A Pastor’s Swing at Trump/Clinton Race

Just saw this interview of a SC pastor on a liberal news talk show. He was definitely outnumbered.
HERE is the link. A couple of interesting observations from my perspective:
  1. The panel (all of them) have a strong bias. [It’s a talk show so I am not against that, just observing a fact].
  2. DT has said some things that are outrageous and unhelpful to himself, his campaign, and conservative causes. (I don’t think he cornered the market in that regard either).
  3. This pastor may have done a bit better to just say that he disagreed with DTs characterization of HRC and other weird stuff. Just say you don’t agree. We are men of God…so speak for God and let the chips fall.
  4. Al Sharpton speaking about “moral authority” is laughable. I intentionally left the clerical reference off his name since I find his actions to be a blight on the calling of ministry. He is no reverend in my book and I am very charitable in this area. (Does he still owe back taxes?)
  5. AS saying that it is wrong to ask a people to vote for a man who has not laid out all of his policies is crazy and politically motivated. (Hope and change anyone? The POTUS was as light on policy declarations as any candidate I can remember going back to the 80s when I first came of age to consider these things as an adult.)
  6. The pastor’s answer was dead on. Look at the man’s values and convictions. No one knows what policies are possible or likely to be implemented. A proper understanding of our government is that laws are enacted by a Congress and carried out by the Exec Branch.
  7. The pastor’s transparency should resonate with believers. If you are TRULY a follower of Jesus, you MUST consider how a vote will affect things. If you can vote for HRC who is unapologetically pro-abortion rights…you need to be able to articulate how that syncs with your theological understanding…because there will be a test. Judgment seat? If you vote for HRC who sees no value in traditional marriage and supports every stripe of union outside of the ONLY Christian understanding of marriage, you need to be able to square that with your theology. The Department of Education…whatever (who cares?) It is not a biblical issue. In the same vein…if a candidate can and will marginalize a person or a group of persons based on race or religion…you must be able to define how that is reasonable according to your theology. There is a test folks.

I was in a meeting with faith leaders and Republican Party leaders in Pensacola a few weeks back. I haven’t been invited to a meeting with Democrat Party leaders yet but would certainly attend and speak if invited to. This seemed to be a consensus from what I heard at my meeting:

  • DT is a hold your nose and vote candidate for a lot of evangelicals. He is better in most every area over HRC, but it is a hard pill to swallow.
  • A vote for an unelectable 3d party conservative candidate is effectively a vote for HRC. No way around it.
  • An evangelical refusal to vote for any candidate is by default a practical vote for HRC. Her base is in lockstep. They are not sitting it out. You may feel principled in your position but if you truly understand the times in which we live…it is a vote for HRC.
  • You don’t have to agree with every aspect of a Candidate to like them or to vote for them. I disagreed with (I think) every aspect of the current POTUS platform, but I liked him. He was fun…and living during the reign of the first black President is kinda cool. (Yes, I know I said reign). That being said, I can’t remember any candidate that I agreed with everything…but I do generally vote moral/social/religious concerns and let God work out the economy.

Here are a couple of truths I have settled on based on evidence, not party talking points or FOX/CNN/MSNBC bias.

  • HRC lied about Benghazi. People died and she lied. She was in the “know” and possibly complicit in the decision to leave an Ambassador and Security personnel in jeopardy…but she continues to avoid responsibility. (She lacks character!)
  • She lied about her emails. She intentionally broke security protocol, mishandled information, and withheld cooperation in the investigation in substantive ways. (She lacks character).
  • She mishandled classified material. (Lack of responsibility for job performance).
  • She scares me on national security issues.
  • DT has a sketchy past. He has done some goofy stuff and seems like a pragmatist in many ways. (Several question marks about his character).
  • DT seems like a patriot. I assume HRC is also patriotic in her motivation.
  • DT could not serve as a pastor, deacon, or small group leader in my church. I’m not sure he could even be a member. What I am sure of, is he is not running for any of those positions in November.
  • I have a Christian responsibility to seek the welfare of my nation and as far as I can tell, faith alone cannot be a valid litmus test for either candidate…or they both lose because they are both sketchy.

Love ya. Feel free to chime in…

Wisdom and Kindness

cropped-039.jpg“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Prov 31:26.

This is but one of the incredible observations/affirmations of the “virtuous wife” in Proverbs 31. As I read this today I reflected back on a recent conversation with my precious wife Jodi, and was mindful of how this verse describes her. Now, this post may come across a bit sappy…and I get that…and it is not unintentional in that regard, but I want it to serve as an example to us all…if, in fact, we desire to follow biblical examples of virtue.

First, she “opens her mouth,” which speaks well of the absence of apathy or complacency. In a world of subjective truth and self-centered focus…many people refuse to open their mouths at all. Eventually when someone does…others whisper that they thought the same thing but just did not say anything. There is something to be said about those who will take the initiative to make their corner of the world better for all.

Second, she speaks with “wisdom.” Biblically speaking, this word is pregnant with meaning. It affirms true knowledge of God; not simply facts ABOUT Him, but wisdom acknowledge His character and sees the beauty in His person…His existence. Many know facts and doctrines about God but miss the beauty and majesty of His person. Further, wisdom relies on practical knowledge of life. It is one thing to know how a four cycle engine operates and to have gotten a perfect score on your written driving exam, but wisdom drives the car in an efficient and effective manner. This is the product of listening, learning, experiencing, and acting.

Finally and perhaps most admirably…”kindness” typifies her words. As a practitioner of communicating with words, I know that words can both edify and destroy. They can hit you in the head as with a blunt object, or they can pierce your soul as with a sharpened dagger. They have the ability to multiply confidence, or leave the hearer in a pool of tears and self-conscious paranoia cowering in a darkened corner of the room. But words spoken KINDLY edify even when they are difficult to hear. They communicate motives of love and encouragement.

I know a number of wise and kind people…but I know no one who typifies this verse better than Jodi. She recognizes the responsibility of her life…a responsibility to speak up, with wisdom and kindness/graciousness in every syllable.

How can we apply this?

  • Take the initiative to speak up.
  • Figure out how things work. Process that information and consider carefully the implication. Don’t simply blast out 140 character twitter rants! Discover why that thought is important to you, to others, and how it relates in the meta-narrative of life.
  • Finally, with a purified heart that seeks the betterment of others over our own benefit…speak with the kindness of God.

This is beauty. This is the virtuous charge and commendation of Scripture. This is Jodi.

SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: If you want to read or hear more about Jodi and her ministry, visit her on her site: jodiaiken.com.

 

Our Values on Display

Open Bible 1I was blessed this morning in my morning Scripture reading as I began the Gospel of Luke (after many, many months in the Old Testament Prophets). In the first chapter I was struck afresh by an observation from a passage in the Gospel of Luke.

In Luke 1:13-16, the angel Gabriel announces to Zacharias the priest that he will have a son in response to his prayers and according to the purpose of God (See Galatians 4:4-5 for a little perspective on God’s timing and purpose). These are the “broad strokes” of the announcement:

  • Your wife (against all odds and outside of what is expected to be physically possible Lk 1:18) will bear you a son.
  • You will give him the name John
  • Many people will rejoice at his birth
  • He will be great in the sight of the Lord
  • He will be consecrated to God by solemn vow (drink no wine)
  • He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
  • He will turn many of the sons of Israel back to God!
  • He has been chosen by God to be the forerunner to the Messiah.

I was struck by how this “father” must have valued the announcement of his son’s future life. Nothing was said of John’s success in business, academic achievement or how many trophies he would receive playing sports. Noting was spoken about his prom date or the beauty of the woman he would marry. These are things we tend to value, but they are (I suggest) not the most significant. John’s existence had everything to do with his relationship to the Messiah and his usefulness to the purpose of God as the forerunner of the Christ.

Here is the value question: If God announced to you that your child will be a great missionary and live in obscurity; or, your child will be greatly misunderstood and vehemently opposed by many because of His religious faith; or, your son will be a preacher whose stance on truth will cost him his life…do WE value the purpose of God in that announcement the same as we do the promise of academic, athletic, or business success? Are we as “stoked” about our child sharing his faith as we are his receiving a $1,000 scholarship for a high school essay?

Ultimately, the answer speaks more about our heart and our values and our view of God’s sovereign calling…than it does about anything our child achieves or has assigned.

Perhaps we should seek the answer from the One who looks deeply into our souls. Perhaps in so doing, we will recognize error in our values…or maybe we will be affirmed in them! There is no greater place to be than in the midst of the will of God. To this end, we should pray, and yield, and seek, and long.

Lord bless!

The Discipleship “Double-Standard”

lightSuppose you’re about to undergo knee surgery. You interview the doctor and he shares with you that he really didn’t study anatomy in school. He did, however, spend a lot of time thinking about anatomy and looking in the mirror, so he felt he was pretty good at repairing knees.

Perhaps your child comes to you and says she has a huge history final this week that is weighted for 25% of her grade. In essence, this test could make the difference on a college scholarship. As you discuss her strategy to preparing, she tells you that she doesn’t see the need to read her textbook or study her notes. After all, she has been thinking about the test and “the past” and all she heard in lectures. She feels very confident that reflecting on these things is sufficient preparation.

Hopefully, I am not the only one who would look for a reason to put off the surgery until I found a real doctor and certainly I cannot be the only one beginning to perspire over the approach of the daughter. The fact is, we KNOW that if we are to be adequately prepared for life, it requires study. Study doesn’t have to be boring or conventional, but it is intentional and it is oriented toward an objective.

Far too often, as I discuss spiritual development/growth plans with friends, I find that they too choose the doctor’s or the daughter’s approach. They have no strategy to focus on studying Scripture. If they do, it is a verse or a paragraph and 300 words of internet commentary. Prayer time is reduced to a brief statement or two between songs while stuck in traffic and asking for God’s blessing on a meal…even if it is a silent request. Fasting is non-existent, financial stewardship is an anomaly and don’t even bring up sharing our faith. That’s for EXTREME Disciples!

What if God expects more? What if the same logic and expectations we have for others on important matters MIRROR God’s expectations for us…because growing to maturity in Christ IS an important matter.

How do you start an intentional strategy?

  • START. Don’t gloss over this. It is far easier to steer a car on the street than in a garage. Do something more than attend church once or twice a month and listen to a preacher for 40 minutes.
  • COMMIT. Don’t commit to convenience but pursue results (Philippians 3:7-14).
  • INCREASE. Prayer time may be 2 minutes when you begin but if you have nothing more to say to God after 3 years of walking with Jesus than “forgive me for my sins and bless all the missionaries” you’re missing the boat.
  • LISTEN to God for you. Stop thinking sermons are about other people. God prepared it for you. If you’re only led to think of how it applies to other people, you’re again missing the boat. Who cares whether Dr. Doolittle’s classmates studied anatomy unless you’re getting a referral to go see them.
  • ASK. You’re not the first person to engage in this process. Don’t let your superficial pride prevent you from asking a pastor or another believer with “spiritual fruit” about their discipleship practices. Ask them to mentor you. I get five or six requests a year from people wanting to know if we can meet. Sometimes we do. Sometimes I connect them with better mentoring fits. That’s what pastors do. We coach people to maturity and we bring authoritative instruction from God.

We know study is important for our doctors or our daughters. Shouldn’t it be just as important for us as disciples?

 

The Moral Compass of a Nation and Women Drafted for War

The US Senate voted this week to require all women turning 18 years of age to register for Selective Service (the draft). a NY Times article covering the development can be accessed HERE. Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Seminary offers commentary HERE, approaching the issue from the perspective of equality.

It is important to note that the Senate decision does not make a law. There will have to be a conference committe to reconcile House and Senate versions of the bills and then it will require executive action for the bill to become law.

My opinion is continuing to be shaped but my concern, that which grieves my heart, relates to the moral implications of this decision.

Though this decision is the logical extension of the current Administration’s policy change requiring that even the most physically grueling and dangerous jobs of combat be opened to women, this next shift make women serving in these roles no longer ONLY voluntary but potentially compulsory. It may also be argued that since our nation has had an all volunteer military since the early 70s, that the issue is merely proforma and is practically unrealistic. My opposition to this Senate action relates not to the likelihood of compulsory combat service for women, but to the possible compulsory service of women in combat.

If this provision of a much larger military bill is signed into law, the proponents and signer of the bill MUST assume that their daughters and granddaughters WILL be called to fight in hand-to-hand combat with a jihadist (for example) in a distant land or within the borders of our beloved country.

This bill requires every able-bodied woman to take up arms to defend a nation if the government requires it. A young mother will be required to stand before an enemy and kill or be killed according to the orders of her officers even if her commander is an able-bodied man in a tent miles behind the protected line.

I am disturbed that the morality, not to mention the common decency of this action, is even open for discussion. How does this fit in any narrative that honors God? Have we as a nation moved so far from a moral compass that we would demand that our granddaughters take up arms to kill on our behalf?

As for me, I cannot with good conscience ever expect or willingly permit a woman to stand between me and evil. My perspective is not based on her ability; rather, it is based on her value as precious and my GOD ORDAINED responsibility to protect and care for her…as a man.

I am interested in your thoughts as I grieve over this atrocity and malfeasant reckoning of logic by our elected representatives. I pray there is still time to draw a line between opportunity and responsibility  as it relates to women in military service.

Dads, moms, and faith for generations to come

Bible glasses (2)Is Faith “Taught or Caught?” The Answer is YES! In this article in the Huffington Post, which may or may not be on your daily culture reading list, we find the conclusions drawn from a recent survey on the factors that most effectively contribute to faith practices in young adults. In short…parents who communicate and demonstrate the importance of faith in THEIR LIVES through their PROCLAMATION and their ACTIONS transmit the importance of faith to their children/teens…and it “sticks” through their young adult years when most studies claim that most people fall away from their faith.

Note:

“…sociologists Christopher Bader and Scott Desmond found that children of parents who believe that religion is very important and display their commitment by attending services are most likely to transmit religiosity to their children.

Of course it is anecdotal on my part, but I believe that my faith was directly communicated by my parents…both good and bad. I came to faith in Christ at a church service when my dad AND mom took me to church (age 9). When “mean people” in that church acted judgmentally toward my dad (age 10 for me), we stopped attending. I did not see the inside of another church until around age 14 or so. Then, dad took us to another church where he was committed and served and invited me to serve alongside him (as a Junior Usher no doubt). I even began wearing a slick little sport coat to church and everything.

In fact, dad taught me my early beliefs about “giving an offering” at church in those early days. I still remember the message he taught me (which was biblically wrong then and he would reject himself today). Later in my late 20s and 30s as I felt the calling to ministry and began to preach, Dad again shaped my faith. He went with me on most occasions that I preached in other churches. [This deserved the big award…since those were horrible sermons…but he went and offered great encouragement. He even called around to help me schedule additional opportunities.]

The point is, I learned much about the importance of faith through what my dad said and did. Honestly, I learned much of the substance of theology, hermeneutics, homiletics, apologetics, etc. from my pastor, Bible college, and Seminary…but my “heart” for “faith” was first transmitted to me by my dad. Many of the early anchor points (good and bad) were transmitted to me by my dad.

So, as a pastor and dad myself now, it often grieves me when I see moms and dads transmitting dangerous faith lessons to their kids: when they prioritize travel ball over church, or cheer practice over student ministry, or fishing over soul winning. I am grieved when they teach their kids to hold loosely to community allegiance by changing churches so that their kids can experience the latest “cool” thing in ministry (insert your flashiest new outreach or ministry program here). I am grieved when faith is rarely discussed in the home or when opportunities to demonstrate reliance on God are passed up in times of major decisions or planning.

In closing let me offer one last tidbit: moms and dads, you communicate more about the importance of depending on God when you speak of and live dependently. Actually PRAY before major decisions. Actually plan vacations around church events. Actually be “caught” reading your Bible and serving in your church. If you do or do not…you’ll be amazed at how your faith shapes the faith of your children throughout their lives.

NOTE: I spoke of my dad throughout this article. In no way am I diminishing my mom’s contribution. She was a woman of faith. She was there throughout the journey. I simply watched and emulated my dad more. I believe part of that is the fact that, well you know, I am a guy. The other part relates to the biblical reality that dads have amazing and God-ordained leadership roles in the lives of their children. Single moms have it tough. Married moms with husbands who are disinterested in practicing their faith have it TOUGHER since mom now has to counteract the influence of the father and attempt to win her children to a strong faith position even though her husband is ACTIVELY leading the children to another faith position, though not faith in God. THANK GOD my mom did not have to overcome my dad’s influence…and THANK GOD she too was influenced by it and communicated a consistent message to her children. 

P31- Mother’s Day, Let her works praise her

P31- Mother’s Day, Let her works praise her

Mom,1As I woke this morning in India, I was blessed and a bit overwhelmed to consider that in around 12 hours, many of my family, friends and church families will rise to celebrate Mother’s Day. Today is not a celebration time for all. For some, it is a time full of deep struggle. For some of my dear friends, it is their first Mother’s day without their mom. For others, today remains as a stark reminder of a deep-rooted desire to be a mother and yet they have not been granted the grace to bear children.

I remember my first Mother’s Day without my mom. While my faith has allowed me to be strong in light of her death for several years, I would be disingenuous to say that I am “over it” when it comes to the sense of loss. Yes-I trust in the Lord, and Yes- I know (as well as an one person can know the heart of another person) that she is in the presence of Jesus today, and that her presence there is GOOD and WONDERFUL and a SOURCE OF JOY for her, my Lord,and by faith, for me.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.” Psalm 116:15

I grieve with my friends who face today with a sense of loss. I understand. I also exhort them to look beyond the loss we are reminded of today…and consider the truth of God’s precious purpose for a mother…by faith.

2012-05-04 11.34.45I am also mindful that I wake up in India with my wife and the mother of my two great sons. I could not be more proud of the men of character they are and I could not be more mindful of the role that a mother’s nurture plays in their character growth. She has invested in their lives and has taken to heart the great privilege and responsibility of discipling her own children and nurturing them in the Lord. She has provided tremendous balance to my leadership style as a father and they are greatly blessed. She is my true P31 woman (Proverbs 31). Beyond that, she has embraced the clarion call of Titus 2 and invests in other moms so that they too will fulfill their calling to invest and disciple their own children.

I also have the privilege this year to be surrounded by a team of volunteers from my church, most of whom, are moms themselves and chose to join me on this incredible journey of strengthening, equipping, and encouraging the Indian church. They won’t wake to breakfast in bed or to sloppy kid kisses or hugs and displays of affection from their children. This will be a source of pain to some degree…but today they continue to express SA Team, May 2016the reality of motherhood… The life of a mom is a life of giving and serving and struggle and joy and pain.

All of these precious saints have simply continued the role they embraced many years ago…to joyfully sacrfice their lives for the good of others and for the fulfillment of the purpose of God, to the glory of God. As I read again Proverbs 31, I know of no better picture of strength, dignity, and grace, than a mom who would leave her own family for a season to minister to the extended family of God…on foreign soil…and a great personal expense. Truly, these women are bearing witness to the heart and hands of Jesus Himself for all to see and experience the gospel. I BELIEVE that their examples will reverberate in the hearts of their children and all who know them for decades to come, to the glory of God.

10An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels.

11The heart of her husband trusts in her, And he will have no lack of gain.

12She does him good and not evil All the days of her life.

13She looks for wool and flax And works with her hands in delight.

14She is like merchant ships; She brings her food from afar.

15She rises also while it is still night And gives food to her household And portions to her maidens.

16She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard.

17She girds herself with strength And makes her arms strong.

18She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night.

19She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle.

20She extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy.

21She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet.

22She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple.

23Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land.

24She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen.

25Strength and dignity are her clothing, And she smiles at the future.

26She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

27She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness.

28Her children rise up and bless her; Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:

29“Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all.”

30Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.

31Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.

Proverbs 31:10–31 (NASB95)