US FlagLet me begin by saying congratulations to all of those who won their respective political races in this charged and often contentious political season. I was greatly hopeful for many of those who won their races because I know them. They lead school boards and offer leadership for my local community.

I remember eight years ago when a Senator from Illinois became the President-Elect. He was not my preferred candidate. I disagreed with his platform and his resume but I found him to be articulate, winsome (for the most part), and the fact that he was the first African-American man to be elected to office gave me pause and great hope that, perhaps, our nation might be turning the corner from the long, pitted avenue of racism and racial inequality. I celebrated what the presidency of Barack Obama might represent. He was (and is for a couple more months) OUR President. The Office of President is deserving of respect and anyone elected to that office deserves to receive honor as the duly elected leader of our beloved country.

I had deep personal concerns though. At that time a man was being elected who was a populist. He fired up the crowds and wooed their votes with very little substance. He promised “Hope and Change,” but the people spent very little time seeking to understand what ideological framework would guide that change. This morning, I wonder if we have learned our lesson as a people.

I did not wait up to hear the election results last night. Not because I am better or worse than anyone else who did…but because I was at peace that there would be a new President-elect this morning. I believed that the American experiment begun less than three centuries ago would persevere and that there would be the beginning of a peaceful transition of power which has generally described our democracy since its inception. I also believed that the ultimate seat of power and authority did not change. Regardless of candidate, the throne of heaven would be occupied as it had been and God was no more or less sovereign than yesterday.

I will probably avoid Facebook today. My first glance at my news feed consisted of exuberant celebration by most on my friends list. Others were rude. Some were despondent. Some were offended. If anyone asked me…I’d say get some sleep and take a breath. It’ll be ok. There will be no peaceful transition of power in heave. The Prince of Peace is still on the throne.

Is there a challenge ahead? Yes. I’d challenge believers everywhere to obey Scripture:

First of all, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4, NASB)

Second, I’d challenge believers to support our President-elect and his cabinet, our Senate and our House of Representatives. Important days lie ahead. A nation does not experience unity simply because a candidate concedes an election and another offers conciliatory comments. There is a monumental task ahead for our President-elect to demonstrate that he is not the “same man” that he used to be. Our President-elect has the task ahead of leading a nation toward prosperity, toward security, and toward safety and dignity for all people regardless of race, sex, or age. His task is to lead. Sometimes that may consist of building consensus. At other times it will be simply to lead. This is why character is God’s top criteria to look for in a leader.

To Secretary Clinton…thank you for your years of public service. I am not unhappy in the outcome of the election but I recognize that these are difficult days as you consider the loss and what your candidacy meant to the millions that supported you across the nation. I wish you well and a quiet life outside of public service.

To President-elect Trump…be assured of my commitment to pray for you as God has directed. I suppose I will fail at this task many times over the next four or eight years, but I will endeavor to faithfully intercede for you, your administration, and for those other officials you will lead. May God grant you favor and wisdom and grace to uphold the dignity of the Office of President. I also pledge to honor the Office of President. I have been loyal to the Office through many presidents on both sides of the political aisle. I took up arms to enforce their policies. I am loyal to the Office and will remain so unless or until the Office is used to violate my God’s higher law. Until then, I am a loyal and supportive citizen.

To all of the others who were elected last night across our city, state, and nation, forgive me for not naming each of you by name, but know that I rejoice with you and wish you success as you fulfill the task before you. May God strengthen and guide you throughout your term of service.

Now…let’s go to work. It is Wednesday. If you’re reading this…you’re the recipient of life and a new day to serve the One who gave His life so you could both KNOW Him and make HIM KNOWN. Do that well today.


Practice Affirms Ideology

mlk2The man who believes in the American ideal gives his sons to it. The Christian who believes in the necessity of Salvation as the only cure for sin, bears witness to it. The woman who knows that holiness honors God and promotes life pursues it with exuberant passion.

These are succinct statements that affirm for us that our actions define our ideology more accurately than do our philosophical statements. Please permit me to explain. We can admire a particular philosophy and not live it. Our philosophy even directs our ideology but not vice-versa. Our philosophy may shift, but our ideology is certain and directs our practice. Here is how one writer spoke of the difference:

There are very fundamental differences between philosophy and ideology. Ideology refers to a set of beliefs, doctrines that back a certain social institution or a particular organization. Philosophy refers to looking at life in a pragmatic manner and attempting to understand why life is as it is and the principles governing behind it.

So our ideology determines our actions. A problem occurs when we don’t understand the difference. We think “philosophically” about something and ASSUME we believe it, but act contrary to it. The question is “why?”

I am presently reading for an upcoming assignment. In my reading I have recognized that sometimes OUTSIDE forces affect our actions. (i.e. a robber forces you to give him money that you would not choose to give otherwise). Also, a conflicting nature can affect you (i.e. the sin nature of man warring against the desires of the soul (See Romans 7:14ff). In absence of these circumstance, our actions give indication as to our underlying ideology. Furthermore, when we act contrary to our ideology and recognize those actions as rising from sin or external influences, we struggle against them to return to an action consistent with our ideology.

So, back to my initial statements and the application. Can you really say that you are thankful for and believe in the American ideal without participating in the election process? If you do not vote, do you truly hold that the “representative democracy” form of Government is greater than a monarchy?

A Christian who does not bear witness of Christ (an unimpeachable command) cannot truly argue that He holds to the doctrine of sin and the sovereignty of God…unless he will also admit that he is being swayed by a sin nature or outside influence that wars against his compliance with the Lord’s command. To say, “I do not have to witness” is a far different statement than, “I am commanded to share my faith but I am plagued by my sins of pride and self-interest or by fear of persecution.” The former statement indicates an errant ideology while the latter indicates an accurate ideology but a confliction within the person.

In either case, the thoughts of Emerson ring true, “What you do speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say.”

Today, examine what you do. Let it be the determiner of what you truly hold as an ideology. Ask, “Am I generous,”  and answer by looking at your checkbook to see where you spend your money. Ask, “Do I value prayer,” and answer by looking to see how often you actually pray. Ask, “Do I truly believe in compassion,” and answer by looking to see where you have acted compassionately toward your neighbor and those less fortunate. As you do, you’ll understand your true ideology.


A Sign of the Times

boy-scout-sunday-clip-art-639313I have been in a painfully arduous dialogue for 2 days over a recent change in Scouting to expand achievement requirements for Boy Scout to include one additional step in the early rank achievements. (You can read about the move HERE). Now let me state simply and plainly up front: Scouting has, by design, always required a Scout to have a faith position in god. This view was never mandated as to what god or which god or even which gods. You could be an animist, a Buddhist, a Protestant Christian, a Muslim, Jewish, Native American, Wiccan, or even agnostic (since even this view acknowledges a higher force/power/being…but finds it irrelevant).

Consequently, there is much to be said about this approach to religious beliefs. It is an approach that is consistent with our cultural view of religion and is very American. We, as a nation, actually protect a person’s right to believe in any god he wishes and to practice any religion he wishes. The State cannot affirm any official religion, nor can it deny any citizen the right to worship in any manner he wishes. Our nation has always seen worship as an inalienable right, conferred on a person by his Creator. (Weird right…the right to ignore the Creator was conferred by the Creator).

In Scouting, the value of personal devotion/worship had to be synthesized with our American value stated above. As such, a scout was required to fulfill a duty to God regardless of who the Scout believed God to be. (Now for my Christian militant friends…I know that this seems weird since you might argue that if it did not specifically teach one religion–ours, then it is of no value, or worse–was harmful. I view this differently. I believe it to be a privilege to be part of the conversation. I hsve well-known that I hold a minority position as a faithful “Baptist” but am glad for the opportunity to speak of what I believe to be the ONLY accurate position about God).

So what made the conversation so painful? Simply stated…it is abundantly clear that most people I dialogued with are either IGNORANT of matters of faith, AMBIVALENT to matters of faith…or they are HOSTILE to Christian Faith (the primary image that comes to mind here in the modern Western world). A very small minority in the conversation would hold to a doctrinally faithful view of Christianity as I do.

Painful though? YES! Living in the Southeastern part of the United States, the “Bible-belt” of old, we have a limited view of the nation as a whole. Most people in my city (though it is changing) are at least polite about religion. Most would identify themselves as believing in the Christian God…as long as they could define the term. Few would outright deny the Christian God…or worse, see Jesus as harmful to the world (as MOST people in the world do). LET THAT SETTLE…because I know that last statement stings. 

You can read the comments (which will make you crazy AND, I pray, make you weep as well). They give a picture of a cross-section of our nation and provide perspective on the post-Christian existence that we as a nation are accelerating toward.

All of this reminded me this morning of three biblical truths:

  • None of this Surprises God: 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
  • None of this Conquers God: John 16:33
  • None of this Changes the Mission. It only intensifies it and increases our obvious dependency on God: Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15. 

Stop putting your hand out!

US FlagLast night the Republican political party candidates met and entered into a debate. I missed most of it due to other obligations (though I typically try to set aside time to listen to the debates on both side of the political spectrum to hear “first hand” what the candidates have to say). This morning, I hit the “highlight reel” with two news organizations (again from opposite sides of the political spectrum). I listened to the 4 minute interviews with the candidates in the “post-mortem” of the night.

Perhaps what pushed me back in my chair the most, was not the prepared soundbites of the political candidates; rather, it is was the “impromptu” questions posed to the candidates by “real people” via social media.

I heard things like, “What will you do as President to help ME as the middle class?” This question took different forms but the substance was the same. Unfortunately, while the answers were nuanced, no one really said what I longed to hear.

I personally would love to hear a candidate say in a grandfatherly “Reaganesque” voice…”The role of government is such that it cannot help you. Government is not the answer to your problems. Government, in many cases, is the problem. The most helpful thing the government can do for you is to insure it does not hurt you as you do what a nation built on the ideals of freedom has promised you are possible and attainable. ”

The “attitude” that a potential candidate should have a plan to help the people is just a dressed up “liberal” concept. Yes…those on the “Right” of the political spectrum bemoan the attitudes of the “Left” that want more money for no more work. (Yes…you hear about a living wage, but you don’t hear employees crying out, “How can we make our McDonalds Restaurant more profitable?”) The attitude is reflected in asking for something to help YOU achieve what YOU want. While more palatable to the “Right” by the way the question was asked, it is still the same question.

Dear Mr. or Ms. Candidate of whichever Party:

Please say (as leaders must…even if they don’t get elected), “The best way for me to help you is to get out of your way. You have it within you as a human being and particularly as an American to do well…to achieve…to prosper…to contribute to Society. You do not need government to engineer your ‘salvation.’ You need government to stop trying to pick winners and losers and point the populace to care for one another and seek the greater good for all.”

Frankly, I know the depraved heart of man well enough that I don’t trust a politician to orchestrate what’s “best” for me. I desire a leader to help me see what’s best for me. I don’t need a “phone” or free internet. I don’t want you to hand me free food every month. I certainly don’t want your help “making it” as a middle-class American. You’re not! You have limited understanding of what it is to be me…a middle-class American. I simply want you to step back and scale back your good intentions and ask the question regarding the laws on the books and those that will cross your desk in the future, “Does this law/regulation/executive order fit within the Founding Father’s vision of limited Federal Government or not? Does it reach beyond the role intended for government? Does it inspire dependence or independence? Does it stifle productivity or encourage it?

Most importantly…I want the citizenry to recognize that we have the ability to succeed without the government’s help. We should not look to them to save us. We should see them, not as a facet of “business” to adjust to, but as an overarching regulatory body that insures we are operating according to agreed upon standards. For heaven’s sake…reduce the power of government by walking away from the “free stuff” and “help me” lines. When we stop putting out our hands and simply roll up our sleeves, we will begin to shrink the influence of the ominous power structure known as Government…and only then might we see it returned to its original design of “a Government OF the people, BY the people, and FOR the people.