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The End of Many Books

Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos

The only time it would be better to read this book than RIGHT NOW is to have read it long before now. The text is a few hundred years old, but the biblical principles for recognizing tyrants and then how to resist them as Christians are evergreen and ever needed. If the church, and her shepherds, and her members, understood this book perhaps our republic wouldn’t be crashing so hard.

Living in 2021 requires wisdom, and courage, and this is a book that is protein for building those kinds of muscles.

4 of 5 stars

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Lord's Day Liturgy

This Is Your Vote

There must be a way for an ostrich not only to not bury her head in the sand but even to enjoy the ocean. Ostriches apparently don’t hang out at the ocean, but since they are always burying their head in the sand, work with me for sake of the illustration. Think of how much she’d miss if she buried her head every time a wave came to shore. That’s what waves do. Sometimes you need to move your stuff so it doesn’t get soaked. Most of the time, once you have a little experience under your beach towel, you realize that you don’t need to freak out. You can enjoy enjoy the swells.

Like an ostrich I suppose, part of me would prefer to talk about other things, because there are other things. Yet also I don’t want to ignore this day (as in, bury my head in the sand), because this is the day the Lord has given.

Life is more than politics, and it is wearisome to be told every four years that “this is THE MOST IMPORTANT ELECTION OF OUR LIFETIMES! But for real this time! I mean it!”

Let me confess to you my default sin, as I can see it, when political seasons rush toward the shore, and then exhort you to confess your sins, whatever they may be.

My go-to sin is self-righteousness, followed closely by lazy hope.

Christians are the ones who have a standard by which to criticize, and you’d think criticism was a spiritual gift based on how clever we present our criticisms to be. Unbelievers criticize, but they have to borrow values from somewhere. Yet the same standards that Christians apply toward candidates (and legislative issues) in an election season also tell us how to behave, as in, don’t fear, and don’t judge your brothers. Don’t snuggle into your blanket throwing snark from the bleachers against how everyone on the field is doing it WRONG.

Perhaps you’ve seen the political post by John Piper last week, or any number of the responses to his post. I am very thankful to God for His use of Piper in my life, especially for sake of my affections as a disciple of Christ. And I’m not judging his convictions, but his argument is worth examining.

He is baffled at Christians who claim you can never vote for a Democrat with sin like Biden, and admonishes those Christians for supporting/promoting, or at the least ignoring, a Republican with sin like Trump. Piper points out that arrogance kills people, even if it looks different than how abortion kills people.

And yes, Nebuchadnezzar took credit for his kingdom and God judged him for it. I could vote for Trump, and if the day after his second inauguration, let’s say, God punished the President with a few years in the wilderness growing long fingernails and eating grass like a beast, I could also acknowledge that judgment as just.

But urging people not to vote for those who applaud abortion and applaud same sex marriage and applaud gender transitions for eight year-olds, all positions typically within the Democratic party, does not mean supporting all the Republican behaviors.

Piper concludes that he won’t vote for either Biden or Trump. That’s fine. But then, in a word to pastors, he asks the following:

“Have you been cultivating real Christians who see the beauty and the worth of the Son of God? Have you faithfully unfolded and heralded “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8)? Are you raising up generations of those who say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8)?

“Have you shown them that they are “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11), and that their “citizenship is in heaven,” from which they “await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)? Do they feel in their bones that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)?

“Or have you neglected these greatest of all realities and repeatedly diverted their attention onto the strategies of politics? Have you inadvertently created the mindset that the greatest issue in life is saving America and its earthly benefits? Or have you shown your people that the greatest issue is exalting Christ with or without America? Have you shown them that the people who do the most good for the greatest number for the longest time (including America!) are people who have the aroma of another world with another King?

I highlight these paragraphs not only because they stood out to me, but because others have also called them “the most important section.” And while they are, in many ways, good questions, they also promote a binary assumption. Piper doesn’t like being pushed to choose between either Biden or Trump. But I don’t like being pushed to choose between caring about spiritual things or voting for the good of my family, my neighbor, and nation. Piper doesn’t like two-party assumptions, I don’t like dualism. Isn’t it possible to cultivate “real Christians who see the beauty and the worth of the Son of God,” Christians “who have the aroma of another world with another King,” who then are the very disciples who honor Christ in this world and through their stewardship of political opportunity, rather than burying their heads in (supposed heavenly) sand?

You not only get to vote for governor and president (and more), but you get to vote, so to speak, for who you want to be. Discernment is good, and yet it can be used as a cover for all sorts of smug attitudes and lazy-righteousness. Wisdom is a skill for living, not a skill just for lazily laughing at the lazy. This is your life. Don’t you want to be known for more than how quickly you can see the problem with everything?

I would like to default to doing hopefully rather than to deriding. This is my life. I want to try to be wise and do something and be joyful and trust God and love my brothers at the same time. This is my “vote.” It’s easier to appear clever with critical words rather than hopeful ones. I want to vote for being hopeful.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, all those who practice it have good understanding” (Psalm 111:10). Let’s be those who practice it.

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Every Thumb's Width

Trump Is Not Teflon

In the summer of 2016 the four elders at our church had a public discussion about the presidential election. I was an unswerving #NeverTrumper. This was not because I found Mrs. Clinton more appealing; both were appalling. I planned to (and did) write in my vote that November.

Nothing tempted me to appreciate Mr. Trump. I believe that good leadership requires good character, and, at that time, there were as many reasons to trust Trump as there were reasons to keep watching The Apprentice, meaning, none. His brash, 3rd grade playground vocabulary, his boasting in immorality and adulteries, combined with his lack of understanding of various policies shown in the Republican debates and his willingness to mock and berate his competition gave me quite enough evidence to commit to not give him any support.

Now, four years later, I have been very surprised by, and grateful for, God’s use of President Trump. While I think Trump has promoted noxious patterns of political discourse (and tweeting) that are likely to be tolerated for generations, he has also turned out to be the most pro-life president we’ve had, in public and by policy. He appears to have rolled back more government regulations with his power and provided a little more breathing room for free-ish capitalism. He’s come out in favor of school choices, and even talked about churches as essential.

He has also survived, if not thrived, through virtually every accusation thrown at him. It is not because he’s teflon.

A teflon coating makes it harder for the egg-guts to stick. A leader with integrity may be likened to a teflon pan; slander doesn’t cling, at least not as easily. Some accusations against some men are just hard to believe. Charges against them slide off into the draining dishwater. Vice President Mike Pence seems to be more like this.

But, if Mr. Pence was trying to accomplish something, would he be able to survive the relentless rotten scum that our modern media is committed to pitch? The Kavanaugh hearing gave a picture of the skeletons that reporters and politicians are diligent to invent. These stories/lies cause damage because they gain traction, they gain traction because they are interesting, and they are interesting because men who care about not being canceled have to fight.

Trump is much more like a cast-iron skillet: the more grease the better. He seems to like the grease. He almost begs for it.

Who cares any more about his personal scandals? It’s not because there aren’t any, Trump just doesn’t seem bothered, and where’s the fun in that? Fake news has upped their fiction levels to international intrigue, but Trump just thanks them for providing another reason for him to talk into the microphone.

Here is a serious question for my Christian friends: what person in a “high position” (1 Timothy 2:2) has been used by God to bring about this many common grace blessings for a “Christian” nation, while appearing to turn more conservative amidst the accusations? Who do we know that could handle not just the scrutiny, but the slander of the liberal media, and still keep cooking the bacon?

Maybe, and I mean maybe, Kanye? Ha.

This is very humbling for Christians. God is protecting the remnants of our liberties through a man that is happy to lie and cheat, or at least BS, his way to whatever he wants, and we keep being blessed.