The One Maxim That Comforts My Soul in the Midst of Social & Political Storms

On this Election Day, wearied by the rancor that too much permeates our culture – and that has infested the Church – these words from slave-trader-turned-pastor/poet John Newton are at the forefront of my mind:

I meddle not with the disputes of party, nor concern myself with any political maxims, but such as are laid down in Scripture. 

There is one political maxim which comforts me: ‘The Lord reigns.’ His hand guides the storm; and He knows them that are His, how to protect, support, and deliver them.

It is a comfort to my soul and to my mind to remember that “The Lord Reigns”. I regularly need to remind myself that it is not just that the Lord will reign someday – though that is certainty God’s promise. The Lord Reigns NOW! – Today. When Jesus came on the scene he declared: “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” This means that in his first advent – his first appearance – he began to reclaim all that belongs to him – (which is everything). He reigns today in the hearts and lives of his people throughout the World. And he is sovereign over all creation, so that whether people bow to Him and honor Him as Lord or not, he is still working out his purposes. (see Psalm 2) He cannot be stopped. He Reigns. He will Reign. And with the mess I see all around me, or whenever I turn on the news, “the Lord Reigns ” is a comfort to me, no matter what the election results are tonight, and in the coming days.

As a fan of John Newton, I also began my day today by re-reading this short letter from Newton to a friend, from which the quotes above are taken. The context of this letter is a call to his fellow Englishmen to pray for the renewal of his homeland, prompted by news of “hostilities” in the American colonies. Though this letter was written in August 1775, the wisdom and the tone are timeless. (From The Works of John Newton, v. 2)

“O what a Shepherd! Let us love, and sing, and wonder.

I hope the good people at Bristol, and everywhere else, are praying for our sinful, distracted land, in this dark day. The Lord is angry, the sword is drawn, and I am afraid nothing but the spirit of wrestling prayer can prevail for the returning it into the scabbard.

Could things have proceeded to these extremities, except the Lord had withdrawn His salutary blessing from both sides? It is a time of prayer.

We see the beginning of trouble, but who can foresee the possible consequences? The fire is kindled; but how far it may spread, those who are above may perhaps know better than we.

I meddle not with the disputes of party, nor concern myself with any political maxims, but such as are laid down in Scripture. There I read that righteousness exalteth a nation, and that sin is the reproach, and, if persisted in, the ruin of any people.

Some people are startled at the enormous sum of our national debt: they who understand spiritual arithmetic may be well startled if they sit down and compute the debt of national sin.

Imprimis, Infidelity: Item, Contempt of the Gospel: Item, The profligacy of manners: Item, Perjury: Item, The cry of blood, the blood of thousands, perhaps millions, from the East Indies.

It would take sheets, yea quires (i.e. 25 sheets of paper), to draw out the particulars under each of these heads, and then much would remain untold. What can we answer, when the Lord saith, ‘Shall not I visit for these things? Shall not My soul be avenged on such a nation as this?’

Since we received the news of the first hostilities in America, we have had an additional prayer-meeting. Could I hear that professors in general, instead of wasting their breath in censuring men and measures, were plying the Throne of Grace, I should still hope for a respite.

Poor New England! Once the glory of the earth, now likely to be visited with fire and sword. They have left their first love, and the Lord is sorely contending with them.

Yet surely their sins as a people are not to be compared with ours. I am just so much affected with these things as to know, that I am not affected enough.

Oh! My spirit is sadly cold and insensible, or I should lay them to heart in a different manner: yet I endeavour to give the alarm as far as I can.

There is one political maxim which comforts me: ‘The Lord reigns.’ His hand guides the storm; and He knows them that are His, how to protect, support, and deliver them.

He will take care of His own cause; yea, He will extend His kingdom, even by these formidable methods.

Men have one thing in view; He has another, and His counsel shall stand.”

The 10 Commandments in American Culture

While reading through The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers, by David Hansen, (a book recently recommended to me that I find myself wishing I had read years ago,) I came across this convicting assessment of American culture – an indictment that sadly is also widely applicable to a wide swath of American Evangelicalism:

“The majority of Americans will tell any pollster that they believe in the Ten Commandments. But only a small percentage of those people could even recite the Ten Commandment; and even a smaller percentage have any genuine interest in following them.”

David Hansen


Racial Justice & The Church: Navigating the Minefield

Trying to hold an ongoing conversation about race and justice feels like trying to navigate a rhetorical minefield. Watch out. You never know if that next step is going to explode. But it is a conversation that needs to continue. I believe it is a conversation that especially needs to continue in the Church. The question is: “How”?

Here are four principles that recently came to me via an email:

First, you clarify what the Scriptures teach about justice and how God intends for people of different ethnic backgrounds to treat one another. 

Second, you highlight the aspects of your theological tradition that illuminate what the Scriptures teach about “race” and justice. 

Third, you examine the unvarnished history of how your religious tradition has contributed to or resisted racial injustice in the part of the world you live in. 

Finally, you sit with the sociological impact of your religious tradition’s actions to pursue or deny racial injustice.

4 Admonitions For (Christian) Justice Seekers

In his preface to Thaddeus Williams‘ excellent Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth, the widely esteemed John Perkins writes a two-page Foreword that itself is worthy of the price of the book.

In his Foreword Perkins writes:

“Through my sixty years of working for justice, I offer four admonishments to the next generation of justice seekers.”

First, Start With God!

God is bigger than we can imagine. We have to align ourselves with his purpose, his will, his mission to let justice roll down, and bring forgiveness and love to everyone on earth. The problem of injustice is a God-sized problem. If we don’t start with him first, whatever we are seeking, it ain’t justice.

Second, Be One In Christ!

Christian brothers and sisters – black, white, brown, rich, and poor – we are family. We are one blood. We are adopted by the same Father, served by the same Son, filled with the same Spirit. In John 17 Jesus prays for everyone who would believe in him, that people from every tongue, tribe, and nation would be one. That oneness is how the world will know who Jesus is. If we give a foothold to any kind of tribalism that could tear down that unity, then we aren’t bringing God’s justice.

Third, Preach the Gospel!

The gospel of Jesus’ incarnation, his perfect life, his death as our substitute, and his triumph over sin and death is good news for everyone. It is multi-cultural good news. in the blood of Jesus, we are to truly see ourselves as one race, one blood. We’ve got to stop playing the race game. Christ alone can break down the barriers of prejudice and hate we all struggle with. There is no power greater than God’s love expressed in Jesus. That’s where we all find human dignity. If we replace the gospel with this or that man-made political agenda, then we ain’t doing biblical justice.

Fourth, Teach Truth!

Without truth, there can be no justice. And what is the ultimate standard of truth? It is not our feelings. It is not popular opinion. It is not what presidents or politicians say. God’s Word is the standard of truth. If we’re trying harder to align with the rising opinions of our day than with the Bible, then we ain’t doing real justice.

Finally, Perkins wraps us his admonitions with this unfortunate assessment:

“Sadly, many Christian brothers and sisters are trying to fight this fight with man-made solutions. These solutions promise justice but deliver division and idolatry.”

What’s Wrong With Our World?

According to legend, The London Times once sent out an inquiry to famous authors, asking the question: “What’s wrong with the world today?” Among those asked to write up short essays in reply was the noted G.K. Chesterton. Chesterton’s reported reply:

Dear Sir,

I am.

Yours, G.K. Chesterton

[Whether or not this story is factual or fable may be subject to some debate. However, for the curious, The Society of G.K. Chesterton has weighed in for the discussion: What’s Wrong With the World? And Chesterton did write a book titled What’s Wrong With The World?]

Though Chesterton may have never actually penned that pithy reply, (although, maybe he did,) what the story reflects is nevertheless valid. There is much wrong in this world. We all know it. Not the least of what is wrong in this world, according to Romans 1, is me – and you.

Over at The Gospel Coalition, writer/blogger Justin Taylor has penned a semi-fictional interview with the Apostle Paul, asking the question: What is Wrong With Us? I call it semi-fictional because, though no interview has actually taken place, Taylor interacts with Paul’s actual words from Romans 1, which describe the individual contributions we each contribute to what is wrong in this world. It is a penetrating perspective from which to read Romans 1. It is well worth the read: An Interview With Paul on What’s Wrong With Us.

To Those “Born Again” in the USA

My good friend, Fred Liggin, recently posted a contextualized paraphrase of John 8.30-37 on his blog, Long Way Here, and on his Facebook page.

“As He was saying these things, many believed in Him. So Jesus said to the Christians living in the USA who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“We are descendants of democracy,” they answered Him, “and we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. We aren’t enslaved to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will become free’?”

Jesus responded, “I assure you: Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in the household forever, but a son does remain forever. Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.

“I know you are descendants of democracy, but you are trying to explain my teachings away because My word is not welcome among you.”

Kinda hits home, doesn’t it?

In sharing this I have no desire to denigrate our country – especially not right after Memorial Day. As Americans we have much to be thankful for. Among that for which I am thankful are our civil liberties, and for those who have served to preserve them. On Memorial Day we especially give thanks for those who “gave the last full measure of devotion”. As a country we have been greatly blessed. But, as a country, we also have more than a few things for which we need repent – both from our past and in our present. What I think Fred hits on is the confusion and compromise that sometimes – perhaps even all too often – occurs in the church, because of an unhealthy mixture of allegiances to country and to Christ. If you are an American, be thankful! But always remember: To God alone belongs glory. (Isaiah 42.8)

Here is the link to Fred’s original post: Jesus, Truth, and Freedom.

What’s the Problem?

Writing in 1974, Francis Schaeffer suggested:

“The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us. All these are dangerous but not the primary threat. The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”

No Little People

In other words, for Christians assessing the Culture Wars, the problem is you – and the problem is me.

Christian Social Responsibility

Article 5 of the Lausanne Covenant addresses Christian Social Responsibility as part of the church’s global mission:

We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men and women from every kind of oppression. Because men and women are made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, color, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he or she should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. Although reconciliation with other people is not reconciliation with God, nor is social action evangelism, nor is political liberation salvation, nevertheless we affirm that evangelism and socio-political involvement are both part of our Christian duty. For both are necessary expressions of our doctrines of God and Man, our love for our neighbor and our obedience to Jesus Christ. The message of salvation implies also a message of judgment upon every form of alienation, oppression and discrimination, and we should not be afraid to denounce evil and injustice wherever they exist. When people receive Christ they are born again into his kingdom and must seek not only to exhibit but also to spread its righteousness in the midst of an unrighteous world. The salvation we claim should be transforming us in the totality of our personal and social responsibilities. Faith without works is dead.

Just so there is no question in anyone’s mind whether the above statement is biblical and part of the missio dei (the Mission of God), take some time to reflect upon these scripture verses and passages:

Acts 17.26,31; Genesis 18.25; Isaiah 1.17; Psalm 45.7; Genesis 1.26-27; James 3.9; Leviticus 19.18; Luke 6.27,35; James 2.14-26; John 3.3,5; Matthew 5.20; Matthew 6.33; 2 Corinthians 3.18; James 2.20

Race in America: Some Thoughts About the Existence of Systemic Racism

Though it should not be, the issue of Racial Reconciliation is complex. It should not be simply because all people are created in the image of God, and therefore are worthy of dignity. This fundamental reality puts all of us, regardless of race, on the same common ground. However, we live in a world broken by sin, and the effects of sin have seriously complicated even those things that should be simple.

Racial Reconciliation is further complicated by, among other things, the politicalization of racism, different definitions of what racism is and isn’t (i.e. is it an attitude? actions? or an inherent characteristic of one born into a majority culture?), and different experiences. Our experiences significantly shape our perceptions.

One of the most crucial questions in our discussions about racism in the United States is whether or not it is systemic; and if it is systemic, in what ways, and to what degrees? Even these seeming basic questions can be, and are, too often more complicated than we would think they should be. Some answer the question of whether or not racism is systemic with an easy “of course it is!”. Some are denying that there is any systemic problem.  (I have seen a video with Conservative pundit, Ben Shapiro, even trying to “debunk” the idea of systemic racism.)  And others are asking how “systemic” is being defined or measured.

To those sincerely inquiring if there is such a thing as systemic racism, my answer would be an unequivocated: “Yes. There is.” Although it may be easy to overlook, if it is not effecting you or me.

Consider what Al Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, expressed on a recent episode of his podcast, The Briefing:

In its simplest understanding, the biblical conception of sin begins with sin as an offense to God, a breaking of God’s law, a transgression on the part of a human sinner. Human sinners together, as we form societies, neighborhoods, villages, institutions, congresses, legislatures, etc, we also bring that sinfulness into the making of laws, into the establishment of policies.

What Mohler shows is the viral nature of our sin. What we may think is merely personal sin, or what we might theologically call “private sin”, is still sin, and sin is infectious; our sin effects others. At times our sin gets ratified and embedded into our civil codes. Sometimes this is quite obvious, such as clear segregation laws; other times it can be more subtle, or even almost invisible – to those it does not effect.

I found the video above, by Phil Vischer, of Veggie Tales fame, to be insightful, and both winsomely and compellingly presented.  He lays out facts – facts of history and contemporary facts – that contribute to systemic or structural racism and racial disparity. Some of these may be unintended consequences of what some may have thought to be good ideas. Some of these may be lingering effects of past racially discriminatory policies that we assumed had been eradicated. Some cannot be explained by anything other than the sin of racism.

My hope in posting this video, as many have done in other mediums, is to encourage those who are sincere in their question of whether systemic or structural racism really exists to see that it absolutely does.  My prayer is that seeing will lead to understanding, and that understanding will lead to a new sensitivity, and that this new sensitivity will lead to new perception, and that this new perception will lead to a new way of thinking, and that this new thinking with a new perception, will lead to wise and godly actions.  This is a foundational issue. Where someone comes down on the question of whether there is systemic racism in our culture will determine much, if not everything, about ones ability to engage in healthy dialogue and to effect healthy change.

Race & Racism from a White Guy’s Perspective

A few days ago I posted the video of an interview done with Bryan Stevenson, of Just Mercy fame, and Timothy Keller, discussing grace, race, and justice. As a follow up, I thought I’d post this message by Keller.

In this video Tim Keller tackles the tough subjects of Race and systemic racism.  While these terms can be loaded, I hope you will take the time to listen to the perspective that Keller lays out.

Grace, Justice, and Mercy

Last night, my wife, daughter, and I watched the film, Just Mercy. It was powerful.

With the popularity of the film, currently among the Top 10 viewed on Netflix, this video offers an opportunity to go a little deeper with the main character of the movie, Bryan Stevenson.  This video is of an interview with Stephenson and Tim Keller, discussing issues of race, justice, mercy, and grace. (This interview was filmed 4 years before the release of the movie.)

Biblical Foundations of Justice

Paul, the Apostle, wrote to the Church in Corinth:

The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Corinthians 10.5)

Taking our thoughts “captive” simply means to be aware of what we are thinking, and exercising control over our thoughts by subordinating them to what God says; it is forming our opinions and convictions upon Scripture above any other sources of information. Even over our own experiences.

To the Romans Paul wrote similarly:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12.2)

Again, Paul is asserting the importance of thinking biblically.

As a culture, we are thinking and talking politically and sociologically about justice, but not theologically or Biblically.  Perhaps this is what we ought to expect of the culture. But it is also true of the American Church. It is true of the Church, largely, because we are not, and we have not been, talking about the issues in our churches.  Consequently, church members, Christians who are inundated with the socio-politcal perspective from the daily news and common rhetoric don’t have a biblcial framework through which to filter, and talk about, these issues.

This panel discussion, from The Gospel Coalition 2015 Conference, consisting of panelists Tim Keller, Voddie Baucham, Thabiti Anyabwile, John Piper, and Miguel Núñez, is five years old, but it is compellingly applicable to our current cultural discussion.

Biblical Justice

Justice is a felt need in our world today. Justice is also a hot and controversial subject. But what is justice, exactly, and who gets to define it? In this video, the folks from Bible Project explore the biblical theme of Justice and discover how it’s deeply rooted in the story-line of the Bible that leads to Jesus.

Additionally, the folks from Bible Project elaborate on this subject, with another short video and succinct explanations with graphics, in this link: Biblical Justice.

Puritan Perspective Pertaining to Our Present Pandemic


Puritan Thomas Watson, in his Body of Divinity, gave thought to circumstances that presently pertain to us today in the midst of pandemic. Perhaps most particularly for Americans, who have been blessed with a measure of freedoms rarely matched, and certainly never exceeded, in all of history, the current “stay at home” mandates by a number of our Nations governors causes many to chafe.  There is a feared oppression of religious freedoms. Whether those fears are valid or merely presumed may yet to be determined.

Watson wrote, applying the 6th Commandment:

“Thou shalt not hurt thy own body.  One may be guilty of self-murder…  Indirectly and occasionally, as:

First, When a man thrusts himself into danger which he might prevent; as if a company of archers were shooting, and one should go and stand in the place where the arrows fly, if the arrow did kill him, he is accessory to his own death.

In the law, God would have the leper shut up, to keep others from being infected. Now, if any would be so presumptuous as to go in to the leper, and get the plague of leprosy, he might thank himself; he occasioned his own death.

Secondly, A person may be in some sense guilty of his own death, by neglecting the use of means.  If sick, and use no physic, if he has received a wound and will not apply balsam, he hastens his own death.  God appointed Hezekiah to lay a “lump of figs upon the boil”. (Isaiah 38.21)  If he had not used the lump of figs, he had been the cause of his own death.

And on the 7th Commandment:

Come not into the company of a whorish woman; avoid her house, as a seaman does a rock. Proverbs 5.8: “Come not near the door of her house.”  He who would not have the plague, must not come near houses infected; every whore-house has the plague in it.

Not to beware of the occasion of sin, and yet pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” is, as if one should put his finger into the candle, and yet pray that it may not be burnt.

Repenting of Toxic Masculinity

bare knuckle

Columnist Ross Douthat, in response to recent discussions about “toxic masculinity”, penned a piece for the New York Times, In Search of Non-Toxic Manhood.

One of the frustrating tics of our society’s progressive vanguard is the assumption that every evil it discovers was entirely invisible in the past, that this generation is the first to wrestle with dominance and cruelty.

This forgetting of human experience, this perpetual present-tenseness, pervades the latest flashpoint in the culture war over the sexes — the new guidelines for treating male pathology from the American Psychological Association.

The trouble with men, the guidelines argue, is that they’re violent and reckless, far more likely than women to end up in prison or dead before their time. But the deeper problem is they’re prisoners of “traditional masculinity,” which the guidelines describe as a model of manhood marked by “emotional stoicism, homophobia, not showing vulnerability, self-reliance and competitiveness.” This tough-guy ideal encourages “aggression and violence as a means to resolve interpersonal conflict,” and tempts men toward rape, drug abuse and suicide.

Douthat’s OpEd reminded me of an article I had read several years ago, written by Kyle Worley for Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) titled Repenting From ‘Biblical’ Manhood. It was the 10th and final part of a series titled Manhood Marred.  The series explored a variety of ways that sin has corrupted, or marred, manhood.  So in a very real sense, CBMW was way ahead of the American Psychological Association – and Gillette Razors.

In Repenting From ‘Biblical’ Manhood, Worley introduces the subject with these words:

While we firmly believe that God has ordained complementarianism as the governing sexual and marital ethic of the Christian life, we acknowledge that a corrupt complementarianism and those false ways of living that some may have treacherously called ‘biblical’ manhood have led to the perversion of the wonderful truth that God has laid out for human flourishing in the home, in the church, and in the culture.

Worley continues:

So, in the vein of those prophets who plead for the sins of their kinsman, it is time that we corporately repent and lament the perverseness of a manhood that has been shaped by sin and not by the authority of Scripture.

Then, in the “vein of the prophets”, Worley offers the following memorable, and beautifully humble, prayer of confession and repentance:

Lord, We confess that we are broken and are in need of your grace. May you draw our gaze to the God-man Jesus Christ and the full scope of scripture as the authoritative revelation for what biblical manhood should resemble.

  • We repent for the sins of our passive brothers, unwilling to lead when it counts.
  • We repent for the sins of our chauvinist brothers, covering up abuse in the name of authority and male leadership.
  • We repent for the sins of our brothers who refuse to grow up, Lord would you call them to greater maturity.
  • We repent for any machismo that has seeped into our churches, may we be disgusted with misogyny in all its forms.
  • We repent for men who are trying to escape from the responsibilities you have entrusted to them, may they find joy in their stewardship.
  • We repent for men who are attempting to “lone wolf” their lives, Lord may they find your church as beautiful as you do.
  • We repent for men unwilling to sacrifice their control and comfort to lead in all spheres of life, may they look to He who laid down His life for His bride.
  • We repent for men who are so jaded with cynicism that they lose love for the King and hope for his coming kingdom.

We pray that you would rescue women who are trapped in abuse and that you would crush the purposes of abusers who treacherously call themselves “complementarians” or “biblical men.” Bring them to repentance and comfort those who have been bruised and broken beneath their hands.

We pray for those men who are trapped in sexual immorality. Lord, would you break the chains of pornography in the life of the church. Those wicked chains that place men in shackles next to the sex trafficking victims, pornographers, and orphaned.

We pray that you would continue to renew a movement towards good, beautiful, and true complementarian practice. May the witness of those men and women who have been created in your image, given distinct roles in the world, and who treasure the gospel tell the true story of complementarianism. May the lies that creep in under the banner of complementarianism in churches, homes, and communities across the world be crushed by this witness.

Comfort the woman abused, the child orphaned, the widowed mother, the widowed father, the church filled with faithful women.

Comfort the young woman not righteously pursued, the young boy with no father to learn from, the wife who serves the belligerent and lazy husband.

Confront those trapped in sexual immorality, confront churches filled with passive men, confront the young men unwilling to grow up.

Crush abortion, crush the movement to undermine the beauty of Christian covenant marriage, crush the porn industry, crush abuse at home and in the church.

Come, Lord! Come, Lord! Come, Lord, would you come?

To borrow a theme and turn a phrase, “CBMW was anti toxic masculinity before toxic masculinity was un-cool”.  We would do well, and it would be timely, for the Church to reaffirm our commitments, and acknowledge our failures on this front; humbly repenting before our Holy God, and prophetically proclaiming God’s design for masculinity rather than leaving the final word to the APA, or to some other organization.