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On Saturday, May 13, 2017 President Donald Trump gave the commencement address at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

The Revd Jerry Falwell Jr, who heads the university his late father founded, was a big Trump supporter and helped bring in Evangelical voters in 2016.

This tweet has the entire address:

Trump’s presence attracted a huge crowd, larger than some of his rallies — 50,000 people:

The video below will show as a blank, but will load and play if you click on the time stamp:

Falwell gave Trump an honorary degree:

Bustle has the complete transcript of his speech, even though they dislike him intensely.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine below.

Trump asked the graduates to be mindful of the blessings they had received, called on them to make good use of their degree and told them to take risks:

To the Class of 2017: Today you end one chapter, but you are about to begin the greatest adventure of your life. Just think for a moment of how blessed you are to be here today at this great, great university, living in this amazing country, surrounded by people who you love and care about you so much. Then ask yourself, with all of those blessings, and all of the blessings that you’ve been given, what will you give back to this country and, indeed, to the world? What imprint will you leave in the sands of history? What will future Americans say we did in our brief time right here on Earth? Did we take risks? Did we dare to defy expectations? Did we challenge accepted wisdom and take on established systems? I think I did, but we all did and we’re all doing it.

Or did we just go along with convention, swim downstream, so easily with the current and just give in because it was the easy way, it was the traditional way or it was the accepted way? Remember this, nothing worth doing ever, ever, ever came easy. Following your convictions means you must be willing to face criticism from those who lack the same courage to do what is rightand they know what is right, but they don’t have the courage or the guts or the stamina to take it and to do it. It’s called the road less traveled.

He then spoke about truth and personal integrity:

I know that each of you will be a warrior for the truth, will be a warrior for our country, and for your family. I know that each of you will do what is right, not what is the easy way, and that you will be true to yourself, and your country, and your beliefs.

He spoke of making one’s dreams come true and the importance of faith in God:

In your hearts are inscribed the values of service, sacrifice and devotion. Now you must go forth into the world and turn your hopes and dreams into action. America has always been the land of dreams because America is a nation of true believers. When the pilgrims landed at Plymouth they prayed. When the founders wrote the Declaration of Independence, they invoked our creator four times, because in America we don’t worship government we worship God. That is why our elected officials put their hands on the Bible and say, ‘So help me God,’ as they take the oath of office. It is why our currency proudly declares, ‘In God we trust,’ and it’s why we proudly proclaim that we are one nation under God every time we say the pledge of allegiance.

The story of America is the story of an adventure that began with deep faith, big dreams and humble beginnings.

He praised dreamers over critics:

… the fact is no one has ever achieved anything significant without a chorus of critics standing on the sidelines explaining why it can’t be done. Nothing is easier or more pathetic than being a critic, because they’re people that can’t get the job done. But the future belongs to the dreamers, not to the critics. The future belongs to the people who follow their heart no matter what the critics say because they truly believe in their vision.

Above all, he said, never quit:

If I give you one message to hold in your hearts today, it’s this. Never, ever give up. There will be times in your life you’ll want to quit, you’ll want to go home, you’ll want to go home perhaps to that wonderful mother that’s sitting back there watching you and say, ‘Mom, I can’t do it. I can’t do it.’ Just never quit. Go back home and tell mom, dad, I can do it, I can do it. I will do it, you’re going to be successful. I’ve seen so many brilliant people, they gave up in life, they were totally brilliant, they were top of their class, they were the best students, they were the best of everything, they gave up. I’ve seen others who really didn’t have that talent or that ability and they’re among the most successful people today in the world because they never quit and they never gave up. So just remember that. Never stop fighting for what you believe in and for the people who care about you.

He said that nothing is ‘impossible’ and told the graduates not to worry about being outsiders:

Carry yourself with dignity and pride. Demand the best from yourself and be totally unafraid to challenge entrenched interests and failed power structures. Does that sound familiar by the way? The more people tell you it’s not possible, that it can’t be done, the more you should be absolutely determined to prove them wrong. Treat the word ‘impossible’ as nothing more than motivation. Relish the opportunity to be an outsider. Embrace that label — being an outsider is fine, embrace the labelbecause it’s the outsiders who change the world and who make a real and lasting difference. The more that a broken system tells you that you’re wrong, the more certain you should be that you must keep pushing ahead, you must keep pushing forward.

He added that one must be true to oneself and do what one wants to do in life:

And always have the courage to be yourself. Most importantly, you have to do what you love. You have to do what you love. I’ve seen so many people, they’re forced through lost of reasons, sometimes including family, to go down a path that they don’t want to go down, to go down a path that leads them to something that they don’t love, that they don’t enjoy. You have to do what you love, or you most likely won’t be very successful at it. So do what you love.

Trump concluded with a message about the importance of faith:

Liberty University is a place where they really have true champions and you have a simple creed that you live by: To be, really, champions for Christ. Whether you’re called to be a missionary overseas, to shepherd a church or to be a leader in your community, you are living witness of the gospel message of faith, hope and love

We must always remember that we share one home and one glorious destiny whether we are brown, black or white. We all bleed the same red blood of patriots. We all salute the same great American flag, and we are all made by the same almighty God. As long as you remember what you have learned here at Liberty, as long as you have pride in your beliefs, courage in your convictions and faith in your God, then you will not fail.

And as long as America remains true to its values, loyal to its citizens, and devoted to its creator, then our best days are yet to come, I can promise you that. This has been an exceptional morning. It’s been a great honor for me and I want to thank you, the students. I also want to thank you, the family, for getting them there ,and I want to thank and congratulate Liberty. May God bless the class of 2017. May God bless the United States of America. May God bless all of you here today. Thank you very much, thank you. Thank you.

I wish the commencement address I heard when I was graduating was as moving and motivational as this one.

I do think that conservative Christians need to be less like doormats, less passive and more proactive. It can be done. Trump’s just given us a ‘how-to’ primer. Let’s follow it.

jesus-christ-the-king-blogsigncomIn 2012, I posted a series of excerpts from articles on Resurrection theology from James A Fowler’s Christ In You Ministries site, which had several excellent and uplifiting sermons about the meaning of Easter.

Revd Fowler, a pastor of the Neighborhood Church in Fallbrook, California, has also had a teaching ministry in several countries around the world. The articles cited below can be found on Christ In You’s Miscellaneous Articles.

His articles remind us of the importance of the Resurrection, not only on Easter, but the whole year through. I hope you will enjoy his perspective as much as I did. I have also included a Lutheran point of view which is similar to Fowler’s:

Remembering the reality of the risen Christ

Are we bypassing the risen Christ?

A call for Resurrection theology

Christianity IS the Risen Christ

Unlocking the meaning of the Gospel

The extension of the risen Christ

A Lutheran application of Resurrection theology

By the way, Eastertide ends on Ascension Day. We have four more Sundays during which to contemplate our Lord’s Resurrection and make that joy a part of our daily lives.

Donald Trump was inaugurated five days ago.

Some Christians are disconcerted. A few examples of essays posted last week on the subject follow. Emphases mine below.

1/ John MacArthur’s Grace To You (GTY) blog has an excellent post by staffer Cameron Buettel who reminds GTY readers about obedience to government, specifically Romans 13:1-5 and MacArthur’s sermon ‘Why Christians Submit to the Government’.

GTY readers — conservative Evangelicals — were most unhappy. How on earth could an immoral, unbiblical man become president? One surmises they would have preferred the scheming, conniving and possibly criminal ‘Crooked Hillary’. Bottom line: Trump isn’t Christian enough to be in the Oval Office! (As if abortion and single sex marriage advocate Obama was?!)

2/ Moving along to the Episcopalian/Anglican site, Stand Firm, one of their contributors, A S Haley, was, rightly, more concerned about what he calls the Sea of Political Correctness. In ‘A Wave of PC Crashes into a Solid Barrier’, Haley points out:

The Sea of Political Correctness, fed since November 9 by the tears of the self-righteous, is now engulfing its devotees and followers. Vainly casting about for safe spaces where they may continue to breathe air unsullied by what they perceive as the sulfurous emanations of their opponents, they are gasping, choking and sinking as wave after wave of fresh emotional outbursts crashes over their heads …

The politically correct crowd was so certain of its ability to name the next President that it shattered on the shoals of the Electoral College. It has been unable since then to re-form under a single, agreed leader. It is instead trying to coalesce under a common hatred of the successful candidate. Hatred, however, like fear, needs a crowd in which to dissolve, and a crowd needs direction—which is supplied by a leader.

Although I disagree with Haley when he says that Trump’s platform lacks

concrete programs of proposed legislation and executive actions

because those had been laid out in detail on Trump’s campaign website for over a year, he is correct in saying:

there is every reason to hope that a beginning has been made—is being made as I write—and that, with God’s grace, America may truly once more show the way in its humility, in its decency, and in its willingness to serve without expectation of reward.

One of Haley’s readers wrote about the protests during the weekend of the inauguration:

In fact, since one of the main complaints about Trump is his vulgarity, the vulgarity and viciousness of these speakers should negate any of those complaints.

I hope so. How can people — e.g. the GTY readers above — miss the stark contrast?

3/ From there, I went for a Reformed (Calvinist) perspective. Dr R Scott Clark of of Westminster Seminary California is the author of several books on the Reformed Confessions. He also writes the ever-helpful Heidelblog. He posted an excellent essay at the time of the inauguration, ‘A Reminder Of Why We Should Not Long For A State Church’.

The GTY readers moaning about Trump not being Christian enough should peruse it, but it looks at something anathema to conservative biblicists: history.

Excerpts follow:

… I am regularly astonished at the number of American Christians who seem to want a state-church. They seem not to understand the history of the post-canonical history of state-churches nor the difference between national Israel and the USA …

The governor of my state is a former Jesuit seminarian turned New Ager. I certainly do not want the Hon. Edmund G. Brown, Jr dictating what is to be preached or when it is to be preached. I am sure that Americans who advocate for a state-church do not want the Hon. Barack Hussein Obama or Donald J. Trump to meddle in the life of the institutional church.

Of course, when this objection is raised, the reply is an appeal to an eschatology of great expectations. This raises the problem of the chicken and the egg. Does the postmillennialist want to facilitate the coming earthly glory age through a state-church or is the state-church only to come about after the glory age has descended? This is not clear to me …

Under the new covenant and New Testament, there is no state-church. There is the state and there is the church. Calvin described these two realms as God’s duplex regimen (twofold kingdom). He rules over both by his providence but he rules the church, in his special providence, by his Law and Gospel revealed in holy Scripture. He rules over the civil magistrate by his general providence through his law revealed in nature and in the human conscience (see Romans 1–2) …

The visible church’s vocation is to announce the Kingdom of God in Christ, to preach the law and the gospel, administer the sacraments and church discipline (Matt 16 and 18) …

4/ I then sought another sensible Calvinist perspective, this time from Dr Michael Horton, who also teaches at the same seminary as Dr Clark. He is Westminster Seminary California’s J. Gresham Machen Professor of Theology and Apologetics.

The Washington Post invited Horton to write an article on faith. On January 3, the paper published ‘Evangelicals should be deeply troubled by Donald Trump’s attempt to mainstream heresy’. It concerns one of the prosperity gospel preachers who prayed at the inauguration: Paula White.

On the one hand, I heartily agree that White is a very poor example of a Christian pastor. On the other hand, she and Trump found solidarity in the prosperity gospel which he grew up with under Norman Vincent Peale. Furthermore, White was helpful to his campaign in getting out the vote among this sector of misguided churchgoers.

Even more unfortunate than her praying at the inauguration is the news that she will head the Evangelical Advisory Board in the Trump administration. I suspect this had not been announced when Horton wrote his article. Still, Trump is no theologian. I refer readers to Clark’s essay above.

Horton points out that such preachers have been around the White House before and are popular among certain sections of American society:

Peale and [Robert ‘Crystal Cathedral’] Schuller were counselors to CEOs and U.S. presidents. Word of Faith has been more popular among rural sections of the Bible Belt, where faith healers have had a long and successful history. But in the 1980s, the two streams blended publicly, with Copeland, Hinn and Schuller showing up regularly together on TBN.

He goes on to explain the dangerous heresy:

Televangelist White has a lot in common with Trump, besides being fans of [Joel] Osteen. Both are in their third marriage and have endured decades of moral and financial scandal. According to family values spokesman James Dobson, another Trump adviser, White “personally led [Trump] to Christ.”

Like her mentor, T. D. Jakes, White adheres closely to the Word of Faith teachings. Besides throwing out doctrines like the Trinity and confusing ourselves with God, the movement teaches that Jesus went to the cross not to bring forgiveness of our sins but to get us out of financial debt, not to reconcile us to God but to give us the power to claim our prosperity, not to remove the curse of death, injustice and bondage to ourselves but to give us our best life now. White says emphatically that Jesus is “not the only begotten Son of God,” just the first. We’re all divine and have the power to speak worlds into existence.

Again, Trump doesn’t get this because his family left their mainstream Presbyterian church in Queens after his confirmation to worship at Peale’s Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan. After Trump married Ivana and became even more successful, he drifted away from the church. Although in recent years he has been attending Episcopal church services, his theological formation isn’t very good. But, again, echoing Calvin’s two-fold kingdom theology, voters did not elect Trump as Pastor of the United States but rather President of the United States.

I nodded in agreement to this comment, which is 100% true:

Trump is president not a theologian and Horton shouldn’t be holding him up to that standard. Where was Dr. Horton when Planned Parenthood and the Gay marriage thingy was going full steam under Obama. Yes, Horton, we realize you are not an evangelical fundie, but jumping on Trump for this?

Michael plays the ‘guilt by association’ card very well.

Correct. I do not recall Horton criticising Obama’s policies very much. I’ve been reading and listening to him since 2009.

5/ Finally, I found Dr Carl Trueman‘s article on First Things, ‘President Trump, Therapist-In-Chief?’

Trueman, a Presbyterian, is Professor of Historical Theology and Church History and holds the Paul Woolley Chair of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is politically centrist but theologically conservative.

Trueman says:

I agree with Horton’s analysis but would take the concern a step further. All Americans, not just Evangelicals, should be worried that Paula White is praying at the inauguration, though not for particularly religious reasons. By and large, the rites of American civic religion are harmless enough, bland baptisms of the status quo by the application of a bit of liturgy emptied of any real dogmatic significance or personal demands.

That is what inauguration prayers are largely about. Rightly or wrongly, everyone is represented, especially those who were helpful to the incoming president during campaign season.

He concludes that the real shame is that Trump seems to be endorsing the notion of ‘Psychological Man’.

However, once again, may I remind Drs Trueman and Horton: voters did not elect Trump to serve as the nation’s pastor-in-chief.

6/ The best rebuttals to Trueman’s article is in the comments to his essay. The two comments that nailed it perfectly came from Mike D’Virgilio, whose website is called Keeping Your Kids Christian. It looks very good.

D’Virgilio is a Trump supporter and I agree with his assessments. Excerpts follow. First, from this comment:

I believe Trump is a net positive for Christianity because what he’s doing (including putting the huge “Merry Christmas” signs on his podium during his thank you tour) is potentially contributing to the re-building of the Christian plausibility structure of America. The term “plausibility structure” goes back to sociologist Peter Berger’s 1967 book The Sacred Canopy. In a more recent book he defines this simply as, “the social context within which any particular definition of reality is plausible”. In other words, what *seems* real to people. For the last 50 years the secularists have driven American culture off a cliff (via education, media, Hollywood, etc.) so that the dominant plausibility structure has been postmodernism/relativism/materialism/secularism (they are all logically intertwined). So God for many people (the rise of the “Nones” for instance) *seems* no more real than Santa Claus. Rarely, if ever, do people grapple with the evidence for the truth claims of Christianity; they just drift away or don’t see it as relevant at all.

So Trump, regardless of the content of his own faith, or those at his inauguration, is possibly making Christianity plausible again. Most Americans don’t pay attention to what these people actually believe, the theological content of their faith, such as it is. But all of a sudden with Trump this Christianity thing doesn’t seem like such the ugly cultural step-child anymore … None of this will change over night, but the arrival of Trump is the first time I’ve had hope in this regard since, oh, I was born!

… And I agree with pretty much everything Carl says here (I’m a graduate of Westminster myself), but I don’t at all agree that Trump is contributing to a therapeutic faith and the triumph of the psychological

This is from D’Virgilio’s second lengthy comment:

… There is no other candidate who has done what Trump has done, or could be doing what he’s doing. Cruz is closest of the bunch, but I’m afraid he’s just not a winsome fellow. Once you get beyond the caricature of Trump, he’s a very likable, appealing showman. Everyone who knows him likes him, says he’s humble (impossible to believe for many) and kindhearted.

The greatest thing he’s done is blow up political correctness. He’s taken that on, along with the shamelessly corrupt media that promotes it, in a way no other Republican can even get close. This is huge for a Christian plausibility structure because PC is antithetical to a biblical/classical (in the sense the objective truth exists) worldview …

And Trump was Trump before the Apprentice. Trump made the Apprentice, the Apprentice didn’t make Trump. So I totally disagree Hollywood had anything to do with making the man, The Man. I don’t disagree with your assessment of the secular materialism, which is one of the reasons I initially wanted nothing to do with Trump … He doesn’t have to be an orthodox, Bible believing Christian to fight for Christians, to appreciate and respect Christians, to love America and the Christian influence in its history. I leave the soul judgments to God. I’m just grateful he’s our next president, and not that other person.

I realise some readers are apprehensive about Trump, what he might do and what he represents. I hope this has given them some food for thought, especially in terms of Christianity in America.

Let’s remember that there were four other members of the clergy besides Paula White and a rabbi. Furthermore, in his remarks, Franklin Graham reminded everyone that there is only one God.

In closing, sensible Christians living in the United States should be relieved Trump is in the White House. This will be borne out in due course.

In the meantime, rather than sitting around carping, we can always pray that he becomes a better, more orthodox Christian.

Some of my American readers might be familiar with Dutch Sheets.

Sheets has his own ministry and is working towards ‘awakening’, which, along with ‘restoring’ and ‘reclaiming’, is a term Ted Cruz often used during his rallies in primary season.

It is a dog whistle for theocracy and Dominionism — Christians taking over the government.

Bad!

Therefore, it is with reservation that I am summarising and excerpting Dutch Sheets’s reasons why he is voting for Donald Trump. He makes it clear that these are his personal views, not those of Dutch Sheets Ministries.

Much of his essay of October 21 resonated strongly with me, and I hope it does with you as well. Please take the time to read it in full and pass it along to conservative Christian friends and family.

First, he has strong reservations about Trump with regard to personality and past deeds which have diminished during the post-convention campaign season.

That said, Sheets and I agree that both of us know what we are voting against.

This is why I am posting so many anti-Hillary pieces in order to reveal the extant evil in the Democratic Party. I am doing this because Big Media will not. They want Americans — especially the uninformed — to think that everything is sweetness and light.

Sheets says (emphases mine):

this election is not nearly as much about who I am for, as it is who and what I am against; and frankly, even with my initial concerns, the decision has never been easier.

He strongly objects to Obama and his administration:

One of the most devastating occurrences in America in our lifetimes, ranking up with The Supreme Court’s decisions of Roe vs. Wade and Engel vs. Vitale (the removal of prayer from schools), was the election of Barack Obama. I gave a strong warning about what would happen to our nation if he was elected. Sadly, it has all come to pass: a continued liberalization and empowerment of the judicial system in America; a weakened economy (our national debt has doubled in 7 years to $19 TRILLION!)[1]; further moral deterioration, along with a rebellion to and mockery of God (does anyone remember the White House lit up in the colors of the LGBT movement after marriage was re-defined by the Supreme Court?

If that wasn’t an “in your face” to God and those of us who “cling to their God, guns and religion” by the man who mockingly said it, I don’t know what could ever be!); increased violence; a weakened position in the world, along with a weakened military; the advance of radical Islamist terrorism; a setback in race relations; and more. I rejoice that our nation has been able to elect our first black president. I am deeply saddened, however, that it was Barack Obama.

I could not agree more.

Electing Hillary Clinton, Sheets says, will finish the work Obama and his administration started:

Hillary is pro-abortion, including partial-birth abortion, the most insidious evil of the last century; will raise taxes while continuing out-of-control spending; will further weaken our military; is for completely open borders[2]; is pro-gay marriage; supports Obamacare; has no respect for our Judeo-Christian heritage; sells influence; and is a proven liar. Do not be fooled—she will completely finish what Obama started.

He goes on to say that the effect will be nearly irreversible. If anything can be undone from 12 years of Democrats at the top, it will take decades.

He recognises that another Clinton White House is not just ‘four more years’ and makes this appeal to ‘conscience’ and stay-at-home voters:

I also want to make an appeal to those who say their conscience won’t allow them to vote for either Trump or Clinton, so they simply won’t vote at all. I sincerely respect your convictions, but in this election, that argument fails the logic test (as does voting for someone who cannot possibly win). Trump’s potential negative developments do not come close to the magnitude of those Hillary would produce.

We simply cannot—regardless of our concerns regarding Trump—allow all the above-mentioned consequences to happen. I respectfully appeal to you to turn your “conscience” and “principles” toward the unborn, your children, grandchildren, and the destiny of this nation.

Sheets believes Trump has repented over the past decade and offers this evidence:

To see how Trump would actually lead, I would challenge you to look at those with whom he has surrounded himself: Pence; Carson; Huckabee; Giuliani; Christie; Gingrich; Palin; trusted generals; law enforcement officials; border patrol officials; evangelical leaders of all races; and otherwise, ethical, conservative leaders. What does this tell us? It is probably the greatest indicator of who Trump now is, clearly making the case that he has changed his moral ways over the past 10 years, as he claims.

I personally believe he has changed. I also believe God has gripped his heart for the nation, and is in the process of further transforming Mr. Trump. God has certainly allowed him to be humbled. Of course, the statements made by Trump on the video released from 2005 were despicable. However, if we reject him because of the sins of his past, we would also have to reject Abraham, King David, Rahab, “the woman at the well”, Mary Magdalene—all adulterers in their unrighteous past. And don’t forget murderers like the Apostle Paul. A lot of formerly despicable people will be in Heaven! And a lot of them, by the way, became great leaders and champions for God. Some changed the world.

These associations also tell us that Trump’s stated conservative bent is genuine, and they state that he is wise enough to know what he doesn’t know! I believe Trump is showing us that he will function, if elected president, as any wise businessperson does: find qualified people who know how to get the job done, as in the above examples, and empower them to do it. I like those whom he is signaling to us would be those leaders. They are proven, trustworthy and honorable. If you cannot vote for Trump, vote for them.

Indeed. Well said.

Sheets goes on to say that voting against something or someone is a valid reason to vote. He then lists around 20 policies and groups to vote against. All are valid, including these:

• Vote against the unethical, biased, lying and untrustworthy media. (We will never reclaim America until we reject their influence. They may be the single greatest obstacle to America’s recovery.)

• Vote against the silencing of the Church. (Only the totally naive do not see this coming quickly.)

• Vote against revising our history and the loss of our Judeo-Christian heritage.

• Vote against the politicization and exploitation of racism, and the polarizing of America.

He has a special message for pastors, which I share 100%.

Sheets tells clergy:

Pastors, if you’ve ever made a stand, make one now—it may be your last chance. Tell your people the truth…clearly. Pray and fast!

I am truly annoyed to see a third election cycle when practically NO conservative clergy are speaking up about the great danger America faces in a few months’ time if Hillary Clinton is elected president. There are many retired pastors and former military chaplains whose websites have incredible followings. They should be saying something to their readers!

Instead, they treat this year as if nothing is happening and carry on with the same old stuff, some of which really is ‘stuff’ — i.e. of little importance to potential converts — which they have been going on about for years.

Sheets closes with a message for Christians:

To all Believers, if you agree with what I have written, forward it to all of your friends and family members. Most of them hear only from a hypocritical, lying media, which is now the propaganda arm of the liberal agenda. Speak up. Appeal to them to read this and think about it.

And vote!

Vote for a future, one that includes what you love and believe in. Trump has flaws, but Hillary will be fatal.

You can bet your boots that Hillary is fatal.

Trump is the only logical choice for president.

Read, reflect, pray and vote. America’s future depends on it.

—————————————————————————————

I don’t remember where I got the following graphic, but it does reflect what ‘conscience’ voters are thinking:

https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/336a3020cd3342cd9b95e396b9f17461ce7bb15e93c81897df1a242c6c0184d5.jpg

A reader of The Conservative Treehouse wrote a lengthy and interesting perspective on Evangelicals who despise politics except during times of revival.

The man points out that, because the United States is not currently in a state of religious revival, the needle is not moving, so to speak, for some diehard no-politics-for-me Protestants.

Excerpts from his comment follow, emphases mine. I have also corrected a couple of spelling errors.

First, on Evangelicals and politics:

I have written on this subject before last year about Evangelicals. Evangelicals don’t get involved in politics. When I say Evangelicals I mean not just those that can name the church they go to on Christmas and Easter, but those who find their identity in their Christian faith. Those that would say they have a relationship with God. When someone becomes an Evangelical one of the first things that happens is a loss of interest in their prior life and worldly things. They prioritize their life. God first, then family, then their local church, then work and career, then national loyalty, and last politics. You hear this when Pence talks and also in Cruz. When most Evangelicals think about politics they look down at it from their higher priorities. It is like a Christian going back to their old life. There is a disgust to it and those involved in it. This is a state of a immature Christian. It is good to reject your old life. But you must still see that God is involved in all things. He is Lord of all. Christ is Lord of your personal faith, your family, your church, your work, your country, and your politics. Where ever you are God is there. But not many Christians and Evangelicals mature to that level

So barring another ‘’Great Awakening” we have to work on one Evangelical or Christian at a time.

Just so. If we were not meant to be politically aware, we would not be praying for our respective governments and their leaders at church.

I cannot speak for all denominations but clergy at Catholic and mainline Protestant churches offer a prayer on Sunday (and weekday) services for our political leaders. Therefore, if politics is so distasteful and worldly — it could be respectable — we would not be praying for those people in church.

Now a few words about Donald Trump:

Interestingly, I do see some good signs in Mr. Trump himself. Early on in this movement of Trump Christians have been praying for him and ministers have been surrounding him. The Trump we see now is not the Trump of, say, three years ago. There is a change in him and God is testing him. We may see a large revival yet. It is hard to say what causes revivals except God. But if God is working in Trump he may be working in this movement.

Yes, I do believe Trump has changed from June 2015. He hasn’t been around clergy this often since his days with Norman Vincent Peale.

I do think that God is blessing Donald Trump with the strength and the voice to give two or three rallies per day with truth and enthusiasm. I do believe that God is keeping him and his family out of harm’s way. I also believe that Donald Trump’s candidacy is no accident; it was meant to happen in 2016.

Furthermore, I can think of no candidate who could have borne the relentless, daily slings and arrows from Democrats, the GOPe and Big Media like Donald Trump.

Finally, I believe — unlike other serious churchgoers I know, whether Evangelical, mainline Protestant or Catholic — that this year’s presidential election is one of spiritual warfare rather than politics.

In a choice between Good and Evil, there is only one option on November 8.

https://theconservativetreehouse.files.wordpress.com/2016/09/trump-lion.jpg?w=447&h=204

(Image credit: The Conservative Treehouse)

J Vernon McGee (1904-1988) was a pastor, author and radio show host.

He received his Bachelors in Theology from Columbia Theological Seminary and went on to earn a Masters and a Doctorate from Dallas Theological Seminary.

He was ordained into the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), which eventually merged with the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America to form the present day PCUSA in 1983.

McGee served at four PCUS churches in the southern United States before he and his family moved to Pasadena, California, where he took a position at the Lincoln Avenue Presbyterian Church.

In 1949, he was appointed pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, California. There he became an independent Evangelical pastor.

The church is now in Glendale, California because of earthquake damage to the original building, which had to be razed. The Church of the Open Door is best known for its ‘Jesus Saves’ neon sign which is now on top of the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles.

McGee retired from the Church of the Open Door in 1970. In 1967, he had begun a radio programme called Thru the Bible. After retirement, he continued the broadcasts, which cover every book of the Bible.

He was also a well known public speaker. During that time, McGee was suffering from cancer. That said, his death in 1988 was brought on by a heart problem, thought to have been resolved in 1965.

Today, his ministry continues and broadcasts of Thru the Bible can be heard around the world in more than 100 languages. In North America, over 800 radio stations broadcast it and, elsewhere, one can enjoy the programme via radio, shortwave, and the Thru the Bible ministries website.

Without further ado, let us move on to McGee’s application of Matthew 7:6 in real life.

Here is the verse (ESV):

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.

Some may find the KJV more familiar:

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Now for McKee’s anecdote. This is helpful for reprobates who have turned their lives around with the help of divine grace and the Holy Spirit. Their problem comes from mockers who remember their past (emphasis mine):

I remember a Tennessee legislator friend of mine who was a heavy drinker. He was wonderfully converted and is a choice servant of God today. The other members of the legislature knew how he drank. Then they heard he “got religion,” as they called it. One day this fellow took his seat in the legislature, and his fellow-members looked him over. Finally, someone rose, addressed the chairman of the meeting and said, “I make a motion that we hear a sermon from Deacon So-and-So.” Everyone laughed. But my friend was equal to the occasion. He got to his feet and said, “I’m sorry, I do not have anything to say. My Lord told me not to cast my pearls before swine.” He sat down, and they never ridiculed him anymore. (McGee, J V: Thru the Bible Commentary:  Nashville: Thomas Nelson)

A good answer to remember should the occasion arise!

John F MacArthurA John MacArthur sermon I cited yesterday has a lovely explanation of marriage.

Excerpts follow from his exposition of Matthew 19:10-12, ‘Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce, Part 4′. Emphases mine below.

Leaders of every youth group from secondary school through university would do well to borrow from this sermon. Too many of us do not fully appreciate matrimony.

MacArthur sets out the main points of marriage. Each begins with a ‘P’.

Procreation

Children are an heritage from the Lord, so there is marriage to have children.  Procreation … Nothing is more clear than you two are one when you see your selves in that one that is born of your union. 

Pleasure

It’s for pleasure.  Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is honorable in all and the bed is undefiled.”  The bed is undefiled, you can’t do anything in that place that is defiling.  Great liberation, 1 Corinthians 7 says, your body is not yours, and her body is not hers they belong to each other and the Old Testament … from Proverbs, talks about the satisfaction of the physical relationship, the pleasure.

Purity

It’s for purity.  In 1 Corinthians 7:2, the Bible says, that for fornication let every man have his own wife.

This is the verse (ESV):

But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.

Provision

I love this.  Ephesians 5 says that the man is to nourish, cherish, provide for, care for, be like a savior to his wife

… marriage is a provision of security, it’s a provision of carrying and nourishing and cherishing.  Providing for[;] in fact, it says, if a man doesn’t provide for his own household, he’s worse than an unbeliever

Partnership

It’s for partnership.  When God made Eve, he said he made Adam a what?  A helper.  A helper. Somebody to come along side and help so you don’t do things alone, you do them togetherThere is strength in that fellowship, isn’t there.  And I confess to you that my wife is strong where I am weak and that I tend to be strong where she is weak and that’s the way it ought to be.  She tells me when I need to be told and if she didn’t, she wouldn’t be strength to my weakness.  She has wonderful ways of reminding me of my weaknesses.  In fact, I can hear the speech coming before she gives it.  I know, speech number 8, you don’t have to give it.  But there is real partnership isn’t there, real partnership.  I mean, I go here and I work here and I study and I do the things I need to do and she’s home providing all the home needs all that the children need, all that I need to be free to do what I do.  It’s real partnership.  And I provide all the resources that she needs to do what God has ordained for her to do and so that’s partnership.

Picture

And then finally, marriage is picture.  It’s picture and what is it picture of?  It is picture of Christ and his what?  Church.  Ephesians 5, it is a graphic demonstration in the face of the world that God loves and has an ongoing unending relationship with the bride whom he loves.  And for whom he lives and dies and I dare say that the whole metaphor of marriage of a symbol of Christ and his church has lost its punch because the church is so rife with divorce and fouled up marriages. 

Conclusion

Some psychologists did a study and came up with a theory that you are what you are because you are adjusting to the most important person in your life.  Whoever the most important person is in your life, that’s the person you are trying to please.  Very simple for the Christian, isn’t it?  Who is the most important person in our life?  Christ.  That settles the issue, really, because now we can say, I receive it, if you say it.  It’s God’s order. 

If more of us heard, read and heeded those succinct yet necessary messages about marriage, we would have fewer divorces and many more happy unions.

On May 6, 2016, Russell Moore, a prominent Southern Baptist, wrote an editorial for The New York Times (NYT) explaining why Evangelicals should not support Donald Trump.

Yesterday’s post showed to what extremes his views have been taken by other Protestant clergy and laymen, including church discipline. Yikes!

Yet, not one of them is warning Christians against voting for Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, both of whom are pro-choice. Clinton could also be asked any number of questions on unresolved topics over the past few decades.

Therefore, we appear to be receiving a particular sort of message from Moore and those who agree with him.

Unpacking the message

What a number Southern Baptists saw in Moore’s message was the mention of their denomination. Therefore, many of them are taking to heart the advice not to vote for Trump.

Some Evangelicals saw that his article, or citations of it elsewhere, concerned them. Gosh, they thought, it is time to sit up, read and reconsider.

Moore crafted his message cannily and cynically. In essence, he implies that white Evangelicals are inherently racist, beginning with the title, ‘A White Church No More’.

The body of his op-ed piece — which might have been more relevant in the early 1970s rather than now — includes insults to the intelligence such as:

If Jesus is alive — and I believe that he is — he will keep his promise and build his church. But he never promises to do that solely with white, suburban institutional evangelicalism.

No one ever said He did.

The question is whether evangelicals will be on the right side of Jesus …

Wow …

And finally:

The Bible calls on Christians to bear one another’s burdens. White American Christians who respond to cultural tumult with nostalgia fail to do this. They are blinding themselves to the injustices faced by their black and brown brothers and sisters in the supposedly idyllic Mayberry of white Christian America …

A white American Christian who disregards nativist language is in for a shock …

Mayberry, for my readers who are not from the US, refers to two 1960s television shows that took place in a fictional small town of the same name: The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D. There are very few Mayberries left. America is widely integrated today.

Moore is barking up the wrong tree.

I attended integrated churches — Catholic and, later, Episcopalian — in the US in the 1970s and 1980s. We had Hispanics in the former (suburbs) and blacks in the latter (metropolis). The white congregants made them feel most welcome. They played prominent roles in the guitar Masses (Catholic) or were ushers and greeters (Episcopalian).

I also once attended one of the first big-box Evangelical churches in the area where I lived in the 1970s. There were several black families, all greeted and treated like anyone else in the congregation.

No one cared what colour anyone else was then, nor do they now.

Moore’s Wikipedia entry says that prior to entering the ministry, he was an aide to a Democrat, Congressman Gene Taylor of Mississippi.

On this note, in 2015, Moore interviewed some of the presidential candidates at a missions conference during the summer. Interestingly, he did not issue invitations to fellow Southern Baptists — Republicans — Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz. Yet, he invited Methodist Hillary Clinton, a Democrat. She declined.

Regardless of his politics now, deep down he appears to be playing a Democrat game. So do the other men mentioned in this post; go to the linked essays therein and read the comments.

In 2016, as the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, Moore opposed the views not only of Trump but also Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton. He objected to Cruz’s call for a religious test for refugees wishing to enter the United States. He opposed Clinton’s pro-choice stance.

Then, in March, he wrote, also for the NYT, that Christians should vote for a third-party candidate if faced with Clinton and Trump.

Now — in May — he mentions only Trump and gives Clinton a pass.

There is also the matter of churches making money off of resettling refugees and immigrants arriving in the United States. I saw a news show recently that said that immigration officials know where to direct newcomers. There is a list of local churches and charities who will take them in immediately and begin their resettlement.

Voluntary agencies (Volags) — religious and secular — helping out in this regard are paid by the US government, i.e. the taxpayer. Refugee Resettlement Watch has more, including the following:

Below are some of the sources of income for Volags:

a.  $1,850 per refugee (including children) from the State Department.

b.  Up to $2,200 for each refugee by participating in a U.S. DHHS program known as Matching Grant. To get the $2,200, the Volag need only show it spent $200 and gave away $800 worth of donated clothes, furniture or cars.

c. The Volag pockets 25% of every transportation loan it collects from refugees it “sponsors”.

d. All Volag expenses and overhead in the Washington, DC HQ are paid by the U.S. government.

e. For their refugee programs, Volags collect money from all federal grant programs – “Marriage Initiative”, “Faith-based”, “Ownership Society”, etc., as well as from various state and local grants.

The program is so lucrative that in some towns the Catholic Church has lessened support for traditional charity works to put more effort into resettlement …

Public money has thoroughly driven out private money.

Therefore, voluntary refugee and immigrant agencies — including churches — make a lot of money from the taxpayer. Readers may consider this at their leisure.

Evangelical churches in the United States

It is unclear as to why Moore works on the presumption that white Evangelicals are, by definition, anti-immigrant.

Evangelicals are truly a broad church and have different affiliations. Some, like the ELCA, are Lutheran. Others are Pentecostal. Others are independent but affiliate with broader Evangelical groups with similarly-minded theology.

Some are inclined towards the Democratic Party, even when they interpret the Bible literally. Others lean Republican but are openly accepting and welcoming of all who attend their churches.

I have read a lot of Evangelical commentary since I started this blog in 2009. I have not read one racist comment from anyone — layperson, elder or minister.

Why Trump is winning the Evangelical vote

Like every other American, Evangelicals also need to put food on the table and clothes in the wardrobe.

They have homes and health insurance to pay for, cars to run and jobs to keep — or find.

Evangelicals are concerned about the future, especially that of their children and grandchildren.

Trump is the only candidate who talks about job creation and improving the economy. Is it any surprise that people, including Evangelicals, like that message?

For the record

For the record, a Trump insider says the billionaire changed his mind about abortion once his youngest son Barron was born ten years ago. He sometimes tells the story as being about an anonymous third person, because it was an intensely private journey for him to make.

As for enemies foreign and domestic, Trump is the only candidate to point out that terrorism is an issue. He has said in a number of his rallies that he has Muslim friends and business associates in the US and in the Middle East. His proposals for immigration or travel among this religious group have always included either the words ‘temporary’ or ‘until we figure out what’s going on’. Note that, only a few days after he first said this in December 2015, the San Bernardino attack took place. He spoke of Brussels’s dire situation in January. Two attacks on that city took place in March. Meanwhile, the Belgian and French security forces already knew there was a hotbed of extremism in parts of Brussels. That became clear when Paris was attacked on November 13, 2015.

Also note that the no-fly list has been in place since Bush II’s administration. A Muslim family from the UK were banned from flying to the US just before Christmas — under the Obama administration — because Homeland Security suspected a family member of having links to extremists.

With regard to immigration, Trump is careful in his speeches to specify that he supports legal immigration. Can he help it if people like Moore and the media take it out of context? And, yes, there is a rape epidemic affecting Mexican women crossing the border into the US. Even PBS has pointed that out. Why can’t Trump?

In conclusion

Personally, I do not care for whom you vote. That is your business.

However, let’s not be taken in by people saying voting for this or that candidate is immoral and is subject to church discipline. That is absurd and wrong. Voting is an intensely private matter. Let’s nip this in the bud — now!

Singling out one candidate when the others are all equally sinners in one way or another is, in and of itself, morally objectionable.

You can read what clergy have to say at Time.

JesusChristAs we are in Easter Week, recalling in joyful hope Christ’s rising from the dead, let’s remember Resurrection theology, which keeps our minds on eternal life.

Most of the following posts excerpt the sermons of Revd James A Fowler of Christ In You Ministries. He is a proponent of exploring the deeper meaning of the Resurrection and asking how we view it in our lives as Christians.

Remembering the reality of the risen Christ

Are we bypassing the risen Christ?

A call for Resurrection theology

Christianity IS the Risen Christ

Unlocking the meaning of the Gospel

The extension of the risen Christ

A Lutheran application of Resurrection theology

May you find these sermons and reflections uplifting in your Christian journey!

John F MacArthur

I hope that those who have Easter Monday as a holiday are enjoying it! We in Britain are.

Yesterday’s post had as a source a sermon by John MacArthur about Acts 10:34-43.

‘The Why, Who and How of the Resurrection’, which he gave in 1996, begins with a summary of articles about Jesus which appeared in Easter editions of Time, Newsweek and US News and World Report.

I won’t go into their vile, false stories, which you can read for yourselves in the sermon.

This is MacArthur’s explanation for such falsehoods (emphases mine):

they do not like the Jesus of the New Testament because He confronts their sin and He threatens judgment. And consequently, they, wanting to hold to their sin, invent a Jesus more to their liking.

A lot of Christians — especially clergy — do this, too. We have liberation theologians, social gospel proponents and others who say that Jesus came to change the temporal world.

No.

As MacArthur points out:

The historical Jesus reached a living end and because He lives we can live also and escape hell with our sins forgiven. The only thing that sends sinners to hell is their sins and God says I’ll forgive them if you’ll believe in Jesus Christ. What a gift.

I’ll tell you one thing, if you miss the real Jesus and His salvation, life will be a dead end.

It will indeed.

I hope and pray that we remember Christ’s resurrection from the dead not only at Easter but every day with thanks to God.

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