Christian, Is What You Believe a Conviction or Merely Your Opinion? credit:

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”
Luke 6:46 (NASB)

The website recently reported the results of a 2014 Pew Religious Landscape study of where various religious denominations stood on the issues of same-sex marriage and the role of government.

As one might expect given the number of religious affiliations included in the study – 34 by my count – the responses were quite wide-ranging.

What initially piqued my interest in this report was a desire to better understand where specific denominations stood, particularly those which most people might identify as “Christian,” on the aforementioned issues and to what extent, if any, the results might reflect the biblical worldview of the individual respondents.

Our world today is such that surveys like this Pew study can no longer be viewed merely as pulse-checks or snapshots of what people feel or think at a given moment about a certain topic.

Increasingly, inquiries like these are proving to be windows that provide insight into people’s core beliefs and values; deeply held convictions which, for better or worse, end up influencing the broader culture around us.

For the Christian, belief is no small matter.

Faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross (1 John 2:2) is the cornerstone upon which we who believe in Him have placed our eternal destiny (Ephesians 2:8.)

But is belief where it all ends?

That is, should the faith we possess ultimately result in an application of God’s objective truth to every area of our life or, conversely, are we free to subjectively determine the degree to which His precepts are to guide us in navigating the complex issues confronting us in this present day?

To be sure, the questions I am posing have less to do with free will as a matter of doctrine, and more to do with the extent to which we who profess the name of Christ hold to the conviction that the Word of God is truly authoritative (Luke 6:46.)

In other words, for the Christian anyway, the degree to which the Word of God shapes and regulates (or should) our worldview is really a matter of Christ’s “lordship” over our life, and our willingness (or lack thereof) to submit our own personal opinions, feelings, and perspectives on the matters of this life through the authority of His divine jurisdiction.

“When the lordship of Jesus is a settled issue in the Christian’s life, all other issues are settled.[1]– Dr. Roger D. Willmore, Pastor at First Baptist Church, Boaz, Alabama

The lordship of Christ is as much a mindset by which all believers should live as it is a doctrine to which we should all subscribe. To that end, I would invite you to consider the words of Reformed theologian, Dr. R.C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries, who emphasizes that the lordship of Christ,

“…does not depend upon our submission to it or our recognition of it. It is God who has made Him the King of the Kings. It is God who has made Him the Lord of the Lords. And if I don’t submit to His Lordship or if I ignore His Lordship, I don’t thereby demolish His Lordship. It is a fait accompli that God has decreed. God has made Him Lord. And therefore, we are under obligation to submit to His authority.[2]

One of the most challenging aspects of living the Christian life is yielding our will to God.

What makes our obedience in this area so challenging is our sin (Galatians 5:16-25.)

We may not want to admit it but, if we were honest we would have to confess that all too often we want what we want, not what God wants for us.

In a world filled with uncertainty, it is our desire to be in control of the situations and circumstances of our life that causes us to struggle with trusting God with the outcome of choosing to submit our lives entirely to Him.

But, be encouraged.

You are not alone in that struggle.

Holding fast to the authority of the Word of God against the incessant temptations and allurements of an ungodly world is a battle we all face (1 Peter 5:9).

Willingly yielding ourselves to the will and plan of a sovereign God, despite how the world would have us believe and live (1 John 2:15-16), is what the apostle Peter is speaking of in his exhortation to us to “sanctify” (or “set apart”) Christ as Lord in our hearts (1 Peter 3:15).

These words of Peter should so penetrate our heart that there is no aspect of our life to which the lordship of Christ’s does not apply.

It is one thing to have a cognitive awareness that Christ is “Lord” simply on the basis that we know in our mind that the Bible says that about Him, but it is another thing altogether to be persuaded of His “lordship” in our heart, so that we live out that reality in a manner that exemplifies all that His authority as Lord of our life entails (1 Peter 4:2).

The Lordship of Christ is the essence of what it means to be a Christian.

We tend to get the ‘Savior’ part right about Jesus.

It’s that ‘Lord’ part we often struggle with.

Humbly in Christ,





James Brown: The Godfather of…Theology?
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I was raised in the “Black Power” era of the 1970s.

In many ways, the environment that composed the decade that was the ’70s was much like it is today.

It was a period of great social and political uncertainty, when the “Soul Music” of inner-city black ghettos was as much a clarion call for social justice as a means of setting just the right mood at block parties or cookouts in the park.

Among the many recording artists who would be considered the greatest within the Soul Music genre, is none other than the “Godfather of Soul”, the late James Brown.

During his prime, James Brown was regarded worldwide as “the hardest working man in show business”, having garnered such a reputation because of the large number of live concerts he gave and the tremendous energy he expended when on stage.

Brown’s concerts were so dynamic, in fact, that upon witnessing or, perhaps better, experiencing one of his live performances, the “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson, once commented,

“When I saw him move I was mesmerized. I’ve never seen a performer perform like James Brown; and right then and there I knew that that was what I wanted to do with my life.”

The physical demands Brown placed on himself, his band members and back-up dancers over the course of a 2-hour – if not longer – performance, would put today’s most intense workout regimen to shame. The calories he and his troupe must have burned off during a single concert would be enviable, no doubt.

Yet, as impressive an entertainer as James Brown was, it might surprise you to learn that he was also quite a theologian.

No, Brown never attended seminary.

He possessed neither an MDiv. or ThD. degree.

The truth is Brown never earned so much as a high school diploma, having completed only a sixth-grade education. Which is cool, though, because Jesus’ disciples weren’t formally educated either:

“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.”Acts 4:13

Notwithstanding Brown’s lack of educational acquirement, one thing he did possess was a degree of biblical sagacity that equaled, if not exceeded, what countless individuals seek to acquire by attending some of the world’s most esteemed institutions of higher theological learning.

Despite the success he achieved over the course of his esteemed career, James Brown seemed to never lose sight of what is of ultimate importance to us all: the condition of our soul.

He once acknowledged that,

“You struggle so hard to feed your family one way, you forget to feed them the other way – with spiritual nourishment – everybody needs that.”

What gives Brown’s words such theological force is that they embody the same ethos to which Christ exhorts us in John 6:27,

“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father God, has set His seal.”

There is much that we can treasure and appreciate about the world God has created for us (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25.) After all, it is God Himself who “gives us all good things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17.)

Nevertheless, this world is constantly seducing us with ways we can improve on our current station in life (whatever it might be); and though there is nothing inherently wrong with that, the reality is such pursuits can – and will – distract and disorient us from what is most important in this life, namely, the next one (1 John 2:15-17.)

The so-called Godfather of Soul was absolutely right in opining that everybody needs spiritual nourishment.

Brown comprehended what many people, including Christians, often do not – that from the very millisecond we are conceived in the womb, each of us embarks on a preordained journey that will culminate in seeing God face-to-face (Job 31:15; Psalm 139:13; Hebrews 9:27.)

And Brown isn’t the only one who grasped this concept.

Consider these sobering words from Apple founder, the late Steve Jobs,

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.”

The story is told of a wealthy businessman who passed away at an old age. At his funeral, the man’s accountant was asked, “How much money did he leave?”, to which the accountant replied, “All of it.”

This life is not all there is.

Unfortunately, however, the temptations and attractions of this world make it so that it is usually only at the funeral service of a relative or friend that we are reminded of this.

From the very beginning of our existence on this earth, the clock starts ticking. It is ticking for you even now as you read this.

The theology of James Brown is both simple and profound at the same time.

His words remind us that as necessary as food is for our physical survival, its benefits are limited only to this life; whereas spiritual nourishment profits us not only in this life but also in the life to come.

And you thought all James Brown could do was dance.

Humbly in Christ,


Living The Gospel Is Hardest When We Are Right credit:

Among the numerous movies in my personal collection of DVDs are several that are based on biblical themes. One of my favorites is the 1965 film The Greatest Story Ever Told starring Max von Sydow in the role of Jesus Christ.

There are several scenes in the film that I find especially moving, such as Christ raising Lazarus from the dead, His healing of a blind man, of a paralytic and, of course, Jesus’ glorious resurrection from the dead (to the angelic refrains of the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.)

More than these, however, is one particular scene that has managed to capture my attention like no other in the entirety of the nearly 3-hour long epic.

It is an exchange that occurs between Jesus and two of His disciples, James and Peter, as they (and the other disciples) are walking along the road on their way to the synagogue to worship when, immediately before arriving at their destination, they encounter a Roman tax collection station.

The conversation goes as follows:

James: “I wish we could go in another way.”
Peter: “Isn’t one gate the same as another?”
James: “In all the world, there is only one gate with my brother in it.”
Peter: “Is your brother a beggar?”
James: “I only wish he were something that good. My brother is a tax collector. God help me. A wicked man who collects taxes for the Romans from his own people. From his own people! Wait! There he is! Not one of our family speaks to him.”
Jesus: “Do you love him?”
James: “But he’s wicked, I tell you! He drinks and swears and gambles…and collects taxes.”
Jesus: “But, do you love him, James?”
James: “Yes.”

In surveying the landscape of our world, it seems as if everyone is angry about something.


College students are annoyed at having to pay back tens of thousands of dollars in student debt which they voluntarily took on in an effort to pursue their personal educational goals.

Voters are indignant at elected officials for failing to deliver on the promises upon which many of them freely chose to base their electoral decisions.

Employees are outraged because the companies they work for refuse to pay them a higher wage than the amount for which they willingly agreed to work (imagine that.)

I could go on, but, you get the point.

Anger is in vogue.

It’s the attitude du jour.

Like the latest designer-label fashion, luxury import sports car, or must-have video game, civil disobedience is all the rage. It’s the new swag. I must “rep” my personal angst to the entire world, regardless of whether I have anything to legitimately be angry about.

Now, this is not to say that there are never situations or circumstances that warrant public exhibitions of righteous indignation.

Not at all.

In a world so thoroughly besieged by sin, it should come as no surprise when we are insulted, defamed, slandered, disgraced, mocked, or otherwise aggrieved by others. We are all sinners by nature (Romans 3:23) and offending one another is just what we do.

It’s been that way since the days of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:6-10.)

So, yes, there are legitimate instances, too many in fact, in which civil disobedience is a valid response to offenses committed either against society as a whole or a particular group within that society (Romans 13:1-14).

Which begs the question: what actually constitutes an offense anyway?

The definition is so abstract that to try to not offend someone in some way is tantamount to walking on a sheet of rice paper without tearing it – it’s nearly impossible to do (unless you’re a ninja.)

At the root of this incessant back-and-forth is the absence of any objective standard of what is right and wrong. Instead of relying on established biblical principles for how we are to treat one another, we choose to employ our own subjective definitions of morality which continually change with the wind. Consequently, an “offense” is whatever someone says it is.

But, what about when I’m right and someone truly has offended (sinned against) me?

What if the person actually is a racist or a bigot? What if the friend I trusted indeed has stolen from me or my co-worker has lied about me or my spouse has betrayed me?

What then?

Well, that’s a tough question.

Not because of the question itself, mind you, but because of the answer to the question.

You see, it is all too easy when we have been wronged to want to respond in accordance with our sinful nature instead of reflecting the character of Christ, whose righteous nature we now possess by faith through His redemptive work on the cross (1 Corinthians 1:30.)

Like the apostle James toward his tax collector brother, our instinct is to focus on how others have mistreated us as opposed to how the Gospel requires us to respond when the proverbial shoe is on the other foot. It seems that the more egregious the offense, the more difficult it is for us to respond as our Lord would have us to (Luke 6:27-36.)

The challenge of living a Gospel-centered life is that it daily confronts us with the proposition of dying to ourselves, something we simply do not want to do.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”Philippians 2:3-4

No one was ever more wronged than Jesus (Mark 15:16-20).

If there was ever an individual who had a valid argument for retaliation and restitution, it was Christ. Nevertheless, He refused to exert His rights even though He was unarguably in the right.

“…and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to  Him who judges righteously…”1 Peter 2:23

When we look at Jesus – the truly biblical Jesus that is – we would have to admit that there are often times when we simply do not want to submit our own will to His. This is especially true when we understand that emulating the character of Christ may in fact deprive us of what we have convinced ourselves we “deserve.”

This is why living the Gospel is so much harder when we are right than when we are wrong, because the cost to us is so much greater.

To show love, mercy, and grace toward someone who is undeserving is to place myself in the position of trusting that the God in whom I profess to believe is completely aware of what I am going through, which means I must wait on God, which means I may not necessarily see God doing anything to help my cause, which means I must take my situation into my own hands, because God forbid that the person who offended me go unpunished for what they did to me (as if I myself were sinless (John 8:7.)

“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”Philippians 1:29

Though it was only a depiction in a film, consider if you will in the exchange between Jesus and James, that Jesus never rebuked James for stating the truth about Matthew. James was on point – his brother was all those things he said – and probably even worse.

You may be absolutely right that someone is a racist or a liar or a thief or a bigot.

Okay, fine, but that’s not the point.

The point is the Gospel.

The point is always the Gospel.

Even when we are justified in our protestations, we are not absolved of the biblical obligation to lovingly exemplify the character of Jesus toward those who might offend us – regardless the degree or nature of the offense – remembering always that the love of Christ covers a multitude of sins.

Including yours.

Humbly in Christ,


Racism, Inc. or Why Some Who Call For An End To Racism Don’t Really Want That

Vivian Leigh and Hattie McDaniel in ‘Gone With The Wind’
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It seems the incessant noise about race relations in America is becoming more deafening with each passing day.

The topic has become so ubiquitous it’s as if the very word ‘racism’ is the last one you hear before going to bed each night, and the first one you wake up to in the morning.

Imagine, if you will…

[Queue transition music]

“Ahhh, good morning, sweetheart! You’re looking lovely today! How’s the weather?”

“Hmm…it’s looking a bit racist out there today, dear. You might wanna take an umbrella.”

You may not have noticed but everything is racist now.


As far as I’m concerned, this whole obsession with racism is rooted in people not wanting to get their feelings hurt.

Think about it.

To even be told “no” is now perceived as a gross violation of one’s self-defined and self-proclaimed “rights.”

Violate my rights, as I define them of course, and you automatically get the raised clenched fist (the universal sign of resistance), followed by a coordinated social media blitz complete with a custom hashtag calling for a boycott of your place of employment, with the ultimate goal of costing you your job and livelihood so that you and your privileged family experience the pain of “my” 400-plus years of struggle (even though I may be only 24 years old.)

Just look around and it becomes evident fairly quickly that if you just make enough noise, disrupt enough traffic, break enough windows, or set enough police cars ablaze – and do those things for a long enough period of time – you will inevitably get what you want (if not more.)

Our culture is such that to be denied or refused anything at all is tantamount to being involved in “The Struggle”.

In case you’re unfamiliar, The Struggle is a term commonly used to refer to the every day socio-economic challenges of black Americans, particularly as it concerns “inequities” that exist relative to housing, employment, and educational opportunities as compared to whites (because, as we all know, every white person in America owns their own home, earns a six-figure income, and sends their children to private school.)

But, I digress…

I think Booker T. Washington was onto something in declaring that,

“There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs – partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs. My Larger Education, p. 118

Washington’s words point to an unfortunate reality which people today refuse to acknowledge: that there are those whose seemingly genuine protestations about racism are only a means to making a living under the pretense of making change.

For some, racism is as much an opportunity to be taken advantage of as a mentality to be altered. This can be a difficult thing to accept because in today’s politically correct society, speaking out against racism is considered a most virtuous endeavor.

And who doesn’t want to see racism end?

I do.

But, here’s the thing, I also want to see abortion end.

And murder.

And rape.

And….well, you get the point.

What we fail to understand is that the Gospel is far more confrontational than even the most massive protest or demonstration, because it challenges us to respond in a manner that is totally contrary to our nature.

There is an allure to racism that entices us in ways that feed our ego and endows us with a false sense of our own significance (Genesis 3:5). This is because we tend to view racism as an external problem needing a man-centered solution as opposed to a spiritual condition requiring a God-sent Savior.

We treat racism as if we were eating caviar in that we deal with it by breaking out the “good” plates and utensils.

So, we have our race summits and our ecumenical roundtables and our nationally televised “conversations” about race, where the same old talking heads regurgitate the same old solutions, convinced that the remedy to racism is found in ourselves and our pithy social media hashtags and monikers.

Why we apply this special approach to racism, as if it were unique from all other human transgressions, I do not know. One would think that the aforementioned offenses are equally detrimental to our society as to warrant their own distinct “conversations”, right?

Then again, maybe not.

I’m convinced that the reason we choose to not talk about racism in theological terms, that is, as it being a matter of our own personal sin, is because incorporating the Gospel into the discussion isn’t as exciting or self-exalting as leading a protest march or being recognized by MSNBC as the leader of a new social justice “movement.”

What we fail to understand, however, is that the Gospel is far more confrontational than the most massive protests or demonstrations could ever be, because it challenges us to respond in a manner that is totally contrary to our nature.

What could possibly be more confrontational than to be presented with the truth about who we truly are?

The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. – Soren Kierkegaard

You see, anyone can throw a brick through a window, set a car on fire, or start a petition calling for someone to be fired, but not everyone is capable of living out the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44: “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

Protest Tweet.jpg

We don’t want racism to end.

We say that we do, but we don’t.

Not really.


Because exemplifying the nature of Christ isn’t quite as rewarding as exemplifying who we really are (John 8:44).

Besides, why rely on the Gospel to change a person’s heart when I can do it by force?

Oh, wait…

Humbly in Christ,



Why the Race Conversation is So HardJonathan Leeman (9 Marks)
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Poll Confirms What Many Already Know: Black Americans Support Charter Schools (But The News Isn’t All Good) at Harlem Success Academy, a free, public elementary charter school in New York.
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An article published recently by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) reported the results of a poll conducted by the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) confirming what many of us already know: that the majority of black Americans support the concept of charter schools when it comes to educating their children.

You did know that, didn’t you?

Of course, you did.

It is my hope that the results of this BAEO poll will help contradict a long-standing yet false narrative that, collectively, black Americans are sold out to the idea that public schools are the best educational option for their children. Nevertheless, it should also be stated that this narrative is not altogether without merit, especially considering that black voters overwhelmingly support the Democrat Party despite its long history of opposition to non-public school educational alternatives.

If pressed on the matter, I believe most black political leaders today would concur that black Americans are no different from anyone else in that they, too, vote “their interests.” Ah, but therein lies the rub because when it comes to blacks and the social, fiscal, and political issues that concern them, the question must first be asked: what does “their interests” actually mean?

In other words, contextually speaking, is the term “their interests” singular or plural?

The truth is, it’s both.


Because, to a very great extent, though perhaps not universally, when it comes to the political priorities of black Americans it’s not simply a matter of considering what concerns them as individuals, but collectively, that is, how one’s electoral decisions will impact not only themselves but the broader “black community” in general.

I know of no other racial or ethnic demographic that applies this type of duality to themselves while also expecting others to do the same. So prevalent is this mindset that blacks like myself, who happen to not subscribe to this collectivist approach, are often maligned and ostracized by those who do embrace it.

It may surprise you to learn that the vast majority of black Americans actually favor not only school choice, but lower taxes, fair and equitable welfare reform, and are pro-life (with the exception, perhaps, of rape and incest), all of which are positions that are in stark contrast to the platform of the Democrat Party, which has enjoyed the unwavering loyalty of black voters for more than half a century now.

The reason this is germane to a discussion about blacks’ support of charter schools is because it has long been assumed that charter schools and, conversely, school choice, is a topic about which black people couldn’t care less, partly because of the stereotype propagated in large part by the mainstream media that matters of social justice and economic inequality invariably take precedence over such issues as education reform.

“One striking example of Democrat opposition at the national level to school vouchers was seen in 2009 in Washington, D.C. This city voted 92.9% for President Obama in the 2008 election, and it is historically a Democrat Party stronghold. It also has unusually high poverty levels of 23 percent. Yet the city established a very successful voucher program in a desperate attempt to improve the city’s failing [public] schools. However, the US Congress has governing authority over the District of Columbia, and when the new Democrat majority in both the House and Senate took office in January 2009, they cut off future funding for this voucher program. The Senate vote was 58-39 to kill the voucher program in the Omnibus Appropriations Act. Only two Democrats voted to keep the funding, while 36 Republicans and 1 Independent voted to keep the voucher program alive.” – Wayne Grudem, Politics According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture, pp. 252-253

But, consider if you will that, as individuals, blacks make choices every day about where they want to work, where they want to live, what kind of car they want to drive, where they want to go on vacation, at what restaurant they will eat, and so on, solely on the basis of what is best for them and their family, not the collective.

So, my question is: why doesn’t this same level of autonomy apply when it comes to blacks and politics? If the collective doesn’t factor into my deciding what car I drive, why should it influence how I vote?

Asians don’t alienate their own. Nor do Hispanics or Latinos or Caucasians or Middle-Easterners. These can all vote for whomever and however they choose with no expectation whatsoever of repercussion or reprisal, but black voters had better toe the line or be labeled an “Uncle Tom” or “sellout” simply for expressing themselves in a way that goes against the ideological agenda of the collective.

That more than 90 percent of black voters remain loyal to a political ideology that is completely antithetical to the position most of them espouse on the issue of charter schools is puzzling, to say the least. But, as long as individual black voters continue to take a collectivist worldview into the voting booth, the aforementioned perceptions, inaccurate though they may be, will remain unchanged.

Not that changing people’s perceptions is the goal, mind you, because people are going to think what they want to think. Nevertheless, there is something to be said for the fact that, incredibly, more than nine out of every 10 black Americans consistently support a political agenda that is clearly not in their best interest as it relates to the issue of school choice.

So, why the disconnect?

Why do the aforementioned beliefs, which many would consider to be exclusive to white conservative voters, not transfer into the voting booth for blacks on Election Day?

Are black voters not equally as entitled as anyone else to selfishly express their individual priorities as opposed to feeling obligated to consider the implications of their decisions to the collective?

This commentary isn’t so much about Democrats versus Republicans as about why any group or individual would willingly continue to enable an ideology that is clearly contradictory to its own best interests.

Seriously, why would anyone do that?

Perhaps we need to be reminded that the black community is made up of black individuals, each with a God-given mind of their own and who is empowered to be as selfish as they choose regarding their personal electoral decisions, despite what the collective might think.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.

I disagree.

Each of my two children has a name – and it’s not “Village.”

Humbly in Christ,



The Person You Intend To Vote For In 2016 Did Not Die For You (Remember That)!/image/3149712243.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_640/3149712243.jpgImage credit:

All politicians are sinners.

[Insert “Thank you, Captain Obvious!” retort here.]

We know this, of course, because we are all fallen human beings and, by nature, all fallen human beings are sinners (Romans 3:23).

Nevertheless, there is a sense, I believe, in which we are hesitant, generally speaking, to apply the principle that we are all sinners as it relates to our political alliances, having allowed ourselves to be caught up in the euphoric expectations we tend to place in the men and women who profess to carry the same ideological banner as we, whether that banner be social, moral, fiscal or religious.

In its simplest terms, politics is essentially an endless search for the individuals we believe will bring us as close as possible to bringing to fruition our own personal definition of “heaven on earth”, whether it be in the form of lower taxes, fewer government regulations, same-sex marriage, a ban on abortion, universal healthcare, student debt forgiveness, you name it.

The dynamics of this nirvanic worldview are as subjective as they are infinite.

What we fail to realize, however, is that in possessing this temporal mindset, we are merely demonstrating that what we really want is for politicians to save us; to somehow “make this world a better place, if you can” (to paraphrase an old Diana Ross joint from back in the day.)

We may not want to admit it, but, this salvation-by-politics is something we all long for.

Yes, even Christians.

With righteous indignation as our primary rationale, we look with great anticipation to those we elect exhibiting a level of behavior which we acknowledge, cognitively, is beyond their ability to achieve, while still hoping that they will somehow come close enough to reaching that standard that God will honor their best human efforts and, in His grace, use them to bring about the righteous world we desire.

In contemplating this, I am reminded of the nation of Israel in 1 Samuel 8, and how God’s chosen people learned a very difficult lesson that bodes well for us, as contemporary believers, to heed: that to place our faith in anyone or anything other than God alone is to invite disappointment and disaster, not only personally but nationally as well.

“Sorry, God, but, we’re just not that into You (anymore)”

The prophet Samuel “judged Israel all the days of his life” (1 Samuel 7:15), but his sons, Joel and Abijah, despite the fact that their names, respectively, mean “the Lord is God” and “my Father is the Lord”, were as perverted as they could be.

One would think that appointing the children of a bona fide prophet of God as judges of God’s people would be a good thing, but such was not the case for Israel.

We could equate the deviance of the sons of the prophet Samuel with the way many people today assume that the children of pastors should automatically grow up to be obedient followers of Jesus Christ solely on the basis that they are the children of pastors, only to later learn, to their shock and dismay, that often they do not.

Joel and Abijah are sobering reminders that being “raised in the church” doesn’t necessarily equate to a transformed heart. In fact, these sons of a prophet were so corrupt in exercising their judicial responsibilities that the people petitioned Samuel to remove them from office and appoint a king to rule over them.

But, as they saying goes, elections, or, in this case, appointments, have consequences; and Israel would learn the hard way that replacing two sinful men with one sinful man, Saul, would leave them no better off, and perhaps even worse, than they were under Joel and Abijah.

Saviors are not elected

In asking for themselves a king, Israel declared in no uncertain terms that it would rather be guided by man than by God.

What Israel thought a king could do for them that God could not is beyond my comprehension, but such thinking is not unlike how many Christians today believe that electing the “right” person to the right position will somehow save us from all that is wrong with our world today.

But, you see, saviors are not elected.

They are not elected because politics is not salvific.

The reason politics is not salvific is because it cannot be.

Nothing that involves sin or, conversely, sinners, has the capacity to be redemptive in and of itself, which is why every four years we find ourselves seeking new saviors to rescue us from the national and global predicaments in which we find ourselves.

Nevertheless, we continue to look to the political process as a means of generating for us what it inherently cannot.

If true righteousness is to exist within a nation, then, by definition, it must be brought about through means that are infinitely higher than the worldly resources which we, in our innately sinful state, have at our disposal.

Be careful what you ask (God) for

Until now, it was God alone who Israel had depended upon, and yet, despite His warning about the ramifications of their decision (1 Samuel 8:9-18), the people remained unmoved in their defiance.

Israel asked for a king and God gave them exactly what they asked for – and all that goes along with it.

God will do that, you know?

When we, in our pride and arrogance, either individually or corporately as a nation, determine that we somehow know better than God what is best for us, He will gladly move aside, letting us have our way and leaving us to the consequences of our decisions, especially when that decision is to seek salvation in anyone other than Him, whether it be spiritual or political.

Now, none of what I’ve said to this point is meant to imply that believers in Christ should abstain from political involvement.

Quite the contrary, in fact.

Government is God’s idea (Romans 13:1-7).

This truth should be impetus enough for God’s people to be engaged in and concerned with the American political process, and how those who are elected to political office not only govern us but themselves as well.

Nevertheless, we must remember that politics is not salvific.

Candidates cannot redeem us from the ills of this sinful world.

Regardless how shiny the résumé of the men and women we choose to support politically, there is only One whose body of work is truly spotless – Jesus Christ – and the salvation this world truly thirsts for – and needs – is found only in Him.

“Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.”
Psalm 146:3

Soli Deo Gloria!


“I’ll (Only) Pray For You”: On Christian Hypocrisy and the Poor

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.
James 2:15-17 (NASB)

We are approaching that time of year when the poor and needy are on the mind of almost everyone who is not poor or needy.

For many of us, it is our annual opportunity to feel good about ourselves through our perfunctory gestures of altruism toward those who are “less fortunate” (as we are prone to coldly label them as if they have no names.)

As the weather turns and the temperatures cool, I often wonder if there is any other time of year when Christians say “I’ll pray for you” more often than the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, but when nothing is actually done by us to meet the practical needs of those for whom we have committed, with our mouths anyway, to pray.

It is as if our theology of God is such that we believe in a spiritual sense that He would have us help the poor, but that somehow the actual meeting of the need, the practical aspect, is up to Him to bring about completely apart from any direct involvement from us.

So, we (only) pray…

…and we (only) pray…

…and we (only) pray some more…not genuinely, if we were honest, wanting to part with the material possessions God has provided for us, while making Pharisaical pretense to want Him to do for those who are “less fortunate” than us what He has graciously done for us.

I don’t mean to sound cynical or negative, but the reality is that for many of us the faith we profess to have is merely an ivory tower faith that is based in our own materialism, comfort and ease. We offer prayers with our mouth for those who are in need, but in our heart we couldn’t care less about them because meeting those needs might actually require us to have to do without.

How ironic that we hesitate to meet the needs of those less fortunate than us because doing so might end up making us less fortunate than we are now.

I grew up in the 1970s and, by today’s standards, I was materially poor.

There were many times during my childhood, too many to count in fact, when either the electricity, gas, or both, were turned off because my parents could not afford to keep them on and at the same time pay the rent each month.

My mother worked for years as a cook in the cafeteria of the public school I attended, and had it not been for her being allowed to bring home some of the government-provided, white-labeled food the students received during lunch period, I and my two siblings would not have had anything to eat on many nights.

I mention this not out of a need for pity or compassion because of the circumstances of my upbringing, but because all too often, Christians have a propensity to think of the poor and needy as people who live over in “deepest, darkest Africa” or in someplace devastated by earthquakes like Haiti, as opposed to the person sitting right next to us in church or who lives next door to us in our tony suburban gated communities.

“If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.”
– Stephen Colbert

We often think of the above text in James 2 solely in terms of the soteriological relationship between faith and works, and the extent to which each of those components plays a role in God’s plan of salvation through the propitiatory work of Jesus Christ on the cross.

Notwithstanding the theological implications of the text in James 2, the dynamics of which I do not wish to delve into with this blog post, what is of greater concern to me is that we spend so much time engaging in theological debate that we completely ignore the practical work God has called us to in  “daily food” (James 2:15) to those whom He has sovereignly ordained to cross our path in this life.

This brings up an issue I have with Reformed believers, of which I am one, in that many (not all) come across as being so focused on the academics of doctrine that meeting the needs of the poor, if they even know anyone who is poor, seems like a foreign concept to them.

I don’t say that to be judgmental or to make anyone feel guilty, nevertheless, as much as I appreciate the significance of getting the Bible right, to be fluent on systematic theology or the Doctrines of Grace doesn’t put food on people’s table, clothes on their backs or keep their utilities turned on.

The question posed by the apostle James is not a seasonal one. It is not an inquiry that should garner our attention only when it is financially advantageous or as a means to stroke our ego in an effort to enhance our personal reputation among those we might be trying to impress by our misguided benevolence.

As Christians, we can all pray until we’re blue in the face, but if we’re not willing to augment our words with actions motivated by the sacrificial example of Jesus Christ, as the apostle James said rhetorically, “what use is that?”

We who profess the name of Jesus should help meet the needs of the “less fortunate” because it’s right, not because we’re ready.

Humbly in Christ,


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