King Saul meet President Trump

I’ve been mulling this over for some time now.  I was reading about King Saul in 1 Samuel and found several points of comparison between Israel’s first king and America’s 45th president.

1). King Saul was head and shoulders above everyone else:  1 Samuel 9:2 reads, “And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man.  There was not a man among Israel more handsome than he.  From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.”  Before you think I’ve gone crazy or I need my eyes checked, I know President Trump is not known for his stunning good looks.  He has, however, distinguished himself among Americans.  He is the most celebrated billionaire in the world and even before he became president, almost everyone recognized Donald Trump.  King Saul, likewise was distinguished among all the Israelites.  He may not have hosted his own game show, but the text reads as though Saul was already a popular Israelite.

2). The Israelites demanded a king instead of trusting God:  Ww read in 1 Samuel 8:4, “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, ‘Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways.  Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.’ “. The Israelites were to be a people set apart for the glory of God.  We may not be Israelites, but we are children of God, set apart for His glory.  We are not to desire what the world desires.  Did we, in our desire to have a conservative Christian president, desire what the world desires?  Did we desire a conservative Christian president to rule over us over and above God’s rule?

3). The Israelites desire for a king was an outright rejection of God’s authority: God is clear in 1 Samuel 8:7 when He tells Samuel, “For they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.”  Have our fears concerning the direction of our country caused us to settle for President Trump’s authority over God’s?

4). King Saul did not follow God:  He may have had his moments, but King Saul’s life and reign do not demonstrate a commitment to Yahweh, and despite assurances from some popular religious leaders, President Trump’s commitments seem to mirror those of King Saul.  When the chips were down, King Saul consistently showed a commitment to himself as his first priority.  I have no doubt that President Trump will show America that he is committed to himself above everything else.  He will have his moments, but when history has been written, Americans will see that President Trump does what is good for  President Trump  before what’s good for America.  I hope I’m wrong in this, but the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, most of which, in President Trump’s case, the Christian community has blithely chosen to ignore.  

5). King Saul divided the country:  King Saul’s actions toward David caused some to support David and some to support Saul.  President Trump has sown division in our country, not to mention the division he has caused within his own party.  His candidacy and subsequent election have even caused a rift among Southern Baptists.  

6). King Saul’s actions became increasingly bizarre:  Time can only tell if President Trump emulates King Saul in this characteristic.  I hope he does not because, unlike the Israelites, Americans are not God’s chosen people whom He consistently protected throughout the ages.

Do I pray for the best for our president and his administration?  Yes, I pray he will follow God.  Did God provide a king after His own heart after king Saul?  Yes He did.  Will He provide the same type of leader for America after President Trump?  We can always spend the next four years praying for such an outcome.

What do you guys think of this comparison?  Am I totally off base?  Am I being too hard on President Trump?

Is God Obligated?

I’m preaching through Esther and I’ve arrived at chapter six.  Chapter six is the turning point in the story.  Haman’s downfall begins in chapter six and ends in chapter 7.  That summary was for those who may need a memory refresher.

During my sermon preparation, an interesting question arose.  The final result is that God rescues His people from certain destruction, but the question I asked myself is, is God obligated to deliver His people?  The answer may seem simple.  I think most of us would answer, “of course God is not obligated to do anything.”  That may be the right answer, but I’d like to explore the question for a few paragraphs.  

First, God made a covenant with Abraham, thus beginning the Jewish nation.  The covenant was that God would make Abraham into a great and mighty nation.  That sounds like someone who has obligated Himself doesn’t it?

God repeats the same covenant with the next two generations, promising Isaac and Jacob to masked their ancestors as numerous as the sand on the seashore.  Did God obligate Himself with these promises?

Remember the scene in Exodus where God is about to wipe the Israelites off the face of the earth?  Moses intercedes on their behalf and appeals to God’s reputation and what would happen to said reputation if He wiped out His own people.  Is Moses reminding God that He has obligated Himself to protect His people?  

Just in case you’re wondering, I do not believe God has obligated Himself to do anything, but it is an interesting question to consider, and here are a few facts I know about God that relate to this question.

First, God always leaves a remnant of His people.  Throughout history, even I. The most horrific circumstances, God has always preserved a remnant.  

Second, God has always protected His people.  Those who have tried to mess with Israel throughout the ages have paid a heavy price.  Haman’s friends and wife realize that Haman will pay a heavy price if he continues to battle Mordecai.  

Finally, God’s character is love.  God is love, and I have concluded that God does not obligate Himself to save His people, but His past history says that He will deliver them.  

February 21 – I’ve Seen, I Know, I Care.

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I ran across this one this morning and it’s author is somehow involved in the Syrian refugee crisis. It’s a good read and a good reminder.

THE RIVER WALK

Ive seen I Know I care

She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. (Mark 5:27)

Read: Leviticus 11:1-12:8, Mark 5:21-43, Psalm 38:1-22, Proverbs 10:8-9

Relate: The single mother is a fairly common sight here as well as in America and the West but for very different reasons. Here it is sometimes because the husbands and fathers have gone off to fight and die for one side or another of the mess that is the multisided Syrian civil war. More often the father has sent his family off to safety while he remained behind to work and support them, or he has gone on ahead into Germany, the UK, or somewhere else to save up and begin to prepare while the rest of the family looks to join up through more legal means. That illegal, but often necessary immigration is safer and easier for one man to…

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This Is Not About Immigration, I Promise

American history is populated with stories of immigrants who came to America seeking a better life. The immigrants were oppressed in their home country and had no where to turn but America, and America has always offered the dream and hope of a better future. There is a common element to most of their stories. They’ve either heard about the opportunities available in America or they’ve seen pictures of our country. There is nothing inherent in the spirit of an individual which makes them long for America from the moment they are born. When we are born, there is nothing in our spirits which makes us long for Christ. The experience and testimony of other believers makes the lost world long for Christ.

In Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17 verse 20 Jesus prays “for those who believe in me through their message” and in verse 21 He prays, “May they also be one in us so the world may believe You sent me,” and in verse 23 He prays, “so the world may know You have sent Me.”

In the first instance He prays for the believers who will come to know Him through the testimony of the apostles. The other two intercessions are for believers who will believe in Him through the Oneness of other believers. We are to be one in the body of Christ, and through that example, others will come to now Christ.

The lost world is desperately searching for Christ. They may not know they are searching for Christ, but the lost world is akin to the penniless beggar in a third world country who has had enough of the poor house and spends every last cent he has to finance a trip to America in hopes of a better life and a better future. There are three truths in Jesus’ prayer for all future believers.

First, when the lost become desperate and turn to God, they are guaranteed a better life. The immigrant who comes to America is not guaranteed a better life or a brighter future. Many immigrants die in their attempts to reach our country, but John writes in verse 23, “I have given them the glory You have given Me.” We are given the glory of Christ when we turn to Him. It is a gamble to immigrate to America, but there is no gamble when turning to Christ. We are guaranteed to find what we need.

Second, the natural man cannot come to Christ through doctrine alone. In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul writes, “But the natural man does not welcome what comes from God’s Spirit because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to know it since it is evaluated spiritually.” Our experience with the gospel is how the lost world will see Christ. The Holy Spirit does the convicting and the drawing, but the lost world sees Christ through our experience. That’s what Jesus is praying for in John 17, that believers through all generations will experience the gospel together and the world will see that experience and come to Christ. The world does not see Christ in our doctrine, as well formulated as that might be. The world does not see Christ through our preaching, hard as it is for me to admit that, or our Sunday school lessons, and the world does not even see Christ through our Sunday morning services. The world sees Christ through our Monday morning interactions with each other, and that’s what Jesus was praying for here, that we may be One in the body of Christ so the world will know that God sent Him, so the world will know Christ.

Finally, we are assured that some will come to know Christ through our example. Jesus would not have prayed for all believers who will come to know Him if He didn’t know that there would always be some who will come to know Him. It is encouraging to know that some will come to know Christ through our example. It’s motivating to know that we are the means by which the gospel, the life saving message of Jesus Christ is propagated.

We should always keep watch on our Monday through Saturday experience, whether as a church leader or a layperson. The example we set, the experience with the gospel we have Monday through Saturday will have a greater impact than any sermon we ever preach or any worship service, or Sunday school class we will ever lead. What does your experience with the gospel look like? Do others see that experience? Do you put yourself in situations where the lost world can witness that experience and turn to Christ?

These are all questions we should constantly ask ourselves. After all, our Savior prayed for us to be in the world so the world might know Him through us.

A Message to Russell Moore Opponents From a Millenial Pastor

To Whom this may concern:

The events surrounding Dr. Russell Moore, the election of President Trump, and the signing of an amicus brief in support of building a mosque have highlighted a divide in our convention.  The divide seems to be along generational lines, though there is never complete agreement among all members of any one generation.  This division has been caused by a presidential election.  One generation does not understand why the other generation, and one of their own, did not bow at the altar of the Republican candidate, no matter how morally bankrupt he is.  I am a millenial pastor and this message is for the older generation of pastors.  I do not portend to speak for all millenials, just for myself.  Respectfully, I would like to request the following from our leaders:

1). I request that when you preach about morality and following Christ that you not seek to fire those who have stood for what you preach.  This is disingenuous at best and blatant hypocrisy at worst.

2). I request that you not expect us to bow before the altar of the moral majority or the Republican Party.  This will not go well for you in the millenial generation.

3). I request that you please do not use money for leverage.  We, and many in your own generation see right through the cleverly concocted PR statements.  

Now that I have requested a few actions on your part, here’s what I will do.  Again, I do not speak for my entire generation, only myself.

1). I will always put Christ and church over politics.  We may have a Democrat in the White House.  We may have a conservative Republican in the White House.  We will always have Christ as the authority over them all.  If you continue to urge us to be Republicans first, you will lose your influence with our generation.

2). I will continue to have high expectations for all our leaders.  The current flap over Dr. Moore is not the type of leadership Southern Baptists have typically enjoyed.  The Southern Baptist Convention has typically had leaders who were dignified elder statesmen.  I will expect that from our current crop of leaders.  Our convention needs those type of leaders, and when my generation takes the leadership mantle I will expect the same type of leadership.

3). I will continue to desire your leadership and influence in our convention.  This disagreement does not have to end our relationship.  I have great respect for you and I know we need your wisdom.  I will continue to desire your leadership.

This divide does not have to be permanent, and it is not between all members of our respective generations.  The biggest risk I see on your side is the risk of losing your influence over an entire generation of young pastors.  I don’t think this vendetta is worth the risk.  

I wonder if there are more millenials who feel this way.  

Prestonwood, Russell Moore and my opinion

I wish to remain respectful in this post, but my anger has been turned up a notch or two after reading about Prestonwood Baptist Church’s decision to withhold cooperative program funds from our convention because, in my opinion, Dr. Russell Moore did not enthusiastically support Donald Trump for President.  The article can be found here:  Prestonwood Article

The PR professionals at Prestonwood can create dozens of professional statements, but the core of this decision seems to be vengeance for ill advised comments about Trump voters.  Yes, Dr. Moore did make regrettable comments about those voters and has since apologized for said comments.  That apology can be read here:  Dr. Moore’s Apology. This apology should have been sufficient.  We are a body of believers who preach grace and forgiveness, but when it comes time to practicing what we preach in public, we often fail.  

Dr. Graham says they are not trying to start a movement to get someone fired.  Dr. Moore will probably not be fired.  It takes quite a bit of maneuvering to get an entity head fired, but one million dollars certainly could affect the salary or salaries of people who had nothing to do with this dispute.  I’m sure Prestonwood’s leadership has thought through that possible side effect.  

There are two facts we can be sure of even in the midst of a disgraceful display by one of our flagship churches.

First, God does not need Prestonwood Baptist Church or its one million dollars to continue to work through the Southern Baptist Convention.  God does not need one particular church or one particular Christian to accomplish His will.  He will continue working in the lives of His people and in the midst of His congregations.  We would all do well to remember that, whether we pastor a church of 41,000 members or a church of 25 members.  

Second, my dad always told me that most church conflicts, at their root, are about money.  This convention conflict is no different.  Does anyone think there would be a news story if Prestonwood were withholding 100 dollars? Or 1000 dollars? Does anyone think Prestonwood would be withholding money if they only had a few thousand dollars?  Their money is their leverage.

This conflict is unnecessary and a bad witness to the lost world around us. There will be consequences, but as in most conflicts, the ones who have to suffer those consequences will be the ones who had the least to do with the conflict.  I wonder if the side effects are worth the results Prestonwood Baptist hopes to achieve through their actions.

My thoughts are my thoughts, but I’m certainly open to some discussion.  If you have thoughts, please comment below.  Also, a more detailed opinion can be found here SBC Voices Post

To Vote or Not to Vote?

I don’t normally post other authors’ writing here, but this one particularly caught my attention over at SBC Voices.  I first read this post and thought, “oh here’s another guy trying to tell us why he was lazy, didn’t vote, but still gets to complain.  The piece is not about being lazy.  The post is about a choice.  Should he vote and risk alienating those with whom he wants to share Christ, or should he not vote and avoid that risk.  It’s a great read and you can find it here: Uncivically Engaged

For my part, I think Mr. Moore made the right decision.