Sunday, August 9, 2015

SCOTT WALKER AND ABORTION

I saw the main Republican debate last night (I missed it Thursday because I don't get the cable channel that carries Fox News). Donald Trump looked bad, Marco Rubio made the best appearance. Rand Paul came off as humorless and almost angry. You can find  millions of online comments mirroring these impressions. Yet there was one question and response which has gotten very little comment from reporters as well as conservatives. I am referring to Megyn Kelly's question to Scott Walker concerning his stance on abortion. Kelly mentioned that Gov. Walker had recently signed a law in Wisconsin protecting the unborn while containing an exception for the life of the mother. Walker has voiced opposition to such an exception in the past. Kelly asked Walker if he would really want to see a mother die to protect the life of her unborn baby. Walker not only did not back away from his previous position, he positively stated that there are alternatives to aborting the baby that would keep both baby and mother alive. Kelly later commented that if Walker is the nominee, his answer will haunt him all the way to election night. The press and the Democrats will certainly try to use his answer to paint him as anti-woman. Walker probably knew this when he answered the question. Yet with this answer, Walker has earned the support of social/Christian conservatives. While most of the candidates put in a good performance Thursday evening, Walker's answer was the true moment of courage. All other Republican candidates made bold pronouncements as to what they would do in office. You couldn't call them courageous for doing so as they were auditioning themselves to a largely conservative audience. Pro lifers should test the courage of the other candidates by demanding an answer as to whether they stand with Walker and his answer to Megyn Kelly.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

WOVEN INTO THE FABRIC OF AMERICA

The conservative reaction to the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision varies from absolute despair for the future of the country to rosy predictions of electoral victories for Republicans in 2016. There are some conservatives who are glad that Obamacare has not been sidelined as a political issue. Now that Obamacare has been upheld in the legal arena, Hillary Clinton, or more likely another nominee, will have to defend this unpopular government program to the voters. These conservatives view the election of a Republican as President, as well as gains  in the Republican Congressional majority, as the assured results of the Court's decision. With the GOP in control of both houses of Congress as well as the White House, the prospect of finally repealing Obamacare would be within reach. Other conservatives disagree. With a year and a half to go in President Obama's term, Obamacare will become more entrenched in the body politic. Even if the Republicans control the White House and Congress after 1/17, it will be the devil to repeal Obamacare. History teaches that once a government entitlement is created, it is next to impossible to repeal it. Obama agrees. In his victory speech after the Court's decision, he declared that Obamacare is woven into the fabric of America.

Yet Obama could be wrong. A victorious 2016 for the GOP could spell the end of Obamacare. This is a viable possibility. Even if Obamacare is repealed, still there has been something woven into the fabric of America, something foreign to the founding of the United States, something sinister. Even if Obamacare is repealed, the Supreme Court's rulings upholding its legality are now legal precedent. Someone may point out to me that Supreme Court decisions upholding slavery and racial segregation were once precedent but now have been consigned to the dustbin of history. True. Yet the Obamacare decisions don't concern race. They confer legal sanction upon one of the Left's most cherished strategic goals, government control of health care for every American. It has been on the Left's agenda since the New Deal and will remain a liberal dream that will not die even if Obamacare is repealed. Chief Justice John Robert's opinions will be cited as legal sanction in any future struggle over government run health care. Robert's latest opinion marks the triumph of postmodernism in the legal field. In his opinion, words have no plain meaning; it is now acceptable to for a judge to read any interpretation into a law passed by Congress, even if the wording of that law is opposite of the judge's reading. The law was pushed through Congress by methods prohibited by the Constitution itself (see #4 on this link), even though the majority of Americans have always opposed Obamacare. The President lied when he promised the American people that they could keep their own doctors. Before the advent of Obama, no one would have dared to use such methods to push their own agenda in the political arena. The next time these methods are employed, the shock value will have dissipated. Sarah Palin was derided for her claim that "death panels" would decide the fate of Americans. Yet Obamacare provides for such agencies to decide who will receive treatment and who will not. Only they are called IPAB's, Independent Payment Advisrory Boards. So now we see something very sinister woven into the fabric of America, the power of the government to decide who lives and who dies.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

THE IMAGE OF GOD IN UNBELIEVERS

Yes. You read that right. I am writing on the image of God in those who don't believe in Jesus. No. I am not a universalist, someone who believes all will be saved. I believe that the only way to the Father is through the Son (Jn.14: 6). All those who try another way will be forever excluded from the Father's presence. They will spent eternity in hell. I just wanted to reaffirm what God's Word says on the matter to avoid any misconceptions.

Back in the late 80's I attended a Friday night Bible study in a college dorm. One of the other participants was a guy a couple years older than the rest of the group. He was married with one child on the way. To support his family, he delivered pizzas. One day on the job, he drove downhill on a side street. Stopping at the bottom of the hill, he turned to his right to see if any one was coming down the hill towards his intersection. At the crest of the hill was a sports car with dark tinted windows traveling his direction. My friend decided he had enough time to make a left turn into the street. In a perfect world, he would have judged correctly. However, the sports car descended the hill at an excessive rate of speed. Before my friend could complete his turn, both drivers had to engage in evasive maneuvers to avoid a collision. Normally, my friend is a very laid back person. But as he got out of the car to confront the other driver, he was determined to give the other driver a piece of his mind. As he got out of the car, the other driver, who's identity was shielded by the tinted windows, exited his vehicle. The other driver was the leader of our Friday night Bible study. The conversation between the two went something like this:


Bible Study Leader: Oh Man, am I sorry!
Pizza Delivery Guy: Ah, that's all right. Don't worry about it.
BSL: But I could have injured you or damaged your car.
PDG: No harm done. God is in control.
BSL: But what I did was such a bad witness.
PDG: Hey, in a few years we'll be laughing about this.


My friend the pizza delivery guy, normally an even tempered person, was ready to give the other driver a piece of his mind. And he would have been justified. But when he found out that the other driver was not only a personal friend, but also a member of his own tribe (evangelical), his equilibrium was immediately restored and his friend was spared an unpleasant scene. I'll come back to this story later on.


Here is another true story. Before the Arab Spring in Egypt, Christians gathered in a church in Cairo on Christmas Eve. The sanctuary was packed. One of the crowd began firing shots. Bombs were thrown into the throng of worshippers as well. Over forty worshippers were killed. In the Middle East, whether one is a Christian, Muslim, or Jew, poor or rich, powerful or oppressed, when one dies, they are buried quickly, usually within twenty-four hours. As the mourners prepared to bury their dead, they feared they would be targets for further violence as they carried their dead through the streets. A group volunteered to serve as body guards to protect the Christian mourners. Was this group members of another Christian church? No. They were Muslims. Even though they believe Christians worship three gods, even though they think the Christian claim of Christ's divinity is blasphemy, even though they resent the Church's treatment of Muslims during the Crusades, even though assurance of eternal life is not a feature of Islam, they were willing to take a bullet or to be blown to bits protecting Christians. Its enough to boggle the minds of many Christians. Why?

Either through actual teaching, or through our own assumptions, we Christians conclude that non-believers are incapable of good acts, noble acts, acts of supreme sacrifice. We tend to think that only those who abide in Christ are capable of such acts. How many times have we been surprised when we encounter someone with a kind, generous disposition who does not believe as we do? Or does not believe at all? We say to ourselves, "How can this be? They're not even Christian?" How can Muslims perform such a selfless act, while many of those who claim to follow Christ act so un-Christlike? My parents lived in Kentucky when they were first married. There was a church split in their area. Both sides in the split got into a fistfight in the church sanctuary over who was going to keep the church furniture. How can those who claim to follow Christ come to blows over furniture while Muslims risk death for Christians?

Some Christians believe that when Man fell, the image of God in Man was totally eradicated. Some believe that to deny this is to disbelieve in humanity's total depravity and utter inability to be justified in God's sight. But does scripture teach that the image of God in Man has been totally eradicated? No. In The Doctrine of Original Sin, John Wesley points out the parallel between Gen. 1:27 and Gen. 9:6. Gen. 1:27 reads: "So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Gen. 9:6 reads: "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man." Wesley then states : "Certainly it has the same meaning in both places; for the later plainly refers to the former. And thus much we may fairly infer from hence, that, 'the image of God,' wherein 'man was' at first 'created,' wherein so ever it consisted, was not totally effaced in the time of Noah.Yea, so much of it will always remain in all men, as will justify the punishing of murderers with death. But we can in non wise infer from hence, that that entire image of God, in which Adam was at first created, now remains in all his posterity." (Works of John Wesley, vol. 9, p. 91, Baker Books) After reading this, your reaction may be, "So what?" Why is this important? What possible relevance could this have for discipleship or evangelism?

I once heard a radio interview with a former missionary to South America. His faith did not survive on the mission field. Why? His explanation was his realization that the people he was evangelizing conducted themselves as ethically as those he went to church with back home. Either through direct teaching, or through unconscious assumption, he came to the mission field believing that only born again believers are capable of good acts. Those outside God's kingdom, he assumed, had no capacity for goodness. This notion was so tied up with his religious beliefs that when confronted with the way people really are, he rejected his entire Christian world view.

Does Scripture teach that unbelievers are incapable of good acts? Absolutely not. Consider what Paul wrote in Romans: "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would ever dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom 5:6-8). Notice that Paul makes a distinction between good and righteous persons. He had already stated that no one could earn God's favor by their own efforts (Rom. 3:20). Righteousness comes through faith in Christ (Rom. 3: 21-26). So the goodness Paul speaks of is something all people are capable of in varying degrees. Think of the soldiers who have led men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. Think of those leaders who have thrown themselves on explosive devises, given their lives so that those under their command may live. Were all those men who sacrificed their lives for others faithful disciples of Jesus Christ? Probably not. Yet they were capable of making the supreme sacrifice, good men daring to die for good men. But such goodness as all of us are capable of is not a goodness that justifies us before God. And such goodness can be present in a soul where evil also dwells. During the Civil War, there was a Union general named Orville Babcock. On many occasions, he would leave his position of safety, riding in the midst of a battle to draw enemy fire away from his men. He knew that the enemy made every effort to kill as many Union officers as it could. He often exposed himself to enemy fire to rescue his men from dire situations. After the war, he was a corrupt politician, giving and receiving bribes. He later died while trying to save a young boy from drowning. A person who was financially corrupt was capable of sacrificing his life for others. Here was a great example of the goodness humans are capable of, yet it is a goodness that does not justify us before God. It is the same goodness that those Egyptian Muslims displayed. They were willing to sacrifice their lives so that the Christians could bury their dead. Yet they themselves had no faith in Jesus Christ. It is only through faith in Jesus that one is declared righteous. Jesus made the same distinction Paul made between being good and being righteous. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "...what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father, who is in heaven, give good gifts to those who ask Him?" (Mt. 7:9-11). It was this very verse, stating that evil men were capable of a form of goodness, that the Holy Spirit used to reveal to me that the Bible was indeed of divine origin. Many who fail to realize the distinction Jesus makes here will lose what faith they have. Therefore, when we engage in discipleship, this lesson must be taught early to prevent new Christians from having their faith shipwrecked.

When we witness to the lost, it is important that we acknowledge man's capacity to do good. While engaged in prison ministry, I came met an inmate who was once taken to church by his girlfriend. His presence caused an uproar among the congregation. One woman told him to leave, claiming that he was possessed by a demon. This experience caused him to believe that he was too sinful to be in church, or that Christians believed he had no business being there. When I showed him Mt. 7: 9-11 and Rom. 5:6-8, his hostility to the Gospel melted away. I showed him from God's Word that Christ's followers didn't possess a naturally superior goodness unattainable by him. Both he and everyone else were capable of a form of goodness. However, this form of goodness does not save us. Only God's grace saves us, and that grace is available to all. Again, I just didn't tell him; I showed him from Scripture. When he realized Scripture contains these truths and that they were not just my words, he gained respect for Scripture and wanted to read it for himself. So, to make acknowledgement of humanity's capacity for goodness while distinguishing such goodness from righteousness is an important tool in evangelization. It would appear that Francis Schaeffer thought along the same lines: “Another question in the dilemma of man is man’s nobility. Perhaps you don’t like the word ‘nobility,’ but whatever word you choose, there is something great about man. I want to add here that evangelicals have made a horrible mistake by often equating the fact that man is lost and under God’s judgment with the idea that man is nothing-a zero. That is not what the Bible says. There is something great about man, and we have lost perhaps our greatest opportunity of evangelism in our generation by not insisting that it is the Bible that explains why man is great.” (Francis Schaeffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent.)

Remembering that the image of God is not totally eradicated in humanity makes a great difference in how we treat unbelievers. If we believe that unbelievers are incapable of good acts, we fail to live up to that standard of perfection set forth by Christ in Mt. 5: 43-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (NIV, Bible Gateway). Failing to live up to Christ's own words, we think of unbelievers as morally inferior, and we treat them so. Perfection in God's sight is to treat others with the same love we show to our own, which means treating them with the dignity they deserve from being made in the image of God. It would be unfair to my friend the pizza delivery driver to assume he doesn't model Jesus' standard of perfection as a way of life. In fact, I know he does. But in the incident cited earlier, he did treat the other driver differently because he was a friend and a member of his own evangelical Christian tribe. 

Finally, why is the conduct of some non-believers more praiseworthy than the actions of some church goers? The simple answer is that those who claim to be Christ followers but act contrary to Christ's teachings aren't really followers of Christ after all. In other words, they were never saved. There is some truth to this assertion. There are those who have a form of religion, but are not in a real relation to Jesus. But this is not the whole answer. The sad truth is that so many who are saved fail to live in the full power of the Holy Spirit. They know they can't be saved by their own power, yet they forget that they are equally incapable of living the Christian life through their own efforts. They forget what Paul wrote about Christ's indwelling through the Holy Spirit in each believer:  "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me"(Gal. 2:20, NIV, Bible Gateway). And they don't follow Paul's command,"...do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed in the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). By failing to allow the Holy Spirit to empower us to be the people the Father and the Son want us to be, Christians behave in ways that bring embarrassment and shame to the body of Christ. This allows for an unfavorable comparison between Christians and unbelievers which causes people to conclude that faith in Christ makes no difference in how people treat one another. And that is why the question of whether or not the image of God in man was totally eradicated at the Fall is so important.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

WHAT CHRIST ASKS OF THE FATHER

(Originally Published on 9/11/07. This was from a sermon I delivered, either in North Carolina or Illinois, sometime between 2004 and 2007. For some reason, I placed this article back in draft form. It has been revised, as the references to Isis and the video concerning rapture theology will indicate.)

Read Psalm 2.
We Christians today have many things to focus our mind upon. Many of us buy books on and attend conferences on marriage. There are many who concentrate on being the complete Christian man or woman (or blogger). Even more occupy their themselves by studying the "End Times"; will we be raptured out of here before, during,or after the Great Tribulation? Or will we be raptured out of here at all? (Hint: See this short video for the correct answer). However, if we believers continually gain the mind of Christ, would these things be at the top of our priority list? What is foremost upon the mind the second person of the Trinity today? When the Son asks for something of the Father through the Spirit, what request is closest to the Son's heart? We shall soon see as we study the whole of Psalm two.

Verses 1-3: It is easy to see why kings and emperors oppose the Gospel. They fear for their position as supreme rulers and refuse to be held accountable for their actions. If the Gospel reigned supreme in their lands, they could never commit injustice and exploit the vulnerable with impunity. Their private lives would not be beyond scrutiny. Often their governments and religious systems are so linked that the land could be called a theocracy. The proclamation of the gospel could endanger these forms of government. But these verses do not let the subjects of kings and absolute rulers off the hook. They too are in league with their rulers against the rule of God's Son. Both ruler and subject plot together against the world-wide kingdom of Jesus Christ. Both boldly declare: "Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us." No matter the excuse, whether it is abuses by the Church in the name of Christ, or bad behavior by individuals claiming to believe in Jesus, or unanswered intellectual questions, the real reason the world rejects the lordship of Christ is that most people will not accept any lord over themselves but themselves. When confronted with a genuine reflection of God in other human beings, unbelievers will often persecute Christians to shut them up. They will try to get such Christians to respond in an un-Christ like manner so that these unbelievers can comfort themselves that Christ's disciples are not really different. If they succeed, they tell themselves they don't really have to submit to the rule of the Son. ( read Psalm 37: 5-20 and Luke 19:14. Note the words of Jesus himself when describing the real reason the world rejects him: "...We will not have this man reign over us.")

Perhaps you have followed the news story about the South Korean Christian workers who were kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Originally, the terrorists wanted to exchange the hostages for captured Taliban fighters imprisoned in Afghanistan. In the end, after two male hostages were executed, the rest of the hostages were freed. But their freedom came with a price. The Taliban may have been paid ransom, maybe not. The South Koreans did promise to withdraw from Afghanistan. But most important, South Korea agreed to prevent future South Korean missionaries from working in Afghanistan. It might surprise you to learn that many within South Korea blamed the hostages for their ordeal. If they were not there interfering with another nation's religion, the argument goes, then the nation of South Korea and the hostages' families would not have been put through this grief. What may really surprise you is that many within the South Korean Church have made similar statements. Some Christian leaders declared that to try to get a Muslim to convert to Christ is an insult to Islam. Never mind that the workers were there not to evangelize but to build a hospital. Never mind that the Taliban doesn't care who they take hostage as long as ransom is paid for their release. Those within the Church who blamed the hostages belong to a growing movement within the Church who want to stop all missionary activity in the name of political correctness. In the future, in this country, there will be pressure put on the Church to stop world-wide evangelization in the name of peace, stability, and goodwill. That the government would exert such pressure should not surprise us. If the mainline church called for an end to carrying out the Great Commission, I would not be shocked. However, unfortunately, I will not be taken surprise if even those who call themselves "evangelicals" also promote such a policy. Some "evangelical" blogs are causing me to be concerned where the evangelical Church may be heading.

Verses 4-6: In the end, these plots will come to nothing. JESUS IS LORD! In 1949, the Communists took over China and promptly kicked out all foreign missionaries. "How will the Church in China survive without missionaries"? the western Church asked . When China opened up to the West years later, the western Church was surprised that the Chinese Church not only survived under Mao, but it grew. Before the Iranian Revolution of 1979, there were few Christians in Iran. Now that the Iranians have had more than a taste of hard-core Islam, many have had a profound change of heart. Today, there are about 900,000 Christians in Iran. The Taliban, or Isis, will not be any more successful in preventing the spread of the gospel.

Verse 7: Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, the Father's only son!

Verse8: The answer to the question "What most concerns Jesus as He makes His requests known to the Father"? The Father tells the Son to ask for the nations as an inheritance. This is the Son's greatest desire. Jesus prayed this prayer to the Father, and some of us have become part of the Son's inheritance. Jesus still prays to the Father that the nations will be His. After all, it is the will of His Father that all come to repentance. ( II Pet. 3:9 )

So, if this is what is closest to the heart of Jesus, what does this fact say about what desire is closest to yours? Is your heart and mind in line with Christ so His priorities are your priorities. Are we so busy seeking our own fulfillment that we have not allowed the Great Commission to decisively shape how we live our own lives? Are we more concerned about other things that we have not prayed to the Lord for more laborers? Do we refuse to suffer when part of the body suffers?

Verse 9: Jesus himself will break these nations with a rod of iron and dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel. Jesus will do this to His inheritance so those who once rejected His Lordship will become reverent worshipers and disciples of Him. This does not fit with the current picture of Jesus in the minds of many believers.

Verses 10-12: The nations will worship the Lord after they have been broken. The psalmist urges the rulers and the people to "Kiss the Son", to receive instruction, to submit.

The theme of Mission is found throughout the entirety of scripture:

Is. 11:10- God is always about mission.

Dan. 7: 13-14- All nations are to serve God.

Jn. 12: 32- Jesus declared that if He was lifted up, He would draw all men to Himself.

Praying for the nations to be His inheritance is a great part of our Lord's own prayer life. How much is His command that we pray for more laborers for the harvest (Matt. 9:38) part of our own prayer life? If this is not a major concern in our lives, we must reevaluate our relationship with our Lord. It is my prayer that each of you reading this will have a part in the fulfillment of Rev. 7: 9-10.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

SHEPHERD OF TENDER YOUTH

Shepherd of Tender Youth is one of the Church's earliest known hymns. It was written around 200 A.D. by Clement of Alexandria. The lyrics provide clear evidence as to who the early Church thought Jesus to be: God. The first stanza makes this clear:

1 Shepherd of tender youth,
Guiding in love and truth
Through devious ways;
Christ, our triumphant king,
We come Your name to sing
And here our children bring
To join Your praise.

Only God is the proper object of worship. "You shall have no other gods before me" the first commandment warns. Clement declared that Christ was lifted up as king, his very name praised in worship by old and young alike. If Christ was the object of worship and praise by his earliest followers, what does this say concerning the identity they ascribed to Christ? The second stanza provides more evidence:

2 You are our holy Lord,
The all-subduing Word,
Healer of strife.
Yourself You did abase
That from sin's deep disgrace
You so might save our race
And give us life.  


Christ is declared to be Lord. Psalm 34:8 urges us to "...taste and see that Jehovah is good." Peter applies this verse to Jesus Christ: "...rid yourself of all malice and deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babes, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good." If anyone has any doubts as to who Peter is speaking of, the next verses remove any doubts from readers' minds: "As you come to him--rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him--you also, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1Pet. 2: 1-5). Who was the one rejected by men but chosen by God? Who else but Jesus Christ. Peter identifies Jesus as Lord and applies Psalm 34:8's mention of Jehovah to Christ, thereby signifying that Jesus is God. We see that in the second stanza, Jesus is worshiped as Lord. So, if anyone tries to convince you that the early Church never worshiped Jesus as divine, or that Christ himself never claimed divinity, listen to the hymnody of the early Church. Worship Jesus as God the Son as those saints who have gone on before us now do before the throne of God. Worship the God who became a man (Yourself You did abase), who took the punishment for our sins (That from sin's deep disgrace) so that we may be redeemed from sin and death (You so might save our race) and be indwelt by God the Holy Spirit (And give us life).




Sunday, February 22, 2015

MONDAY MORNING DEVOTIONS

Ex. 19:5- "Now therefore; if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you will be a special treasure to Me above all people, for all the earth is mine."

The gods the ancient pagans believed in were demanding; they had a constant need to be appeased. These gods had no mercy on those who did not comply with their demands. Nor did they promise good to those who worshiped them. Not so the God of Israel, the only true God. This is the God who spoke to Moses and rescued Moses' people out of slavery. God expected total obedience from Israel. Yet God also promised good to those who obeyed Him. God promised that the people of Israel would be His own special people; they would have a unique relationship to the Father. A mark of this special relationship was that Israel was to be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex. 19:6). In the ancient world, true worship of the living God took place in Israel, and the only pathway to a genuine relationship to God was to become one God's covenant people. This was by God's decree, but this decree was also an integral part of God's promise. The ancient gods demanded obedience for no other reason but that they should be obeyed. God demanded obedience from Israel, but that obedience was to be in response to what God had done for His people. "You have seen what I did for the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagle's wings and brought you to myself." (Ex. 19:5).  Before God demanded obedience, He acted in Israel's behalf. God wanted Israel's obedience to be a loving response to God's deliverance of His people out of slavery as well as His protection and provision of them on their journey through the desert. God didn't want their obedience to be based solely on fear. We cannot obey God until He delivers us from the kingdom of darkness and places us into His kingdom: "He has delivered us from the powers of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love..." (Col. 1:13). But now that God has done this for all who repent and believe in Him, our response should be one of total obedience. "We love Him because He first loved us" (1Jn. 4:19). "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments..." (1Jn. 5:3). Our love of God is shown through obedience. And our obedience is in response to God loving us and rescuing us from the kingdom of darkness. The difference between God and other false gods worshiped today is just as radical. And this should make our worship of Him all the more reverent.

All scripture passages quoted from the NKJV.

(This is the last post in the Monday Morning Devotions series. The purpose of these articles, besides uplifting Jesus Christ, is to present first impressions of various verses from scripture which could later be developed into sermons. Devotional pieces will continue to appear here, but not in the same format.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

SCOTT WALKER : THE ELEPHANT IN THE REPUBLICAN ROOM

Last Tuesday marked the two year countdown to the end of the Obama presidency. For these next two, slow moving years, all political discussion will fall under two broad categories; how much more damage can the President bring about in that time and who will the Republicans nominate to replace him. This post focuses on the second.

The issue is not just who can beat the Democrat nominee. Notice I typed, "the Democrat nominee," not Hillary Clinton. I am not at all sure Mrs. Clinton will be nominated. Even if Elizabeth Warren does not run, support for Hillary is weaker than many in the media would have us believe. Many Democrats have their doubts about her. Especially the far left, or progressives, as they prefer to be called today. They don't trust her to carry on Obama's policies. Obama is numbered among these doubters. It is reported that he trusts Warren to continue his legacy and has actively encouraged her to run. Hillary is not skillful enough to convincingly remold herself into a progressive champion. The flap concerning her remarks about how entrepreneurs don't create jobs is just one example. Her age and personal baggage may cause many Democrats to seek an alternative; a fresh face whom nobody knows anything about. After all, it worked for Obama in 2008. Many Democrats who supported Obama over Hillary in the 2008 primaries have good reason to fear the wrath of Hillary and Bill. Were the Clintons to regain the White House, there is sure to be a political purge in the party and in the government.

Again, the issue for the Republicans is not just who can beat the Democrat nominee. The issue is which Republican nominee can motivate the base to vote for him. President Obama's 2012 win was due in large part to the dissatisfaction of the Republican base with Mitt Romney. I voted for him, but many conservatives stayed home on election day because Romney's past conduct caused them to doubt he would govern conservatively (see my post here). Were he to run again, that mistrust would remain. Those doubts will only increase in the light of his most recent comments on immigration. Jeb Bush's stand on immigration will also hurt him with the base, as well as his support for Common Core. It appears that Bush has told rich Republican donors that he would win without the base. This reminds me of a joke that is told every time a Republican wins the White House. The day after the election, two liberal college professors meet on campus. "I voted for the Democrat," says one. "You voted for the Democrat. Just where do all these other people who voted Republican come from?" Just as many liberals think conservatives are few and far between and therefore, inconsequential, so do establishment Republicans delude themselves into thinking the same thing. As has been said by many pundits, voters are not ready to vote for another Bush. Were Bush or Romney the nominee, the advantage of a fresh face opposing Hillary Clinton would be thrown away. Chris Christie has no chance of being nominated. I think even he is smart enough to know this. I don't expect him to run.

The Democrats and their allies in the media would like to make Republican voters think Bush, Romney, or Christie are their only viable candidates. So would the Republican political establishment. Even normally reliable conservatives mention only these three. Some will add Rand Paul to the list. This is the case with the conservatives who appear on the McLaughlin Group. Recently I heard Laura Ingraham claim that anyone who doesn't believe Bush will be the nominee knows nothing about politics. She compared all other alternatives to Bush to those who ran against Romney in the 2012 primaries. Ingraham compared them to the likes of Herman Cain, who served as a distraction for conservative voters. The idea that the current crop of conservative alternatives to Bush and Romney are only Cain-like distractions is ludicrous. Many of them have very impressive records on which to run and would be articulate spokespersons for their conservative supporters. Most of the conservative candidates should have no trouble securing the support of the conservative base. Marco Rubio may be viewed with suspicion because of his moderate approach to immigration. But which one is best positioned to win enough votes outside the base to win the election?

What about Rand Paul? He has shown himself to be a smart political operator. I've even heard liberals acknowledge this. But Rand Paul has a huge liability, and his name is Ron Paul, otherwise known as Dad. Ron Paul is a true blue Libertarian. In a general election, this will not be an asset. The father has made numerous statements that caused many to question his sanity, such as his pronouncements that Iran has a right to nuclear weapons. His statements minimizing the importance of pro life issues as compared to states' rights concerns turn off many conservatives. There is also plenty of evidence that he or his campaign staff has produced racist literature in past campaigns. The Libertarian culture in general could turn out to be a huge millstone around Rand Paul's neck. Libertarians take extremist positions on such issues as drug legalization and Israel that they can sound like allies of the far left. Many Libertarians even believe that 911 was a government plot. One of their candidates for governor of Texas, Debra Medina, refuse to disavow 911 conspiracy theories and so destroyed her chances for any future political career. Rand Paul is certainly smart enough to know he has to moderate his Libertarian orthodoxy so not to turn off most voters. But it is uncertain whether he has the ability to distance himself from his father and his father's supporters.

Suppose Rubio would be able to win over conservative voters, would he be able to win in the general election? I'm not sure he would. I like Rubio, but at this stage of his career, he has not mastered the media and his inexperience shows. (Of course, the same criticism could be leveled at both President Bushes. Yet they won three presidential elections). I like Bobby Jindal as well. He can be articulate, yet his rhetoric seems to be a bit juvenile. For someone with his academic pedigree, this seems baffling. The way he expresses himself could make him seem less than presidential. (Of course, the same criticism could be leveled at both President Bushes. Yet they won three presidential elections). I'm not sure Rick Perry can overcome the gaffes committed during his 2012 run. I don't know enough about Mike Pence or Susana Martinez to comment. I'm familiar with John Kasich, but don't know what kind of candidate he would make. The Senator from South Carolina would be the next Jon Huntsman.

Then there is Ted Cruz. I am a Ted Cruz fan. I don't believe any of the criticisms aimed at him by the left or the Republican establishment. I think he would be a great President. Yet I doubt he could win a general election, and for one of the same reasons why Hillary Clinton couldn't win either. Historically, a candidate who has a devoted following and an equally inspired opposition and who is constantly in the spotlight loses in the primaries or in general elections. Most Presidents have been those who had been previously unknown to the voting public, like JFK, Clinton, or Obama. Or if they were known, like Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan, they had spent some years out of the spotlight. Dwight Eisenhower was known to everyone, but he had never run for political office before he ran for President. The one exception in modern times has been George H.W. Bush, who had served eight years as Vice-President. In his case, he had two things going for him; he benefited from Reagan's success and he couldn't have asked for a more hopeless opponent. Ted Cruz has a lot more going for him than George H.W. Bush, and if he could overcome this obstacle, no one would be pleased to vote for him more than myself. But the odds are against him.

That leaves the one candidate Democrats and establishment Republicans rarely mention, the elephant in the Republican room: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Not only is he a reliable conservative, his fight against the Democrats and their union allies has earned him a hero status among the conservative base. He stood his ground against all opposition in two elections and one recall attempt. Only Cruz shares his hero status, and only Sarah Palin exceeds him in admiration among the conservative base. The opposition to him in Wisconsin was intense as any presidential candidate receives, yet all the efforts of the state and national Democrat party could not chip away at his support among Wisconsin voters. If there was anything in his past that would derail a presidential candidacy, it would have surfaced already. Walker has already been vetted. He is been a popular, successful governor. Yet for all the intense opposition he has faced, he has managed to operate mainly under the public radar. Unlike Clinton or Cruz, he is rarely mentioned in the news. This allows him to run as a fresh face in 2016. When seeking a candidate with the right political skills, this bodes well for 2016 and beyond. All this positions Walker to be the Republican nominee best able to win.

The day I typed this post, Sarah Palin told the Washington Post that she was seriously considering a 2016 run. Count me among Palin's most ardent admirers. But could she win in the primaries, let alone the general election? The manner in which her opponents drove her out of the Alaska Governor's office, and the false charge that her departure showed she was not fit for the pressures of the Presidency could be a huge liability. She also faces the same obstacles Cruz would face if he would run. She has a personal loyalty among conservatives that is only matched by Reagan. She also has an opposition bordering on the deranged. Both groups would turn out in droves. Would Palin be able to increase her support during the primaries and the general election? Right now, no one knows. Also, she has had constant media exposure; she cannot run as a fresh face whom the voters know nothing about. However, even if she can't win, a Palin candidacy could very well inspire the conservative base to take away much, if not total control, of the Republican party from the establishment. In that case, I say, "Run! Sarah! Run!"

If Bush, Romney, or Christie would be the nominee by the time I get to vote in the primaries, then I'll vote for the man I voted for in 2012. The man who should have been seen as the most viable alternative to Romney but for the distractions of Cain, Bauchmann, and Gingrich. I am speaking of Rick Santorum. While the issues that most concern him are social issues, had he the time, he could have established himself as an articulate, well-rounded candidate that could have defeated Romney in the primaries and Obama in the election. I would gladly vote for him again. He could certainly prevail over any likely Democrat nominee. Or Hillary Clinton.