Trump, Jesus, and Machiavelli

I’ve had my issues with Trump and the inexplicable support he had among Evangelicals, so I won’t dive too much into that right now. However, I did come across this article the other day that I found pretty interesting. It is long, but I think it is worth the read as it delves into some of the moral/political issues of Trump and his weird mix/brand of nationalism, fascism, and religion. Here are a few good quote from it:

When you hear the call for a “strongman” whose chief role is to protect the nation against enemies, do you hear the voice of Jesus or of Machiavelli?

Boyd’s point: that those who take New Testament teachings literally are in no position to lead the political march for nationalistic glory.

Conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson wrote two months before the election that seeing fellow evangelists—he named Phoenix Seminary theologian and author Wayne Grudem, among others—“beclown themselves trying to justify support of a man like Trump makes me weep for the shallow faith of a church more wrapped up in its Americanness than its Godliness.”

New York Times reporter quoted one pastor’s resigned plaint: “When you mix politics and religion, you get politics.”

I’ve also had issues with Grudem, so it was interesting to see Georgia’s own Erickson call him out; also  let’s appreciate the word(ish) beclown. Like I said, I’m not going to write more about the issues with Trump, but this articles really gets at the point that he does not really embody any of the values we do as Evangelicals. I remain perplexed at his massive amounts of support, including this coming weekend, from heavyweights in the Christian world. Of course, I have to add my favorite photo of one of his Evangelical supporters (this, if you don’t know, is the son of the man whom founded the Moral Majority, standing with a twice divorced, avaricious man, proudly displaying photos of himself on magazine covers, including playboy. Reference for the Hustler mention)

Image result for trump and falwell pictures

I just cannot see how we can throw such full support behind this man. I remain fully on the side of the #19Percent.

 

Sermon on the Mount – Poor in Spirit and Those Who Mourn

Matthew 5:3-6

The beatitudes are broken up, like a lot of things in the Bible, into you relating to God and then you relating to people. The first four – the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness – are how we relate to God.  The second clause is how He relates back to us – theirs is the kingdom, will be comforted, shall inherit the earth, will be filled. We will hit two of these this week and the other two next week.

V3

What does it mean to be poor in spirit? The best descriptor I can across was ‘spiritual bankruptcy’. However the focus isn’t necessarily on ‘poor’ in the sense that you aren’t very good at being spiritual, it is more in realizing that you are ‘bankrupt’. It is how Isaiah feels before the thrown of God when he says ‘woe to me, I am a man of unclean lips’. That is what knowing you are poor in spirit sounds like.

What about the opposite, what is rich in spirit? First of all, you can’t be rich, because of our fallen nature. We are too sinful to be rich in spirit, which is why Paul says I keep doing what I don’t want to do. Basically, I know I shouldn’t sin, but I just keep on sinning anyway. Self-righteousness is what happens when you think you are rich. That is the message to the church in Laodicea in Revelation 3:17 – For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

I have this quote in my notes, but forgot to attribute it, I think it was Martyn Lloyd-Jones, that you must empty yourself before you can be fill by God. Being poor in spirit means you realize what you have isn’t worth much, especially compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ, so you are willing to give that up and look to God for fulfilment.

V4

Who are those that mourn? Reading through the commentaries and studies on this, there didn’t seem to be much in the way on consensus. There were four main ideas of what we are mourning, but the support for each seemed fairly well spread out. Those who mourn may be mourning:

  1. Their own sin
  2. The humiliation/destruction of Israel
  3. Their persecution
  4. A broken and sinful world

I am least inclined to agree with number 3, for one, it is early enough on in Christ’s ministry, that there are not any ‘Christians’ yet, and so it would have to mean some future persecution that those who are beginning to follow would have to be aware of now. Mostly, though, I don’t think it fits in this section of the beatitudes. Persecution is discussed, but it comes later; and working in the framework of the first four beatitudes being about our reaction to God, persecution doesn’t fit.

I’m also less inclined to go with number two, but mostly because it is difficult to understand (for today). DA Carson makes the argument that the mourning is the current low position of Israel and the coming destruction of the temple. As Matthew is the most Jewish focused of the Gospels, this seems to make sense. He points to the weeping remnant that mourns and that there is an eschatological hope for future comfort. This is pretty clean academically, but I struggle with the focus being so narrow. There aren’t any more first century Jews around. I’m two thousand years later, living on the other side of the world. Doesn’t mean it is the wrong interpretation, but it moves it from a broader point about life, to a specific time and place; which I’m not convinced fits in the Sermon.

Number four is related to this, in a way, but is still able to have a more broad meaning. It carries the same eschatological sense, but can be applied for today and for any Christian throughout the world. We can look around and mourn the sinfulness and brokenness of this world, but be comforted by the fact that Christ will come again. That is the ‘will be comforted’ part, that the world will be restored in the new Earth after his coming. This interpretation is probably the easiest to fit and understand, and I think is the best way to go.

Relatedly, but without the future earth and kingdom restoration connotations, is mourning our own sin. The comfort then is less about restoration, but more individualized, with the comfort being deliverance from God’s penalty. So, we mourn our own sinfulness, but we will be comforted because the penalty has been paid for us and we do not incur the wrath of God.

That is it for this week, check back next Monday for my thoughts on the Meek and Those Who Hunger & Thirst for Righteousness.

Commentaries used in this series:
Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Bible Commentary)
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 : Christian Counter-Culture)
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
Matthew (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
The Expositor’s Bible commentary : Matthew, Mark, Luke, with the New international version of the Holy Bible (Expositor’s Bible commentary, Vol.8)
Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)
New Bible Commentary

Book Review: The American President

The American President: From Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton

Rating –  Put it on your list

Level –  Moderate to difficult read, 800+ pages

Summary
This book is kind of unique. I thought I was buying a big book that essentially be a volume of shortish biographies for all the presidents of the 20th century. In a since that is what it is, the presidency from Teddy to Bill. The major difference it is really is focused on each man’s presidency more than it is the man himself. There is short biographical into, so to speak, but it really is more a chronicle of their years in office.

It is more than just history that Leuchtenburg write on, the uniqueness comes from his approach of how the presidency changed under each man and overtime. In a way, the book is more a biography/history of the presidency in the 19th century; certainly much more so than a collection of biographies.

My Thoughts
It really is an interesting book. The presidency changed so dramatically from Teddy to Bill, covering those changes and diving into the intricacies of how and when they happened really is a fascinating take on history. For his part, Leuchtenburg is a master historian, but if I had one criticism of him, it is that often it seemed he was going out of his way to find a long, rare word. I fire threw about 50 books a year and write reviews for most of them, so I feel I have a pretty decent vocabulary, but I felt like I had to look up words every few pages or so.

In that sense, the book was a bit academic, but for the most part, his writing is much more of story telling. You can breeze through a surprising amount of pages as he tells the tale of the major shifts in the way the most powerful office in the country has been handled. When you are ready to tackle this book, you better well know, it is not small. Not only is it well over 800 pages, but they are large pages, and densely packed with writing.

All that said, anyone interested in politics or history needs to pick up this book. Hopefully, there are come college classes out there requiring it. The book is a wealth of information and is exceedingly important to see how we got to where we are today with regard to presidential power.

Books for Fathers Day

With Fathers Day coming up in a few days, I figured instead of my usual Wednesday book review of a single book, I want to be lazy and just give you a list of books that are interesting for fathers.

Best pre-dad book I’ve reviewed – The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life
Best pre-dad I haven’t reviewed – Be Prepared
Best book for early childhood – Brain Rules for Baby (Updated and Expanded): How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five
Best Gospel-centered parenting book (my review) – Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family
Best book for men in general, but certainly has a few value for fathers and husbands (my review) – Disciplines of a Godly Man (Paperback Edition)

*This book is more focused on women, but is actually a pretty good read. My advice to dads and pre-dads who fear their wife might be over-protective is to have them read this book (y’all both read, she’ll appreciate the effort if nothing else) – Bringing Up Bébé

A few others to consider:
The Pregnancy Instruction Manual: Essential Information, Troubleshooting Tips, and Advice for Parents-to-Be (Owner’s and Instruction Manual)
The Baby Owner’s Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance
Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn–and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less
How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success
The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind

Sorry if the suggestion skew young as they are all about pre-dad to preschool, mostly baby and toddler books, but I’m young (ish) and have just the one toddler, so I don’t know what to tell you other than to check back in the next few years for more.

Book Review: The New Dad’s Playbook

The New Dad’s Playbook: Gearing Up for the Biggest Game of Your Life

Rating – Put it on your list

Level – Quick and easy

Summary
The book is basically what it says it is – a guide to fatherhood – just (sometimes too) heavily mixed with football metaphors. The book is 14 chapters broken into five parts, all based on a football season – training camp, regular season (pregnancy), super bowl (birth), postgame, and off-season(dad things, have another child). The attempt to put everything neatly into these categorise can be a bit of a stretch, especially in the ‘training camp’ section, but actually work out really nicely in ‘regular season’ and ‘post game.’

My Thoughts
This book turned out better than I thought. I was little skeptical at the beginning, with the intro chapter somewhat meandering, but Watson really got into stride with the practical advice. As mentioned above, training camp was probably the weakest, but I have to say, I was really surprised at how well the ‘regular season’ chapter turned out. It was a great pregnancy 101. Watson actually goes through the different terminology, stages of pregnancy, and medical options defining and explaining in quick and simple terms what they mean. Maybe it is because Baker is a ‘Christian’ publisher (who typically aren’t great a practical advise), but I was surprised at how useful and practical this section was.

‘Postgame’ and ‘Off-season’ where also good chapters, where he moves away from practical advice (in the step-by-step, playbook sense) and honestly moves into challenging men. Basically saying we need to step up for our family, work to keep the marriage strong, and then realize we will fail, regardless, and that it is alright, because you can’t be a perfect dad. To wrap-up and really expand the breadth of the parenting aspects, he ends on a solid discussion on what it means to have another child, and even differing thoughts on how long to wait and how many children to have.

For those skeptical that you can find a practical (pre)parenting book from a CHristian publisher, this one is the exception. For those maybe interested due him being a famous football player, but disinterested in the CHristian-y parts, I think it is still a solid option. The intent of the book is to be practical and helpful, he isn’t kidding with the ‘playbook’ part of the title. However, it is clear that the man loves God. He obviously takes his relationship with God, his wife, and his children very seriously. It was encouraging and convicting at the same time.

Any pre-dad should have a number of books and resources in mind, and this is definitely one to put on your list. If you have a friend that doesn’t like reading and might only read a book because it was written by a football player (and you probably know a few), this book is perfect. I can think of a guy right now whose wife is almost through the first trimester that I will give this book to. The practical advice, the sports references, and the quick and easy pace of the read will make this book one that anyone will finish.

* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

**You still have time to order this book and give it to a pre-dad as a father’s day gift, should you be so inclined.