolerance for all points of view (except for those points of view that they disagree with or that expose the foolishness of their own ideas). But hypocrisy is a problem for the church too. We would be foolish to believe otherwise. Nowhere is our hypocrisy more evident than it is in regards to marriage.

Biblical marriage is under attack in our country. There’s no doubt about that. In some professions, simply voicing your support for biblical marriage can cost you your job. Other people have lost everything for simply standing by their convictions regarding marriage. Make no mistake. There is a war going on. And the sidelines are getting smaller and smaller. At some point, everyone will have to pick a side.

Many Christians already have. They use voting booths and social media accounts to, in varying degrees of wisdom and insight, voice their support for biblical marriage and rejection of so-called gay marriage. And that’s a good thing. Christians must speak up. But we also must be careful that our words match our actions. Sadly, in many cases, that seems to be too much to ask.

Preachers speak very loudly against the nameless gay guy on the news waiving a rainbow flag but fail to say anything against the big money tither who trades in his wives like leased cars. Preaching to the choir is easy. Preaching against the choir could get you fired.

Evangelical voters come out in masses to oppose candidates who promote same sex marriage but, on the very same ballot, will think nothing about voting for a presidential candidate who has spent his entire adult life making a mockery of traditional marriage.

A man rambles on and on at the barber shop about how gay marriage is destroying our great nation only to go home and talk to his wife as if she should’ve gone out with last week’s trash.

If we really want to stop gay marriage, we need pastors and church leaders who use the Bible to lovingly speak against all perversions of marriage, even the socially acceptable ones.

We need voters who refuse to buy in to that tired old lesser of two evils argument and instead stand on biblical principles. Even if it means passing on the two most popular options.

And we need men who realize that one of the best things they can do in support of biblical marriage is to go home and love their wives as Christ loved the Church.

 

The Church has settled for hypocrisy. As a result, we have lost our influence. And we wonder why the rest of the world looks at biblical marriage as nothing more than an urban legend.

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