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Privilege: A Christian Response

Privilege: A Christian Response

Privilege: A Christian Response

Privilege. It’s a word that has become mainstream today. But before we examine how this word is used today, let’s visit the definition, from the Webster’s Dictionary in 1828:

In its simplest definition, privilege is an “advantage, favor or benefit.” But, in a more detailed explanation, privilege is “a particular and peculiar benefit or advantage enjoyed by a person, company or society, beyond the common advantages of other citizens… Any peculiar benefit or advantage, right or immunity, not common to others of the human race. Thus we speak of national privileges, and civil and political privileges, which we enjoy above other nations.” 

So “privilege” is not necessarily bad. But neither is it something that we normally bring about for ourselves. Rather, most often, privilege is something we are given by others, or inherited, or find ourselves enjoying apart from anything we have explicitly done. 

National Privileges

For instance, I am an American, and you probably are too. Most of us never did anything explicitly to become an American. It was a privilege we were given as a result of our birth in this land. And with that birth, and nationality, come innumerable “privileges.”  If you doubt this, travel outside our borders, and you will quickly understand the inherent privileges you and I enjoy as Americans.

But all Americans are not equally privileged. My last name isn’t Gates, or Bezos; nor is it Rockefeller, Bush, or Obama. But on the other end of the spectrum, neither was I born to a single mom, living on government subsidies, and my father wasn’t AWOL in my life either. 

I’m grateful for my family, my upbringing, and the “privileges” that have been afforded to me, through little doing of my own.

Skin Colors

I also recognize that my skin color may advantage me in some ways over other skin colors, at least in this present era. But again, I had nothing directly to do with that reality. Of course, neither did you choose your skin pigmentation. Rather, God, in His perfect wisdom, decided our skin color before the foundations of the world.  And He knew the privileges we would enjoy, or lack, stemming from our skin color. 

So privilege is real. But it is also subjective to some extent. But what do I mean by subjective?  As I said earlier, many, or most, privileges are things we enjoy in spite of our own doing: our nationality, skin color, the family we are born into, etc. But how we perceive privilege is often through our own subjective responses. 

Privilege Shaming

In this present era, privilege is frequently used to shame and even punish folks.  The most common use of the word, that has grown in popularity in our nation, is “white privilege.”  This phrase is regularly used as a hammer to beat those whose skin is white, to make them feel ashamed for certain realities in our nation, and privileges they might enjoy. 

Those realities exist. And they may “advantage” certain folks over others. Of course we should seek to level playing fields, as much as possible. But employing shame as one’s preferred strategy is not likely to convince reasonable people of the need for change. Sometimes forests need to be cleared. But using a dull ax is a very poor way to tackle the job, both for the tree, and the one swinging the ax. 

No Political Solutions

So what is the solution? 

Whenever I look at societal problems, my immediate response is to discount the solutions being proposed by politicians, or activists, or the media. This is because most societal struggles flow from spiritual realities. And there are no political solutions to spiritual problems

So because of this truth, I choose to look to God, and His strategies, to solve what man cannot. 

Responses to Privilege

When we see someone else enjoying a privilege we don’t enjoy, what is our first response?  Do we envy them?  Do we shout “unfair?”  Do we demand those same privileges?  Do we attempt to shame others for benefiting in ways we wish we could?  Or do we at least stop and look at the privileges we enjoy, compared to others who don’t enjoy what we do? 

We all know folks who enjoy privileges that vastly exceed the ones we do. But if we are honest with ourselves, we too have received privileges that exceed those of others as well, no matter who we are. Do we ever ask ourselves what will we do with the privileges we have been given, through no merit of our own?

As I read God’s Word, there are many responses a follower of Jesus should have when thinking about the reality of privileges others enjoy and we don’t, or privileges we enjoy and others don’t. Here are a few to consider:

  • Contentment.  As a Roman citizen, the Apostle Paul theoretically enjoyed the privileges of that citizenship. But he was routinely deprived of those privileges, in the most brutal and inhumane ways. However, Paul’s response in Philippians 4:11 is a classic lesson for those who claim “Christian” as their identity: For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”
  • Don’t show favoritism ourselves. It’s easy to see the sin in others, while we are often blind to our own sin, or rationalize it away. So if we are upset about privileges offered to others, do we do the same ourselves?  Note what we read in James 2:3-4, 9: “If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.”
  • Don’t envy others. The Bible is full of verses that warn against envy.  While many privileges are unjust, if our hearts are envious over privileges that others enjoy (because we don’t) then we have sinned. Note what Titus 3:3 says: “For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived,  …spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” 
  • Don’t hold grudges but rather forgive those who might mistreat you, or grant advantages to others over you.  In one of the greatest examples of forgiveness ever, Jesus cried out to his abusers and murderers, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  But, in our human frailty, we might look at Jesus as “super-human” since he was both God and man. So let’s consider the response of Stephen, just a short time after the ascension of Jesus. This man had been called upon by the early church leaders to assist in settling some claims by the early believers that certain widows were being discriminated against (in essence other widows had greater privileges).  The relevant part of Stephen’s story though is that he was falsely accused by unbelievers.  As he was being stoned to death, his last words were “Lord do not hold this sin against them.”  What amazing forgiveness, even while being mistreated and martyred.
  • Don’t be a rabble rouser.  Followers of Jesus should never be known as people who create dissension, seek retribution, or gripe and grumble. The Apostle Paul again reminds us: “Do everything without grumbling or arguing…” (Philippians 2:14). Also, in Titus 3:2 we read: “They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone.”  Finally, James 3:18 says this: “And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.”
  • Consider the needs of others before your own (because Jesus did).  This is a hard thing to do.  We all have needs of our own.  But Paul reminds us of this in Philippians 2:3-4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” And again in Titus 3:14 we read this: “Our people must learn to do good by meeting the urgent needs of others; then they will not be unproductive.”
  • Seek Justice by doing what you can in your own “world” to level things.  You may not be able to rectify the injustices of the world, your nation, or society, but you can examine your own heart and actions to see where you might be able to offer justice to those you personally touch.  The Apostle Paul once again reminds us of this principle in 1 Timothy 6:17-18, “Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.” Regardless of the relative value of our portfolio, we can all be “rich in good works” to those whose privileges are fewer and who might have been victims of injustice.
  • Don’t flaunt the privileges you might enjoy.  In a world that elevates “self” and thrives on selfies, and boastful achievements, it’s easy to fall under the spirit of pride.  Yet, God reminds us over and over that He puts down the proud and elevates the humble.  If God, in His sovereign ways, extended privileges to us that exceed that of others, we should be careful to remain humble, and make every effort to share the blessings that come from those privileges.
  • The Perfect Judge.  God is aware of every injustice that exists, and as the Perfect Judge, He will meet out the perfect response, in His own perfect time.  “Don’t grumble about each other, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. For look—the Judge is standing at the door!” (James 5:9)  If you possess privileges that exceed that of the average person, realize you will be judged by God in how you invested those privileges. “To whom much is given much will be required.”

A Privileged People

In the Bible, the Jewish people were known as a “privileged” people when God, for His unique reasons, chose them, a small, insignificant people, and made of them a great nation. Through them God chose to bring forth His Son two thousand years ago.  While we are told God does not show favoritism, we do know that He singled out Israel for some very unique blessings and purposes. But God also extended innumerable blessings to the rest of mankind, through the unique relationship He forged with Israel. 

Privilege is something that has existed from the beginning of time. We all will never enjoy equal privileges. But if we are followers of God, we are called to “act justly, show mercy, and walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8)  

As we think through God’s role in privileges, and how we are called to respond, I pray that the above thoughts will not provoke anyone to anger.  Rather, I trust we will consider how God expects us to live in the face of privileges that we don’t enjoy, while considering those we do. May we always seek the good of others above our own. May we humble ourselves in the way Jesus did as He left His heavenly privileges behind. And may we extend mercy to those undeserving, knowing that we ourselves could not take our next breath without God’s infinite, undeserved, mercy extended to us. 

The Impeachment Trial & US

The Impeachment Trial & US

As I watched some excerpts from Trump’s second Impeachment Trial, it seemed to me that the voices expressed in the Senate Chamber merely echo the millions of voices outside that chamber. One side is convinced they are righteous and the other side is evil. While the other side is convinced it is righteous and the other side is actually the evil one. 

This is not merely about right and wrong. Although at its core right and wrong hang in the balance. But what precede one’s inability to detect right and wrong is the fog of self-deception. And that self-deception is driven by one sin that resides in the soul of each person within the impeachment chamber.  Pride has taken center stage in this trial, both in the chamber, and outside it in the hearts of millions across this land. 

We each remain convinced that we are right, and the other guy is wrong. We are righteous, the others are evil. And based on our particular standard, perhaps that is true. 

But our standard is never the right standard. Our positions are never completely righteous. In fact, if there is any degree of impurity in me, then I am not pure. And likewise, the same applies to any who would throw stones at those they despise.  Let’s not forget, to despise is merely one shade of gray removed from the black of hate. And to hate is to kill in one’s heart, whether the blow is struck outwardly or not. 

So if we are all impure, and self-deceived, when embracing our unique standard, which is the standard by which we should measure ourselves (first)?  It is an external, abiding, and eternal standard that does not change from person to person, or nation to nation. 

God’s standard which affirms you and I are both unrighteous is that unbending and non-negotiable standard. We are all filthy. Were our thoughts and actions to be put on trial in our own “Impeachment Trial” we would all be found guilty. I don’t know the specifics of your guilt, nor do I need to know. All that matters for me, is that my guilt and filthiness exceeds any righteousness I might outwardly display. And all my finger pointing at my political foes, could never make right the impurities in my life. 

So what is it that you, and I, and America needs more than anything at this time?  

Humility. The opposite of what we see on display in our lives and across every bit of media every day: Pride. Pride. Pride. 

But we should remember this about the original and universal sin:

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:18‬

 “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” James‬ ‭4:6‬ 

So rather than remain transfixed by all of the finger pointing and puffiness being displayed by our nation’s leaders this week, we should chart a new course, and consider some old advice.  

The date was June 28, 1787 and our nation’s founders had been locked in a dispute for several weeks over the specifics of our founding.  So Benjamin Franklin arose and shared the following words, which we would do well to reread, and take heed:

“The small progress we have made after 4 or five weeks close attendance & continual reasonings with each other — our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many noes as ays, is methinks a melancholy proof of the imperfection of the Human Understanding. We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it. We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those Republics which having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution now no longer exist. And we have viewed Modern States all round Europe, but find none of their  Constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

.

“In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. — Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.

.

“I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

.

“I therefore beg leave to move — that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.

Prayer, humility, and looking upwards to God to confess my own imperfections, instead of outward to point out my neighbors’ faults, is where we must begin. Anything short of this will merely quicken the demise of a once influential nation.

The Virus of Racism.  Will Pride Prevail or Love Heal All?

The Virus of Racism. Will Pride Prevail or Love Heal All?

The year was sixty, 
The lines were drawn 
T’was 1860 
And hate lived on 

The forces were firm 
Convinced with pride 
That truth and right 
Was on their side 

The war did come 
And bodies torn 
Six hundred twenty 
Thousand mourned 

But many more 
Did bear the wrong 
From wounds so deep 
And hurts still strong 

One hundred and sixty 
Years came and went 
And laws were embraced 
With such great intent 

But wounds from years 
Too many to count 
Still surface again 
As generations mount. 

And so 2020 
Moved in as a cloud 
God’s plan was unclear 
For a nation so proud 

Unyielding and firm 
We placed ourselves first 
We each sought our gods 
And ignored such a curse 

Whether wealth or power 
Or glitz or fame 
Or whatever else 
Our desires did claim 

Our pride we wore 
So good and bold 
The red white and blue 
Was ours to hold 

But God would not dare 
Bow down to our flags 
Or yield His glory 
To all of our rags 

And so our pride 
Was on full display 
When COVID hit 
And God halted play 

Wall Street did stumble 
And Main Street shut down 
Our leaders confused 
In town after town 

God had pressed pause 
To get our attention 
But soon the division 
Became more dissension 

Our views so sure 
Were all that mattered 
The pride displayed 
Left friendships shattered 

But then that virus 
From Eden born 
Of pride thru racism 
Did rise with scorn 

The cry “I Can’t Breathe”  
Was heard by all 
Those final words 
A rallying call 

But rather than bow 
And confess our sin 
We rallied and chanted 
Our views once again 

The anger was seen 
In cities and streets 
And felt so deep 
In hearts and tweets 

So today we repeat 
What’s happened before 
When lines were drawn 
And all kept score 

But should we resign 
To another cruel end 
Where sisters and brothers 
And neighbors won’t bend? 

Should we just assume 
That all is now lost 
And what we do see 
Will be gone with great cost? 

There still yet is Hope 
But it will not reign 
When we will not see 
Injustice and pain 

No, this Hope demands 
We turn from our pride 
And humbly accept 
What we have denied. 

Our God above all 
Is able to heal 
But not on our terms 
Let’s submit and kneel 

When Pride is torn down 
And God is restored 
Then black and white 
Will walk in accord 

So will we defeat 
This virus of old 
That continues the hate 
And maintains status quo? 

The time is now 
The choice is ours 
Will we turn to God 
Or let pride devour?  

Our path to heal 
These wounds so deep 
Begins each new day 
As I awake from my sleep 

I am the one 
I must seek to control 
My desires submit 
To a much greater goal 

And like Son of Man 
Who left heaven above 
And humbled himself 
To show us true love 

May each of us look 
To love and to labor 
For God our Creator 
And the one we call neighbor. 

Love God and love others 
These simple commands 
Are what Jesus modeled 
And our God demands. 

💡“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.“ Matthew 22:37-39 

A Message to Our Newly (Re)Elected Officials:  You Won! Now What?

A Message to Our Newly (Re)Elected Officials: You Won! Now What?

The election season is over. For some voters, going to the polls was merely a civic duty. For others voting was a matter of stewardship, understanding that God gives us this American privilege, and we will be held accountable for every vote we cast. 

But my real focus of this article is not on voters, but rather it’s a message to the newly elected (or re-elected) officials.  

God has given me the opportunity (and sobering responsibility) to meet and get to know dozens of politicians, from councilmen to several Presidential candidates. While I’m no longer active in political endeavors, many of these friends or acquaintances were elected to office this last cycle. These offices range from school board members to US Senators, and many offices in between. 

So with this as a backdrop, the following verse jumped out at me this week from the book of Daniel: 

“For this has been decreed by the messengers; it is commanded by the holy ones, so that everyone may know that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses— even to the lowliest of people.” Daniel 4:17 

The Instruction Manual 

The book of Daniel is the instruction manual on how Christians in government should behave. Daniel also illustrates to believers how we should respond to government, particularly adversarial ones.   

As we read this manual, for guidance both in civics and governance, it’s important to understand that the government officials we are introduced to in Daniel are both followers of (the one true) God, as well as pagans (followers of someone or something other than the one true God).  In addition to Daniel, there are many other books and passages in the Bible that offer insights into God’s view of government officials, and their role in serving Him. 

God Elevates Both Believers and Unbelievers to Government 

This is the first principle that each recently elected government official should understand.  Regardless of whether you believe in and follow God, or not, it is God that has given you the victory you are celebrating.  It’s not the voters.  It’s Him.  Sure, the voters all cast a vote, some for you and some against you.   

But ascribing your victory to voters is akin to thanking a courier who hands you the keys to your new car, that your rich uncle just bought for you.  Your uncle deserves the acknowledgement and thanks, not the courier.  

God “gives them (kingdoms) to anyone he chooses — even to the lowliest of people” affirms this principle. So whether you were elected the county dog catcher, or the President of the United States, God has lent you the office to test your stewardship.  That’s not only an awesome opportunity, but it’s more importantly a sobering responsibility.  You will be held accountable, not merely by the voters, but more importantly by God Almighty. 

God is Testing Your Humility (or Pride) 

In Daniel, we read about the story of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon and a powerful ruler of his day.  But with that power, we also see a man who grew very proud.  We read in Daniel 4:30 these words: 

“As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendor.’”  (Daniel 4:30) 

If ever there was a man who embodied the spirit of the “self-made” man, King Nebuchadnezzar was that man.  Note how his power led to pride. (And we’ll find out in our next principle, what the king’s pride led to.) 

It’s a very difficult task to resist the temptation of pride.  Power and pride seem to go hand and hand.  So as someone is elevated to a position of power, who was a “no one” or perhaps a “lesser one” before his election, it’s so easy to become prideful in that new found position.  A politician can easily look at himself as important.  As special.  As above others.  As privileged. As deserving.  

But all those attitudes are not only false, they are Pride whispering lies to us. It’s incumbent on you as an elected official to resist such temptations, and rebuke those attitudes.  But if you fail this test, you will soon experience the warning from Proverbs 16:18 where we’re told: 

“Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.”

How many politicians do you know that seem to struggle with pride?  If we’re all honest though, this is a sin many of us have succumbed to in our own lives.  So Mr/Ms Politician, resist this huge temptation that comes to all of us, but particularly those with power.  If you don’t, you may find yourself experiencing the next principle. 

Pride Leads to Bad Stuff 

I suppose I could have been more “sophisticated” in describing this principle, but “bad stuff” really is the result of Pride in the life of an elected official.  The prophet Daniel, who was also a high government official in King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom, warned the King of what would occur if he took credit for “his” achievements versus ascribing any success to God.  Note Daniel’s warning: 

“You will be driven from human society, and you will live in the fields with the wild animals. You will eat grass like a cow, and you will be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses… King Nebuchadnezzar, please accept my advice. Stop sinning and do what is right. Break from your wicked past and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps then you will continue to prosper.”  (Daniel 4:25, 27) 

Sadly though, this is what occurred when Nebuchadnezzar refused to heed God’s warning, spoken through Daniel: 

“…A voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’”  (Daniel 4:31-32) 

What a great fall King Nebuchadnezzar experienced!  From the height of world power, to the lowliness of an animal — simply because he allowed the spirit of pride to rule in his life. 

It’s uncanny, but should not be surprising, that 600 years later, Jesus, the Son of the Voice from heaven who spoke to Nebuchadnezzar, reminded us again of the repercussions of pride in our lives: 

“For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  (Luke 14:11) 

So be sure of this elected official.  Pride will tempt you, but you can resist it in your live, and as you do, and take the less travelled path of humility, God will exalt you, according to Jesus, God’s Son. 

Nebuchadnezzar’s own life is a reflection of this reality for when the king finally humbled himself and acknowledged the One who had exalted him to begin with, this is what the king had to say: 

“After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.” (Daniel 4:34, 36-37) 

Servant Leadership 

We’ve all heard of the “servant leadership” principle.  It’s a teaching that’s hip these days, and often promoted in corporate entities.  But long before motivational coaches latched onto this truth, Jesus had this to say about the role servant leadership should play in all of our lives, including elected officials: 

“But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.”  (Matthew 20:25-27) 

Having been around elected officials for many, many years now, I have seen a spirit that is often anything but “servant leadership.”  The head tables, the honored seats, and the best of everything is always reserved for politicians.  And yet, the elite status most politicians enjoy is entirely at odds with their self-assigned title of “servants of the people.” 

So if you were just elected and want to be different and break the political mold, what if you were to truly embrace the idea of “servant leadership” in your elected role?  Perhaps one antidote against the pride that will lead to destruction and fall, is to simply commit oneself to truly being a servant in practice versus simply in words. 

There are at least two reasons to do so.  The first is because Jesus modeled such leadership and what better person to pattern our lives after than the Son of God?  But there is another reason, and it has to do with future rewards: 

“So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.”  (Matthew 20:16) 

God’s Elevating of An Individual Does NOT Suggest He Endorses That Individual 

We often misunderstand God’s actions and choices, assuming that because He places certain individuals in positions of authority, that God must then endorse such an individual.  This fallacy has been a huge stumbling block for Christians, particularly over the last couple years. But this could not be further from the truth, as taught throughout Scripture.  

God elevates individuals to positions of authority for several reasons including 1) to achieve God’s greater Plan, 2) to test that individual, 3) to punish, test, or refine those who are under the ruler’s authority, or some other purposes. We cannot always be certain of God’s reasons, but we can know this: 

“For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) 

We also know that at times God will even elevate evil or immoral rulers to achieve His greater Plan. But when that Plan is achieved, God will discard the ruler, when he does not turn to God and acknowledge His sovereignty.  The examples of the numerous kings of Judah and Israel in the Old Testament are an affirmation of this principle, as God used both good and evil kings to continue to advance His objectives.  But as soon as God finished with an immoral ruler, God always discarded him. 

So the lesson any elected official should learn from this truth, is that God’s selection of you for the office you now hold, is not necessarily an endorsement of you, your political solutions, ambitions, or even your character.  Rather, He has placed you there for His purposes.  So it’s incumbent on every elected official to ask these questions:   

“Why did God elevate me?  What does He want to achieve through me?  How can I best serve God in this capacity? Am I ready to give account to Him for my actions in my current position?”  

All these questions require one particular attitude which we referenced earlier:  Humility. 

Conclusion 

In closing, I trust as you assume the new office or term, which you have been given for a brief moment, that you will ponder these truths from God’s Word. I trust you will acknowledge Whom it is that elevated you, that you will remain humble, that you will truly model servant leadership, and that you will never assume that God endorses all you do, simply because He has granted you this position of authority.  

Remember what Jesus said to Pilate when He, as the Son of God, stood before the government official who had been lent the power of life or death: 

“Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” (John 19:11) 

So if your authority is given to you by God Himself, then this should be your response: 

“What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) 

Blessings to you as you move into what has often been portrayed as “The Swamp.”  But in reality, it may be your greatest opportunity and responsibility to: 

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16) 

(If you know an elected official, and agree with this message, would you forward this to him/her?) 

Bill O’Reilly, the Fall & Proverbs 16:18

Bill O’Reilly, the Fall & Proverbs 16:18

The O’Reilly Factor and FoxNews.  Over the last two decades, these two entities became household names for literally millions of Americans. Holding the top spot in the prime time cable ratings is something most TV personalities would aspire for and, if achieved, would no doubt boast of. Bill O’Reilly was no exception. The fact is, Bill was never shy to remind his viewers of his unparalleled success.

Over the years I have watched my share of the O’Reilly Factor. And while I have agreed more often than not with many of the positions Bill would take, I found myself regularly perturbed with the man.  There is something about watching someone spout off braggadociously, night after night, that can turn a person from a follower to a critic.

More than once during the last decade I’ve thought of Proverbs 16:18 when listening to O’Reilly pontificate about his infallible views on nearly any subject under the sun.  That verse asserts:

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

It’s likely that we all struggle with that five letter word:  Pride.  And perhaps the more successful one becomes, and the more he or she is in the public eye, the greater the temptation is to think highly of oneself.  

I’ve often heard the expression “a self-made man” used of those who achieve some level of success.  But I’ve always been deeply troubled by such a view.  If one affirms God and His sovereign role in our world and lives, then I would suggest it is pride-gone-wild to assert one is a self-made anything.  True, we play a part in our future, with every choice we make.  But I believe it is dangerously wrong to buy into the notion that we are the reason for our success.

The truth is there is a greater Power at work.  I liken it to a farmer who sows his fields.  Sure, he planted the seed, but God gives the rains, sun and the ultimate increase.  And even further, God gives the farmer the resources, health and strength to even plant the seed.  

Likewise, in our lives, we can plant seeds of success by the choices we make.  But it is ultimately God who honors those choices.  Only God can bless us with successes beyond our wildest dreams.  But when those dreams come to fruition, here are some questions that, depending on our answer, will determine whether pride has entered into our lives.  

What do we think? How do we act? What do we say to others? Whom do we thank? Is it ourselves or God?  

Deuteronomy 8:18 answers the last question with this affirmation:

“Remember the Lord your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful…”

So as I think about Bill O’Reilly’s fall from the pinnacle of success to the depths of shame, I am saddened to see such a loss. Whether Bill is guilty or not of the charges leveled against him is beyond the scope of this article. But Bill’s arrogance and pompous attitude loom large for anyone willing to see them.  And sadly, I believe they drove the reason for his fall.

More important than Bill’s fall though, is this.  His failures force me to look in the mirror and test my motives, my attitudes, and my beliefs.  

Is there Pride in my life?  Do I possess a haughty spirit?  If so, then there is a fall and destruction in my future.  

What about you?  Have you considered these questions?  If not, I would challenge you to do that same.

At the end of the day, all that is good in our lives and all that we might accomplish or accumulate is only by God’s abundant blessings. Any explanation beyond that should cause us to seriously consider Proverbs 16:18… before it’s too late.

Epilogue:

One final thought.  As Bill O’Reilly falls, Tucker Carlson rises, being offered Bill’s former prime-time slot at 8pm.  It’s noteworthy to mention that Tucker Carlson is moving from his short stint at 9pm, after replacing Megyn Kelly, to the 8pm hour, the top slot in prime-time.  Will Tucker though, learn from Bill O’Reilly’s mistakes and resist the temptation to credit himself for his sudden success?  Time will tell.  And let’s hope humility reigns.  

Thanksgiving in Nepal

Thanksgiving in Nepal

Earlier this week I returned from a two week trip to Nepal with a team of five guys.  Our adventure flew us from Atlanta to Doha, Qatar and on to Kathmandu, Nepal.  I’ve been to quite a few countries over the years, and oftentimes my travels have taken me to a number of places with very low standards of living.  But as soon as we ventured from Tribuhaven International Airport into the streets of Kathmandu, I knew that I was in for an experience like none other.  

While cell phones were everywhere, basic standards of living, like flushing toilets, potable water, dependable electricity, paved roads, and even something as ordinary as hot water in hotels were rare in Kathmandu, even more so in the mountains, where we were headed the following day.

The next morning, we boarded a short flight from Kathmandu to Tumlingtar, a very small town sitting alongside the Arun River.  Out the left side of the plane, as we flew east, rose the Himalayan Mountain Range, with its crown jewel, Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world at 29,029 feet.  In fact, eight of the ten tallest mountains in the world reside in Nepal.  

The following days would test our bodies and psyche as we departed Tumlingtar.  With backpacks on our shoulders, we headed for a canoe ride across the Arun River, a jeep ride we’ll never forget over some of the dustiest, deeply rutted roads imaginable, and many miles of hiking up mountains and through tiny little villages in some of the remotest parts of Nepal.  Everywhere we went over the next several days we were met with continuous stares, acknowledging the fact that in some of these little villages, no American had ever been seen.

As we traveled throughout Nepal over the near two weeks we were there, the word “thanksgiving” came to mind over and over.  As I compared my life back in the United States with that of the Nepalis, I couldn’t help but thank God for His providential blessings.  Whether it was our standard of living, the liberties our Constitution affirms to us, or the spiritual truths that were a part of our nation’s DNA, the American experiment is something we all too often take for granted.  

Americans like to acknowledge our many blessings annually on the 3rd Thursday of November with turkey, dressing, pumpkin pie and football.  But truthfully, as we look around the world, we should celebrate Thanksgiving this very day, for our blessings are too numerous to count.  Whether one lives in a penthouse overlooking Manhattan, in a suburban middle class neighborhood, or subsidized housing in an inner city, each one of us is part of an elite body of citizens, even with our diverse socioeconomic levels.  As “Americans” we are all afforded unlimited opportunities and the freedoms to pursue them.  But lest we become puffed up, we should remember that the status we enjoy has been bestowed on us by a merciful and loving God, and that there is nothing inherent in us that would merit such blessings.

As we think of the many nations of the world, we should remember that God established the times and boundaries of each nation (Acts 17:26), and He also blesses those nations who affirm Him as their God (Psalm 33:12).  But as I was abroad these last couple of weeks, I came across this verse in Psalm 9:17“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”  There is no doubt in my mind that America is rapidly forgetting God, and the division, turmoil, instability, and even violence we are seeing across our land suggests that we are beginning to reap the consequences of such forgetfulness.  

There is really only one solution to restoring our Republic.  And it begins with thanksgiving and humility.  I pray that we will all begin to reassess our relationship to Almighty God, and as we do, also count our many blessings.  And let’s make everyday a day of thanksgiving.

Footnote:

I recently purchased a DJI Mavic Pro drone, a state-of-the-art technological wonder.  It’s a unique compact drone, designed so that the arms can be folded down and transported with ease, but still possessing some of the most highly sophisticated features available.  I was able to take the drone on the trip to Nepal and captured many incredible aerial views.  Below are just a few of the videos that will give you just a little sampling of our team’s experience.  I trust you enjoy them.