Why I Vote

There are two things you should never talk about at Thanksgiving: religion and politics. Since Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away, let’s go ahead and do both. Though some will argue for splitting the two up, it is important that both religion and politics continue to keep a civil discourse together. For Christians, participation in government, including the right to vote, is an important means for achieving a society that protects fundamental God given rights. Below I discuss some personal reasons for why I vote.

Influence Local Government

I hear often, “its just one vote what does it matter –  it won’t influence anything.” Let’s ask for a moment what just one vote represents. A vote represents the influence which one person has in government. If I get the privilege of casting only one vote, what have I influenced? After all, one grain of salt hardly makes a difference when baking a loaf of bread. However, if the baker forgets to put just a fourth of a teaspoon into the mixing, the entire batch won’t turn out right. We must understand this, our country is run by votes! If we are in-tune with the needs of our community, then our vote – our influence – is doing more than making one tick mark on the ballot; our influence is garnering the will of the people for the improvement of our local community. Therefore, we can actually measure the good we have done for our cities through the democratic process. We can reflect on and change the policies of our towns. My vote is a personal plumb line for measuring foundation of our society’s principles.

Integrity

If we cannot be true to our convictions in the voting box, then we are not true to our convictions. A vote may not make so much a difference where you are, but it does say something about who you are. Take for example the issue of abortion. There is a large chasm of difference between someone who claims a pro-life stance and someone who votes pro-life. Yet under the guise of separation of church and state, many Christians do not want to take their ethics and morals to the voting booth. They don’t want to ‘impose’ on others. The person who says, “I cannot take my religion to the polls,” advertises his  hypocrisy. His beliefs are little more than virtue signaling. The most basic action any Christian can take towards building a moral and ethical society is with her vote. Removing the Christian influence from the public arena is not just putting our light under a basket, it is snuffing that light out altogether.

Just and Humble Leaders

I long for our nation to be led by just and humble leaders.  Who are the great men and women of our day? Who are the leaders going to be? Often our political officials strut around with heads too large to bend their neck to an ordinary task. But just and humble leadership in office begins with just and humble voters at the polls. Our elected leaders are nothing more than mirrors reflecting ourselves. We ought to remember that in the United States the people rule (or at least should rule) and if the people are moral and just in ruling, we do not need the “greater” men and women in office – we just need a common person who is willing to serve. When I go to vote, I am not looking for a great name like Washington, Lincoln, or Roosevelt. If a man or woman is not great before they serve in an office, they won’t be great when they secure it. Therefore, I am looking for the honest humble servant. Since we do not need men and women who are ambitious for an office but rather ambitious for service, then I (as a voter) need to be ambitious for serving. Serving our nation begins with my one vote.

Do we really believe that our nation is made great by those serving in an elected office? Our revolution was not won by an epoch of uncommon men and women. Our government was not founded on the belief of a ruling class. No, we are a nation of the ordinary mundane everyday men and women. Our elected officials are hewn from the same quarry as our, builders, nurses, lawyers, and artists. No matter our birthrights, economic status, or education, we all gather together on one equal playing field. We all hold exactly one vote in our hands – one vote that speaks volumes for the state of our influence, integrity, and humility as a nation.

Pastor Summerville First Baptist Married to Danielle, father of three, PhD student at SWBTS, MDiv 2012 SWBTS, BA Theatre OSU.

Learning to Trust

Remember when you first learned to swim? As a father of five, I’ve spent my share of time at the pool beckoning my children to jump in. I would re-assure them each time. “Jump in! Daddy’s got you. I won’t let anything happen.” And, eventually (and sometimes after much coercion) they would jump in. And like most fathers do, depending on the child, his temperament, and/or his capability, I would challenge them differently.

In my Christian walk, I’ve found that particular portrait—a loving father calling his child to jump in and trust him—to be very meaningful. In many ways, I see so much of my relationship with my heavenly Father in that light.

But much in the same way that my sons express their frustration that I treat one of their brothers (or their sister) differently than I do them, in my own moments of difficulty, I find that the Lord tends to treat his children differently as well.

For some, he never lets their heads go underwater. He calls them and they jump as best they can, reaching out for him and he catches them. Then, they splash the water and complain a little because the water got in their eyes and their goggles didn’t stay up.

For others, however, he does that thing where we jump in and swim and swim and he just keeps backing up!, all-the-while saying, “You’ve got this, champ! Just keep kicking.” But he doesn’t ever actually reach out and grab us until we’ve swallowed half of the pool and have begun to sink to the bottom.

I’ve seen the Lord handle other brothers and sisters in Christ like I might handle my younger boys. There’s never a doubt that they are safe and secure in his hands. Even when they hit the water, their splash is tempered by his catch.

My experience, however, has been much more like the second example. When he says “jump,” it doesn’t take me long to get airborne. But as my arms grow weary from swimming and I can’t kick my legs hard enough to remain afloat, I find myself reaching out with sheer desperation. And then, without warning, at just the right moment, he steps in and takes hold of me.

And each time I think of my experience in that light, a few points come to mind.

Just jump!

However you may envision the future—however you may think the Lord is going to respond to your faith—whether you believe he’s going to catch you before you even touch the water or if you think he’s going to keep back up—if he calls you to jump, the only proper response is to get off of the ground.

We have all had those moments when we have known with complete certainty that God has called us to something that required his intervention to succeed. It may have been a ministry initiative. It may have been a church revitalization effort. It may have been as simple as a gospel encounter. When he calls us to jump, our task is not to calculate the distance and wind speed. Our task is simple—get airborne.

Just swim!

Once you take that initial step of faith and dive in, he may catch you. And in that moment, you experience the wonderful sense of his care. But he might not catch you immediately. He might allow you to hit the water—even to go under for a brief moment—and you might surface looking for his hands.

Start swimming. Look for his face and move in that direction. The Christian life was never intended to be “easy like Sunday morning.” Paul described it as labor—even describing his own work as a struggle. Concluding his letter to the churches in Galatia, he encouraged them to “not grow weary” in their striving (Gal 6:9). Contrary to what some may believe, effort is not at odds with grace.

Even in your striving, he still watches over you.

Trust him in the air and trust him in the water

When calls us to jump out toward him and our feet leave the deck, it demonstrates our faith. When we hit the water and he seems to be backing away, our swimming once again demonstrates our faith. In either scenario, our heavenly Father is watching over us.

But, lest we forget, fathers do not call children to jump out to them for the sake of catching them, or even for the sake of not catching them and watching them struggle in the water. Two reasons come to mind:

  1. To teach children to swim.
  2. To teach children to trust.

Today, you may find yourself at the edge of the pool and you know beyond a doubt that he is calling you to jump. Stop running the calculations in your mind. If he’s calling, jump.

You may find yourself airborne in this very moment. He’s called you to do something and you’ve taken the first steps of obedience. You’ve leapt into the air. Trust that he’s going to catch you.

Or, you may be swimming at this very moment. Your eyes have grown wide because you still don’t sense his hands. Your heart has begun to race because, in that brief moment of panic, you begin to think your trust may have been misplaced.

It isn’t.

At just the right time, he’ll grab you. And he’ll lift you up. And all your effort—all your striving—all your labor—will have been worth it because you’ll be safe and secure in his hands.

Keep swimming.

Adjunct Professor.
PhD in Theology.
Head Barista at Caffeinated Theology.
Just give me Jesus . . . and coffee.

Should the church #believewomen?

Mayella Ewell falsely accused Tom Robinson of sexual assault, but Tom was found guilty. While making an attempt to escape prison, Tom was shot dead. Do you remember Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird? It was one of my favorite books growing up. In the novel Mayella truly had been assaulted; she was a survivor. But Tom was not her attacker and she knew it. Atticus Finch, Tom’s Lawyer, could do little to reconcile Tom before the court. Lee wrote, “Atticus had used every tool available to free men to save Tom Robinson, but in the secret courts of men’s hearts Atticus had no case.”

As the #believewomen movement grows, To Kill a Mockingbird puts an important question before us:

How do we protect the abused, while maintaining a presumption of innocence?

Harper Lee’s 1960 fiction shines a light on 2018 issues. When Tom Robinson was accused, he was considered guilty because of his race. If the court of public opinion is mistaken as a court of justice, the innocent are often destroyed. So how should the church respond in cases like the one presented in To Kill a Mockingbird?

This question isn’t a mere hypothetical. As recent events have proven, even the church is not exempt from both abuse and false accusations. When accusations come forward, and those who have been abused should feel safe coming forward, who should the church believe: all the accusers or all the accused?

Even the attempt to answer such a question inherently alters the role of the church. The church is no longer the Bride of Christ but assumes the gavel of the Judge. In doing so, she assumes a role reserved for her Bridegroom, Jesus (Matt 28:18, Acts 10:42). Only God knows the secret courts of men’s hearts. In a world full of hurt and pain, Jesus assures both the abused and falsely accused a just heavenly court where sin will be punished. Meanwhile, God gave the church a specific role: healing wounds—not judging them.

The Judge or The Bride?

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
2 Corinthians 5:18

When accusations arise, the question for the church isn’t “who should we believe” but rather, “how can we bring about reconciliation—how can we make things right?” In such cases we would do well to remember the church is the Bride and not the Judge. As the Bride, the church points to the only True Judge—Christ. He alone is the truly Just Judge. His Bride, the local church, seeks to restore the abused in him; in her, the abused find a empathetic embrace. Women who have been sexually assaulted and abused ought to find care in the church. The Bride of Christ can and does provide shelters, safe places, and counsel for assaulted women.

Having addressed those who are abused, we must also talk about protecting those falsely accused. False accusations are the minority of cases, but they need reconciliation too. We must remember that Jesus was falsely accused, sentenced and executed before a court largely influenced by public opinion. The Bride, therefore, must be very judicious before making public statements concerning any accused party. Premature public declarations of innocence or guilt threaten to change sanctuaries into courtrooms and altars into witness stands. In order to refrain from putting on the judge’s robe, the church should allow for outside investigation for accusations against her ministers.

In God’s court, all truth will be established. Yet here on earth, some of the guilty will go free. Lamentably, not all of the abused will receive earthly justice. Some of the innocent will be punished. Therefore while the Bride points to God’s ultimate justice, she must embrace and bring healing to the children of God. The local church—the embassies of God’s kingdom—must offer the healing balm of the gospel to the deepest wounds of the heart.

Pastor Summerville First Baptist Married to Danielle, father of three, PhD student at SWBTS, MDiv 2012 SWBTS, BA Theatre OSU.

Have We Grown Past That Old Time Religion?

For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

For many of us, John 3:16 was the first Bible verse that we memorized. Yet sadly, so many Christians feel they have outgrown this verse. They believe themselves to have moved past its meaning and that childlike faith they had growing up in church services, Vacation Bible School, and youth camps.

By the time we reach young adulthood and begin to enter the workforce, those precious childhood memories of our best Sunday dress and gospel moments seem like ages ago. As a sophisticated adult, the very idea of a loving and caring God so important to our younger days can be viewed as quaint, but as meaningful? For many, it was perhaps the faith of their grandparents and their generation, but not our own. It’s too rigid. Too archaic. As a result, many opt to hold the faith they once held dear at an arm’s length until they’re ready to live a life more in line with the “old-fashioned ways” of the Bible or until the crisis strikes and they run out of any other option. Then, when everything settles down, that’s when they’ll return to that Old Time Religion.

But that’s not the faith of our grandparents at all. The faith they exhibited was lived out day-to-day for decades before we ever took notice. They walked with Jesus every day long before we came along. So, when our grandmother sang us hymns at bedtime, it wasn’t a new song she had just learned in choir practice—it was the same song she had sung to your mother when rocking her to sleep. It was the same song she had sung as a little girl herself. That song—that reminder of the nearness of her Savior—kept her close to him through every storm of life. That’s not a faith grounded in attending church on the occasional weekend. A faith like that takes time.

A faith like that makes it easy to share with others. A faith like that spills out. Could that be why we find it so difficult to share our faith with others? Could it be that we lack that hard-earned confidence in God-our-Savior and that is why we find the words so difficult to speak?

The gospel hasn’t changed. It still saves. Romans 10:13 says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” and that promise still stands today. Christ is still saving those who trust in him by grace through faith—those who hear of Christ’s sacrifice and believe with a sincere heart. Christ hasn’t changed. He still offers the hope and fulfillment we seek.

In my next post, I want to offer an evangelism tool that I’ve found helpful in keeping me pursuing the lost. But for now, maybe it’s worth asking if our hesitation in sharing the gospel is the result of our distance from it. Perhaps we need to read those simple words from John’s Gospel once more.

For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Because if we believe those words to be true, it’s not the sort of thing that belong on a cross-stitched pillow carelessly tossed to the other end of the sofa. If we believe in him, it changes everything . . . and that can’t be put off.

Jesus Follower. Husband. Father. Evangelist. PhD Evangelism @SWBTS. Woodturner. Cyclist. Cast-Iron Culinarian.

Condemning the Specks

As the time for Christine Blasey Ford to speak before the judiciary committee concerning her allegations against Supreme Court nominee, Bret Kavanaugh draws near, all of social media is filled with opinions. Some Christian leaders have flocked to Kavanaugh’s aide, defending his character. Others pastors have embraced Ford in an effort to stand for and defend all abused women. Whatever the outcome, the lesson for Christians should be clear: be careful condemning from the darkness what will soon be revealed in the light.

Using equal measures

Jesus is often misquoted when it comes to judging others. “Don’t Judge Me” has morphed from clique into comedic memes. Yet, Jesus never asked human beings not to judge, rather to judge correctly.  I love how Jesus understood judging others,

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. . . . For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” (Luke 6:37–42).

When the accused stands before a judge, the judge is not to use an unequal measures. Would we want others to condemn us the way we condemn? Do we want God to judge us the way we judge others? The illustration of equal measure should give us pause, when it comes to posting an opinion concerning those who have been accused. Would we want to be deemed guilty before even having entered the courtroom? Would we want our testimony condemned before it had even been given?

Are Christians judging with unequal measures? Part of the #whyididntreport movement’s argument is based on unequal scales. They claim men are given the benefit of the doubt, while a woman’s testimony is questioned. What about political affiliations? Placing an donkey on the left or an elephant on the right of Lady Justice’s scales, would certainly cause her to peak from under the blindfold. Everyone’s measures are affected by implicit bias. Therefore, before Christians condemn publicly, we must be careful to look at God’s measures. Since God judges mankind impartially, we must also judge impartially.

Blind Leading the Blind

When Jesus continued his teaching on judging others, he gave an illustration. Does a blind guide guide well? “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” Jesus tells us that our own judgments come out of our own darkness. Darkness of facts impairs our verdicts. Darkness of sin imbalances our measures. Therefore, Christian leaders and pastors ought to withhold judgments against anyone who may have caught the public’s eye. Premature personal verdicts diminish our credibility.

Removing the Plank

So, we are left with one solution. Any time someone is dragged into the public spectacle and stands accused, Christians ought to take the opportunity to reflect rather than project. We can project our voices out onto social media. We can capitalize every word, gesticulate as much as emojis will allow, and add a legion of exclamation marks, to prove whether the accused is messiah or demon. None of these tools are useful for servants bent on washing feet and loving others.

An accused party ought to give us pause. Is the accusation against the accused lodged in my own eye? Do I abuse women? Am I truthful in all my words? Have I ever condemned someone falsely? Would my teenage years grant me access to sainthood? Am I in need of grace and mercy? Jesus marked the path for Christians succinctly: “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.”

Yes, we will have to judge on this earth. But let us be good judges with clear vision. Let us see that we are all sinners in need of grace. And thankfully grace doesn’t just balance the scales before God, it removes them from the equation.

Pastor Summerville First Baptist Married to Danielle, father of three, PhD student at SWBTS, MDiv 2012 SWBTS, BA Theatre OSU.

Who Gets to Divine the Divine? A Response to Union Seminary’s Statement

On September 5th, 2018 Union Seminary released statements of belief on their twitter account. The release appears to be a reaction to the recent petition concerning Social Justice. This petition has garnered over 6000 signatures, including that of John MacArthur and Voddie Baucham. In addressing the statement on social justice, Union Seminary established their views as the polar opposite of those put forward in the petition. Below I’ll address two tenets put forward by Union Seminary.

1. On Scripture

“While divinely inspired, we deny the Bible is inerrant or infallible.”
-Union Seminary on Scripture.

When Union Seminary states, “divinely inspired,” it is qualified as an errant fallible inspiration. The justification for Union Seminary’s view derives from their doctrine of sin. Since the Bible was authored by men, Union Seminary argues, it must contain some form of sin—particularly bias and prejudice. The sinful prejudice of the Bible is evidenced by the demographics of the biblical authors. Since biblical authorship lacks diversity in race, gender, and sexuality, how could modern readers believe the Bible is free from prejudice? Modern biblical scholarship exists, Union Seminary claims, to help readers sift through the words of the Bible to discover that which is divinely inspired and that which is prejudice. Therefore, they must qualify divine inspiration by stating, “we affirm that biblical scholarship and critical theory help us discern which messages are God’s.”

Let’s consider the logic of Union Seminary’s statement for a moment—the Bible is divinely inspired, but human sin and prejudice have obscured God’s message. Therefore, human scholars—human sinful scholars—are needed to clarify that which was divinely inspired from that which was mere human prejudice. Infallibility and inerrancy are affirmed by Union Seminary’s statement, but not in the words of Scripture, but rather in the discernment of biblical scholars.

So I have to wonder, if authors divinely inspired by the sinless Holy Spirit could not overcome their own prejudices, how can we expect non-divinely inspired scholars to do better? Are biblical scholars qualified to sift the divine from the drivel by way of critical theory? If so, the scientific method of  scholarship trumps divine inspiration.

Does Union Seminary’s statement concerning scripture give critical theory powers of divination? When Union Seminary states, “while divinely inspired,” they make divine inspiration a conditional clause reliant on critical theory. For proof, lets observe their statement on the imago Dei.

2. The Image of God

We affirm that God created every person in God’s own image. Accordingly, we deny that vitriol directed towards people because of how God made them (i.e. sexual orientation or gender identity) is in any way faithful, biblical or godly.
-Union Seminary on Imago Dei.

In this statement, Union Seminary makes some very large claims. First, they affirm every person is created in the imago Dei. They deny binary gender as vitriolic and unbiblical. Consider the verse referenced by these statements:

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
Genesis 1:27

In order to reach Union Seminary’s understanding of the imago Dei, one must affirm the first clause of verse 27, “So God created man [meaning humanity] in his own image.” However, one must also accept that the author of Genesis revealed his prejudice by espousing gender in a binary fashion. So, when the divinely inspired author wrote, “male and female he created them,” he was unduly influenced by his sin and/or prejudice. But who decides which clauses are God’s message and which are man’s prejudice?

Who gets to divine the Divine? When Union Seminary denies the Word of God as infallible and inerrant, they ratify the infallibility and inerrancy of scholarship. Inerrancy and infallibility are not removed from their consideration; they are transferred to a new location.

Union Seminary leaves us with an unfortunate truth. In a postmodern, post-Christian culture, leaving inerrancy and infallibility in the hands of God is a liability. From a social aspect, it costs too many followers. From an economic standpoint, it costs too many patrons. In terms of politics, too many offices. So, inerrancy must be outsourced.  And where should we house it? The fickle slums of human wisdom has always been the cheapest option.

And so, the question of Genesis 3 becomes relevant once again, “did God actually say?” Either divine inspiration or the scholar’s method is infallible and inerrant. Who is inerrant: God? or humanity?

Before we answer too quickly, we must remember that dust with a PhD, is still dust.

Pastor Summerville First Baptist Married to Danielle, father of three, PhD student at SWBTS, MDiv 2012 SWBTS, BA Theatre OSU.