The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Month: March 2016 (page 2 of 2)

The Christian’s Friend in the White House

O PreacherAt a Donald Trump rally recently, Dallas First Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffries said that if Trump is elected president, “Evangelical Christians are going to have a true friend in the White House . . . Any Christian who would sit at home and not vote for the Republican nominee (here meaning Trump) . . . that person is being motivated by pride and not principle.”  (Read the whole article here . . .

Those remarks came after Mr. Trump called Pastor Jeffries from the crowd to join him on stage.

First Baptist Church's Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress speaks on behalf of Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump (left) during a rally at the Fort Worth Convention Center in downtown Fort Worth, Friday, February 26, 2016. Trump is campaigning in Texas ahead of the Super Tuesday elections next week. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News)

In today’s “Morning Jolt” from “National Review”, Jim Geraghty refers to this, and evangelical Christians’ support of Trump in general, as an odd phenomenon, because Trump is a “previously pro-choice, thrice-married casino and strip-club owner who bragged of his affairs with married women, kissed Rudy Giuliani dressed in drag, defends Planned Parenthood, and says he’s never asked for God’s forgiveness.”  On top of that, Trump professes to be a Christian, a Presbyterian.

I was aghast when (Christian) Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr. endorsed Trump a few weeks ago.  Now I’m doubly aghast.  Do these Christian leaders think character counts for nothing?  Obviously with them, ranting anger–not to mention vulgarity and a Mussolini-approach to policy and an unrepentant spirit–matter little.  Shame on them.  I’m glad I’m not Baptist or a graduate of Liberty.

Of course, Falwell  and Jeffries are free to endorse whomever they want.  But they also have a responsibility, especially as Christian leaders, to measure how a candidate measures up to Scripture.

David French, staff writer at “National Review”, writes:  “I have spent my entire adult life advocating against abortion and working to protect the unborn.  I didn’t endure the taunts and jeers of my law school classmates, work countless days and nights away from home to protect the free-speech rights of pro-life protesters, and defend the freedoms of the unsung heroes in crisis-pregnancy centers only to vote for a man who’s a walking Planned Parenthood commercial.”

What troubles me at least as much as his approval of Planned Parenthood and his seemingly “seat of the pants” policy pronouncements and self-contradictions is the implication that he will get “the other guy” to do what he wants.  He’ll make us “winners” by making others losers.  Even the military will have to obey, no matter that the order is unlawful.  (I think he walked that one back.)  It sounds like he’s running for king, not president.

How can Christian leaders endorse him?  Don’t they remember what Jesus taught about the rulers of the Gentiles when the disciples argued over being the greatest in the kingdom?  (I’ll quote it from both the New International Version and the New Living Translation.)

Jesus called them together and said,
“You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them,
and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you.
Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,
and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45, NIV)

So Jesus called them together and said,
“You know that in this world kings are tyrants,
and officials lord it over the people beneath them.

But among you it should be quite different.
Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 

and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. 
For even I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served
but to serve others,

and to give my life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45, NLT)

It seems to me Mr. Trump fits dangerously close to the Gentile leadership model Jesus condemns.  And he doesn’t seem anywhere near the model Jesus requires.

I understand these candidates aren’t running for pastor-in-chief.  But isn’t this the leadership style Jesus would most bless?  Isn’t this the method that “works” best, whether it’s leadership in the family, in business or in the White House?  If having a biblical worldview means anything, then this passage applies to the current crop of would-be Republican political leaders.

If Trump gets elected, I doubt we’ll have a friend in the White House.


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Look, You Scoffers!

O PreacherTwo hundred forty miles to the 5th sermon of “The Acts Eight”.  Paphos on Cyrpus by ship to Perga (where John
Mark turns back), then six  days through rugged and dangerous mountains over 3,600 feet elevation.  To Antiock of Pisidia    (in today’s Turkey).  Antioch was a main garrison city for Roman military in the midst of a Greek and Jewish population.                                    
Paul and Barnabas attend the local Jewish synagogue where the visitors are invited to speak an encouraging word to the Jews and God-fearing Gentiles in the Sabbath congregation (Acts 13:13-15).

Paul recounts God’s revelation in Israel’s history from the patriarchs to King David.

Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: “Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me!  The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country,  he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert,  he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance.  All this took about 450 years. After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet.  Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years.  After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do'”  (Acts 13:16-22).

Note Paul’s claim that God was the main actor.  “God chose our fathers” . . . “he made the people prosper” . . . “he led them out”, etc.  The history of Israel is God’s story.  To the Jews and Gentile God-fearers this was familiar ground.  In the bright light of this 21st century day, however, it’s a radical, if not provocative, claim.  How does one ethnic group get to claim God as the actor in their history?  And which God?  And what makes Israel’s God so special?  Many dismiss the whole business as religious fanaticism.

As Paul continues, the radical, provocative claims only increase  . . .

“From this man’s (David’s) descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.  Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel.  As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie’.   Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent.  The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath.  Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed.  When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb.  But God raised him from the dead,  and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.  We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers  he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm:  ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.’  The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words:  ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’  So it is stated elsewhere: ‘You will not let your Holy One see decay.’  For when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.  Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.  Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:23-39).

Paul preached this to Jews and God-fearing Gentiles who knew the Prophet’s words.  They knew Moses’ law.  They understood animal sacrifices for sin.  The news of Jesus’ death wasn’t all that significant, since dozens of Jews were routinely crucified by the Romans.

But the announcement of Jesus’ resurrection was something else altogether.  It was, declared Paul, a fulfillment of Scripture.  And there are witnesses.  It means the forgiveness of sins through Jesus.  It means justification (a verdict of “not guilty”) because of him.

To 21st century minds this sounds like foolishness.  The Prophets were strange–ancient to us and old is always odd.  Moses’ law is for orthodox Jews; it’s an ethnic thing.  Sin went out with the clunky portable radio you carried around to sound cool with your music.  And the guilt of sin is something you get psychological counseling for now.

So Paul’s conclusion may be even more appropriate for us than for his Antioch audience . . .

“Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you:   ‘Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you'” (Acts 13: 40,41). 

That quote from the prophet Habakkuk calls to mind the fact that throughout biblical history, the Lord did some surprising, totally unexpected things.  (Take the opening of the Red Sea or the choice of shepherd-boy David as king, for instance.)  But this one, well, this takes the prize.  Jesus, sent by God, gets crucified.  Everybody who believed in him saw their dreams die.  Then, on the third day, his tomb stands empty and his followers see him alive again, complete with nail-scarred hands and a heavenly bodyl

Scoff?  Mock?  Jeer at such childish ideas?  “Look, you scoffers”, and C. S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia author) might add . . .

“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”




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Faith Should Inform Our Politics

O PreacherThat so many professed evangelicals are voting for Donald Trump reflects poorly on the church. You know the litany.  Here is a man who supports Planned Parenthood (though supposedly not the abortion business of it), wants to exclude Muslims from the U.S., brags about all the famous women he’s slept with, will use the law to prosecute journalists whose articles he considers demeaning (how might he respond to criticism from Christians?), thinks his liberal sister would make a great Supreme Court Justice, claims to be a Christian but states he has no need to ask God for forgiveness, and on and on and on.

Many evangelicals, it seems, are refusing to allow faith to inform their politics.   Here’s what I wrote about this yesterday:

Today I found an opinion column in “The New York Times” that addresses the topic compellingly.  It’s written by Peter Wehner, a contributing editor for that newspaper.  Here’s the link.  I offer it to help inform us and to also urge us to vote according to our Christ-centered faith.

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How Can Evangelicals Vote for Trump?

O PreacherMany evangelicals are voting for Donald Trump.  I’m floored.  Maybe I shouldn’t be.  Maybe I should say many professed evangelicals are voting for Trump.  I don’t know.  It stumps me.

I get the anger thing.  But how can Christians vote for a man who claims to be one, but whose life bears rotten fruit?  For example, he’s bragged about his many affairs—“beautiful, famous, successful, married — I’ve had them all, secretly, the world’s biggest names.”  And he boldly claims he has no need to ask for forgiveness.

Several times I’ve heard him say  we  should use American military power to kill terrorists’ families. He’s flip-flopped about racism—denouncing white supremacists, evading the issue and re-tweeting white supremacist propaganda.  Where does he stand?  Who knows?

From a biblical perspective, he’s disqualified, as I see it. First, repeatedly through the books of Kings, Israel’s and Judah’s  kings of Israel and Judah are evaluated by whether they “did right in the eyes of the Lord” or “did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”  God is not merely a word a candidate uses to attract evangelicals.  God is the Judge who will evaluate Donald Trump (and his presidency if he wins) on the basis of righteousness, not on an economic deal in which we get even with China.  Why are so many evangelicals forgetting that?
Second, Proverbs 14:34 says,  “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”  Can we trust Mr. Trump to do what is right or simply do what wins?  I’m afraid his anger and his petulant reactions to negative criticism prove he’s all about winning at any cost.  What is right doesn’t seem to be a consideration.

Third, in Romans 1:29-32 Paul lists the consequences of being given over to a depraved mind for refusing to acknowledge God.

“They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips,  slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;  they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
I’m not being “holier-than-thou.”  I’m suggesting this is a Spirit-inspired commentary on Mr. Trump and those who “approve of [him]”.  Skim through the text above and see how many descriptions fit him.
I suggest we all should consider these thoughts before we vote.  And pray that the person God wants will sit in the Oval Office to lead this nation.  We are sliding downward morally and spiritually.  Do we really think Donald Trump would be the kind of president to use his “bully pulpit” to slow that slide?
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