Becoming a Classical Liberal/Conservative

I was raised in a family that, (for the most part) were devoutly conservative in their politics. This is where I grew my first interest in politics because it was a normal part of my family’s life. I had an interest in elections, parties and issues, even from a young age. As the years have passed, my interest in politics and news has dropped considerably and I credit that to becoming grounded in a worldview more so than political agendas. The height of this for me was when I was in college and for a time in seminary. I had grown very frustrated with the actions of the Republican party and what was known as conservative politics. I had started to develop an understanding of the social needs that exist in the world, particularly amongst the poor and needy. The more I learned about these things, I became very dissatisfied with the Republican Conservative approach to the poor and needy and sought refuge in liberal view of social issues on basically everything except abortion.

This newfound desire for liberalism made sense to me for quite a few years, but it just couldn’t hold up for very long. However, I couldn’t return to the contemporary Republican view of the world, so I did what most did, I gave up and declared myself an independent. How brave of me, I know. It must be stated that I didn’t become an independent because I wanted to ride the middle. It was more confusion and having an understanding of the world that was undergirded by the contemporary, ever changing American political landscape. From here I began reading to understand what it meant to be a conservative, or a classical liberal in the way one looks at the world. I also wanted to understand Christian thinking, particularly historic, confessional minded Christian thinking on politics and quickly realized that I had missed the whole point. My problem with political agendas is that I saw everything through the lens of legislation and office holders and not how one understands God, the world, the purposes and limitations of the institutions God has made, and what it is that makes up a society. Secular liberalism left me nothing but a hollow empty world that misapplies its answers and solutions to problems, and does so because it has a faulty foundation. With that being said, let me give a few reasons as to why I moved away from liberalism and its secular variety.

First, secular liberalism doesn’t need God for its beliefs and applications. While it may try to make an appeal towards a higher reality, secular liberalism doesn’t see God as the ultimate higher reality. It will use God to validate its ultimate higher reality, or to validate its own claims, but never is secular liberalism based in the nature, character and existence of God. Conservatism in its truest sense is founded upon the belief that the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge. We must recognize that God is our highest reality and standard and thus all we do should reflect God’s nature and his desires for the good of humanity. Liberalism doesn’t make this appeal because to accomplish the liberal goal, you don’t need God. In secular liberalism, ultimate faith is in humanity. Thus the source of human flourishing is humanity’s ability, wisdom and resources to provide aid and help where needed and to remove the barriers that hinder an individual. It is easy to claim here that secular liberals and conservatives as I’m describing them want the same thing, but here is why we go in different directions: a conservative believes that God determines what barriers should and shouldn’t exist. Conservatives believe God determines what is good for a society. This is the major difference. Certainly there are those who don’t fit into this view, such as an atheistic conservative or an orthodox Christian who has secular liberal tendencies and beliefs. For this I simply appeal to the fall of humanity and remind the readers that people do weird things that seem consistent but aren’t fundamentally compatible, like putting cheese on Chinese food. It can happen, but it’s just not right.

Second, secular liberalism sees government as its highest reality. This is an overflow of a secular liberal’s deep faith in humanity as the highest reality. Government to a secular liberal is the elevated authority over the society that determines and guide where a society should be headed. Government will enforce fairness and unfairness, determine what is wealthy and what is poor and will take from where it must to ensure its determined poor have goods. It will decide what is healthy and not healthy, what is safe and not safe, who is safe and not safe, when to work, how much to work and how much a job deserves to be paid, all the while fearing Christians and conservatives and calling them oppressive haters of freedom. Secular liberalism sees government as its highest reality, which is another way to say it sees it as God. As an Orthodox, Protestant, Reformed, and Evangelical Christian, who believes every word of the Bible is true, inerrant and authoritative over every aspect of my life because it is the very words of the Triune God, I couldn’t disagree more.

Third, secular liberalism doesn’t actually believe in individual freedom: It believes in individual autonomy. A belief in individual freedom comes from our understanding of the value of human beings. Because I am a human being I am granted certain inalienable rights as a citizen in this country that the government and society can’t intrude on. These rights are granted to all human beings and are to be maintained and protected by laws and respect from other citizens. A secular liberal believes something different, called individual autonomy. As a human being I have certain inalienable rights that can’t be treaded on by anything or anyone else. It believes that humans are not only granted rights, but are granted autonomy, thus the individual human may determine what their rights are for themselves. Once an individual determines his or her own rights, other people, society at large and the government must enact laws to protect those autonomous individual rights: all 300,000,000 of us. What does this look like? abortion on demand, contraception given to those who can’t afford it, marriage extended to anyone who asks, mass amount of court cases over defamation of character, twitter and Facebook outcry of offense for anything the person claims has hurt or offended them, businesses closing because they have an autonomous right to buy a cake from you because they want to, children suing parents over disciplinary actions they didn’t approve of, sex changes for children under 8 years old, rampant pornography use that is easier access each day, Christians leaving churches over the expectation to live holy lives, Christians who stay mad and critical at churches because they don’t meet any perceived need they have, and I’m sure countless other things. I’m sure you are asking yourself, “doesn’t points two and three contradict each other?”, and my answer is yes: secular liberalism is vey confusing and faulty at its core.

Fourth, secular liberalism assesses everyone as an agenda and a target audience. I don’t mean here that I dislike the term such as African-American, Irish-American or Italian-American. I think it says more about America as a melting pot of ethnicities, which is a good thing. My criticism here is of the idea that we aren’t mere citizens: we are part of a very small target group. Human beings are much more complex and valuable than to be grouped together into a target audience. It’s much more akin to “white” and “colored” marked water fountains as a sign of power and victimhood than it is to freeing the oppressed. As long as the label sticks to you, you are a perpetual victim, which is what secular liberalism’s view of individual autonomy thrives on. This is a very vital point for me because my desire to help the poor drove me to secular liberalism, but in reality secular liberalism abuses the poor and leaves them in worse positions than before.

I could elaborate more as to why I rejected secular liberalism, such as its treatment of education as the societal sacrament, its religious zeal for individual autonomy while supporting the murder of children in the name of autonomy, its complete exploitation of the poor, its harmful efforts to raise the poor out of poverty that has perpetuated their poverty, its misuse of its own terms and beliefs, (see egalitarianism, racist, equality and many others), its changing and misuse of terms like gender, marriage and offense, its fundamental opposition to religion, aka Christianity and Judaism, its rejection of the idea of religion as the core of all cultures, its rejection of Christianity while demanding it determine and define what it is to be a faithful Christian, and I’m sure a few other things, but time doesn’t allow for that. Perhaps I can in the coming days, but for now this will suffice as to what drove me away from secular liberalism and towards a comprehensive Christian, conservative, biblical understanding of culture, government and humanity. If God is the highest reality, authority and good, then from His character and nature the world is to be built. God determines what is good. God calls the shots. We are accountable to him and are to build our societies based on what He has given us within the parameters of his natural law and biblical teachings. God gives every person value and God knows what is best for each society. We humans are the ones who rejected God and decided we would pursue our autonomy and build societies on our own terms. The problem is, we are using God’s world and must live within the parameters that God built the world. We are told to take dominion, but its dominion within God’s order. Conservatism, or as its been called classical liberalism bases its beliefs on these things, which is why so many Christians across Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox churches, and for that matter Judaism are conservative in the political realm. Societies are built on philosophy, whether we like it or not. Ours was not built on secular liberalism, but is there now and we wonder why things are falling apart before our eyes. May God grant us a return to the Rock of our foundation and may we flee the sand of secular liberalism. 

On Being the Protector of Your Home

In June of this past year, my family purchased and renovated a home near our church. Our home is in the country, and my kids are getting to experience a childhood that is similar to mine and Brittany's. We have wanted to make this move for a couple of years and the LORD has been exceedingly gracious to give us this place to call home.

If you have ever moved to a new home, you know that the first few days are spent adjusting to this new environment, and I felt ready and excited to get back to my roots and have some space to play and work. But moving always comes with some adjustments. When you move into a new home, you don’t know any of the sounds, or the quirks of the house. The longer you live in a house, the noises of a house barely register in your ears. For some reason when we moved into this place, I felt I heard every noise in a 10 mile radius. While I knew to expect that, I seemed more tense about it than I thought I would be. I was raised in the country and I know country sounds. I had just lived in a neighborhood that had the noises of cars, garages, music and people talking outside. I thought it was because I had become too influenced by constant noise. Either way I didn’t’ sleep well the first few nights in our new home. I was speaking with a friend at church about this and he, being wiser than me, was quickly able to know what was going on. He pointed out that when I moved into our previous home, I didn’t have small children and by the time I did, I had grown accustomed to those noises. I then told him that while that was true, I had grown up in the country and thought I would relax and sleep well in the quiet. But again, being a wiser man than me, he pointed out the difference. When I grew up in the country, I was a child. I was the one protected and didn’t have to worry. The difference is now, I’m the protector of the home. He said I’m jumpy and tense because the sense of potential threat is not only against me, it’s against my wife and kids. Bingo.

It’s different when you are the protector. You must be more alert and more aware. You have to make preparations and precautions that those you protect might never consider. New noises aren’t just creeks and shifts of a home, or of a deer or another animal in the woods. To the protector, you have to hear and be alert with renewed ears, because you have other things to consider. If you are the protector of your home, don’t take this point too lightly. We can get wrapped up in being the prophet in our home and the priest, but we are also tasked to be the protector of our home and those within. Yes, Jesus intercedes, helps and comforts His Church, but He also protects. He sends angels to protect and guard. He gives us the Holy Spirit to comfort and protect. Christ spends His days doing many things, and protecting his bride, the children of God is one of His central tasks. Thus, for those of us who are the protectors of the home, we are called to be protectors, and this is a full scale, multi front protection. We must protect their bodies from physical harm and from those who would harm them. We are to protect them from attacks from the world and it's systems of thought. We are to be alert to the ways in which intruders and intrusion would come into our home. Christians and protectors of homes must give more than lip service to the truth that those in our home have an enemy who wants to harm their bodies, minds and souls.

Yes, it’s different when you are the protector. You will answer to the LORD for how you protected this household, which means we must take and implement many practical and tangible ways to protect our homes. Security systems, alarms, cameras, guns, training sessions on proper gun use, etc. are obvious types of protection that we all must consider and work towards, while also not neglecting other forms of protection, such as safe guards on digital technology and media, supplemented with resources, books and fun that are true, good and beautiful. We should also protect our households by having a soft, yet firm tongue, daily prayers and worship, and assurance of love and commitment to the members of our household. As a protector, you must know your enemy, know his intentions and know his tactics. Your enemy doesn’t play fair and will settle for nothing less than destruction. So a protector must be prepared.

There are many things that could be added and expanded upon, that would, and in some places do, fill much space. So let me end by saying that a protector must not only know his enemy, but know His Protector. He must daily converse with and listen to His Authority and Protector. There are many protectors of homes who can identify their enemy better than they can their own allegiances. The more familiar we are to whom we serve, and to whom our allegiances are given, then we will be better fit to protect. But most of all, we must never forget that it is our King, Savior, Lord and Friend who protects us, and how He protects. Jesus laid His life down to protect us from the destruction of sin and the Devil. Therefore, as protectors of the home, protect with the blessing, strength, wisdom and Spirit of Jesus Christ. And sleep well, your Lord and Protector watches over you. 

Catechism for 2-4 Year Olds

When my first two children were 2 and 3 years old and just learning to speak, I unintentionally began asking them repeat things in stories, or from the Bible to help them stay engaged with the reading and to help remember what we were reading. I would ask them a question and have them repeat what I said in 3-4 beats/syllables. They seemed to like this and I noticed they were catching on, because they would say and mention these things in their evening prayers. To help them further, I decided to write down some of the things we had said to help them later. In other words, I had stumbled upon catechizing my children before I had planned to formally start catechisms. Shortly after that, a father in our church who had children as similar ages, asked some questions about catechisms and I told him what I had been doing with our kids. However, I didn’t have anything formal to give him, so I decided to make a catechism from what I had done and add a few more things. Below is the finished product. 

Please remember this was designed to be used for children before even pre-k age. The goal of these questions is to familiarize them with things they hear in Bible readings, Bible stories and from readings, confessions and sermons from the church worship service. This is not meant to replace any of the older and wonderful catechisms of the past, but to possibly be an aid to those with children 2(ish) to 4(ish) years old. The topics covered aren’t exhaustive, but to help parents to train their children in the pre-school years on important truths. I hope this is helpful for you. If you have any questions or need help in using this, let me know.

Questions about God the Father

1. Who is God? The LORD our God

2. What else is God? Nothing

3. How many persons is God? Three:

4. Who are they? Father, Son and Spirit

6. What else can we call God? Creator and King

5. What is God like? Holy, loving, just and good

Questions about God’s creation

7. What did God make? Everyone and everything

8. Who made you? God made me

9. How did God make the world? By speaking words.

10. Why did God make the world? For his glory.

11. What did God say after making everything? Very good

12. What was God’s favorite creation? People

Questions about the Bible:

13. What is the Bible? The Word of God

14. What is the Bible like? True, beautiful and good

15. What do we do with the Bible? Read it and believe it

Questions about humanity

16. Who were the first people God made? Adam and Eve

17. Why did God make people? For His glory and our joy

18. Who were the first people? Adam and Eve

19. What did God use make them? From the dust of the ground

20. How did God make them? Happy and holy

Questions about Jesus Christ

21. Who is Jesus Christ? Lord and Savior

22. Is Jesus God or a man? Both! God and man

23. Did Jesus sin? Never, not once

24. What is Jesus like? Holy, loving, just and good

25. Why did Jesus die? To save sinners

26. What did Jesus do for you? Died for my sins

27. How many sins did Jesus die for? All of them

28. Is Jesus still dead? No! He is alive!

29. Where is Jesus now? In Heaven, ruling the earth!

30. Is Jesus coming back to earth? Yes! Yes! Yes!

Questions about the Holy Spirit

31. Who is the Holy Spirit? Our Comforter and Helper

32. Is the Holy Spirit God? Yes, equal to Father and Son

33. What does the Holy Spirit do? Keeps, convicts and guides us

34. How long will the Spirit keep, convict and guide us? Forever and ever!

For the Love of Food

Human beings share a common love: food. I’m not referring to our common need of food, but of our common love for food. We relate certain foods to events, traditions and people. When I think of Destin, Florida, I think of Fish Tacos. When I think of Crowder, Mississippi, I think of chicken and dressing. When I recall a trip to Zimbabwe, I think of grilled wart hog, a trip to Peru with cow heart and french fries, New York City with homemade mozzarella sticks, and Yemen with grilled lamb and flat bread. When I think of Tate County, (the community I was raised in), I think of spaghetti, Saturday morning breakfast, chicken parmesan, chili, potato salad, fried turkey and Christmas dinner. Most people have a soundtrack for their lives. I have a menu for mine.

We all love food because of its involvement in nearly every part of our lives. We celebrate by eating, we welcome people into our lives by inviting them to share a meal with us. We begin new relationships often over meals and drinks. When grieving and mourning, friends will bring you meals to express their love and compassion. People display love and care by giving their friends and family the best they have of their food and inviting you to participate. What would offend you more: for someone to be critical of the dinner you made, or for them to not like the movie you invited them to come over and watch? It is not by accident that Jesus said to eat what is set before you when you come to a new place.

When we have been away from home for a long time, what do we want to do when finally arrive back home? We want to go to certain places to eat and drink. It doesn’t feel like home until you have had that one certain meal. For me, its Coleman’s BBQ in Senatobia, MS., my hometown. Before we moved back home, I attempted to eat at Coleman’s on each visit. In our homes, where are the places we often gather the most and remain the longest to talk to others? Often, its the kitchen and the dining room. When we have guests over for a meal, we end up sitting most of the time at our kitchen table, even though our much more comfortable couches and chairs are 7 feet away. We do this because the kitchen table is more than a place to eat, but a place of fellowship.

Food and the need for food is one of the LORD’s great acts of wisdom and gifts of grace. How kind of God to not only give us food to eat that will satisfy our hunger, but to give us food that is enjoyable and satisfying to taste? The LORD could have given us corn flakes for all of our meals, and that would have been gracious enough. But He provides much more. Why does He do this? Because taste conveys the grand enjoyment and satisfaction that is found in the LORD seemingly more than any of the other senses He has given us. This is why the Psalmist writes that we are to “taste and see that the Lord is good” and that His Word is “sweeter than honey.” Food and eating are more than fuel for living, but designed to be a daily reminder of God’s love for us, and His invitation to sit at His table as His beloved children. It is right then to say that in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, God has invited us to eat with Him, and also to feast with Him. Our great God and Savior Jesus Christ gave up His seat at the table of continual feasting and fellowship with the Father so that we would have a place at His Father’s table, and gloriously rose again three days later to receive His rightful place at the head of the table. This is no mere meal. It is a feast and bounty of grace and glory, yet one that will not compare to the glory of sitting with Him and all of God’s people for the Supper of the Lamb.

So until then, let us not forget to eat. Gather with other brothers and sisters in Christ to eat with Jesus at His table each week.  Let the realities of the Lord’s Supper set the tone for all the meals and conversations around your table.Gather with your family around the kitchen table, and may it be a time of rest and joy. Have a thankful heart for what is before you and remember that all our meals are a gift of grace from a loving Father. Invite some friends over at times and bless them with some of your blessings. Serve your family and guests with love and care as the Host of the Lord’s Supper would serve, love and care for you.

Grace and peace to you and to all at your table.

1-16-17 AD

3 Bible Texts On Discerning False Teachers

Note: This article originally was published in Highlands Ministries magazine "Every Thought Captive" October 2016 edition.

False Teachers are purveyors of falsehood that harm the lives of all who embrace it. Recognition of a false teacher requires more than a biblical check list. It requires discernment and sensitivity from the Holy Spirit. What then are we to look for in a false teacher? From the Word of God, I offer three texts to help:

First, Romans 16:17-18 reveals that false teachers create divisions to doctrinal unity
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

The Apostle Paul says to “watch out,” for false teachers because they create divisions over the unity of doctrine and confession. They bring into the fold doctrines outside the bounds of orthodoxy, and do so in the name of unity. They slyly demean brothers and sisters who believe the doctrines rightly taught. They nit pick over differences with others, and exploit the brethren where they are weak. While true teachers help the brethren in their weakness, false teachers divide over weaknesses and create harmful and unneeded obstacles, so as to always be seeking unity but never arriving at it. They smooth talk others to believe their divisions are right and proper. Their teaching is meant to protect themselves while simultaneously indicting others. When they feel attacked, they divert attention away from themselves, usually with deceit and flattery that yields to another’s naiveté.  

Secondly, Titus 1:10-11 reveals actions that flow from the character of a false teacher
For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.

According to this text, false teachers are rebellious and resistant towards their authority. They teach with religious tones and with religious words that have no value. They try to coerce others for selfish gain of power and others confidence in them.

Third, 1 Timothy 3b-11b explains the effects of false teaching
"So that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine…”

See finally that false teachers create “speculations” of God’s nature, works and ways, and lead others in “vain discussion” of the speculations that will bring no lasting fruit. This is confirmed through the lives of those reared under their work. These are lives filled with “swerving and wandering” from the faith by unholy and profane lives, filled with violence, lies, disobedience and disrespect. Sadly this happens because of that which links all three passages together. The false teacher is “without understanding” of the words they say, the Scripture they profess to believe, and the God they profess to worship.

October 2016 A.D.