Our COVID Christmas Mission

Bernie Diaz, December 3, 2020

A rather subdued ‘Black Friday’ has passed (thankfully) but the Christmas season is on and struggling to thrive – economically at least, versus the “Grinch” called COVID 19, attempting to steal Christmas cheer and the ringing of cash registers.

Nonetheless, I find both a mission and reason to cheer as did those first Christian evangelists – shepherds appropriately enough, who received the literal Good News of the gospel to come- via the incarnation of their long-awaited King (Lu. 2:15-20) and then went on a mission they ‘chose to accept.’ .

An angel of the Lord according to Luke 2 came and reported this incredible news to the shepherds in a field, watching over a flock just a couple miles outside of Bethlehem, that Christ the Lord – Messiah and God in the flesh (Jesus/Joshua the transliterated name of Jehovahthe Lord who saves) was born in that city, laying in a manger and that peace and hope was on the way for God’s people.

Hope is precisely what every human being yearns for in order to give life meaning and an expectancy that something better lies ahead – particularly in the midst of hard times. Is there a Christmas season more deserving of hope than COVID and the current state of the United States, in 2020?

The Mission of a COVID Christmas

Our mission, “should we choose to accept it”, is ‘mission possible’, because with God all things are possible. We like the shepherds, are to take for ourselves and then give the gift of Good News (Lu. 2:16-17; Matt. 28:18-19). You can’t give what you don’t have right? Particularly if it’s the gospel of Jesus Christ.  So, this part of the Christmas story gives us a very simple principle to apply as it’s played out before our eyes. What are we to do with the Good News of Jesus Christ?

The shepherds understood that the angels were speaking for the Lord. They believed the message. They trusted in it.

They went by faith, to going and seeing that which had happened- accepting it as true- as a fact and knew the birth of Christ had already happened because God had told them so in their special and personal announcement or revelation (Lu. 2:10-12a). We have the same in the pages of our New Testament gospels.

These messengers and preachers went in “haste” to deliver the news according to this text. They reacted to this event as the women did, who ran to tell the disciples they had seen the risen Christ (Matt. 28:8). This is the real, first Black Friday, as they hit the stores if you will, running ‘with great haste’ – just not for a discount.

These shepherds took off to look at something truly valuable, the most precious gift of all time, which is God’s gift to humanity in the form of himself gift wrapped in a manger. They told everyone what had happened.

I would argue these were the first evangelists of the Christian faith – even before the church was born, arguably at Pentecost. This is the way it was done before E.E. (Evangelism Explosion) and the Way of the Master or the Four Spiritual Laws. The first message of the first evangelists is the Christmas story, and the first messengers are Shepherds. Why shepherds?

God does not call the rich and mighty to himself – generally speaking. He calls the poor and the lowly (1 Cor. 1:26, 28a, 29).  God chooses or elects those by grace who humble themselves to the cross and to Christ. Grace and humility are therefore the first words of the gospel and salvation. The last are often first and the first are last.

Each born-again believer of Jesus Christ has a story to tell about what God has done for them, as the testimony we give as witnesses for the gospel. But the main story is God’s story. His redemption story for this world.

Biblical scholar Michael Green in his excellent book, Evangelism in the Early Church writes, There was no distinction in the early church between full time ministers and laymen in this responsibility to spread the gospel by every means possible, there was equally no distinction between the sexes in the matter. It was axiomatic that every Christian was called to be a witness to Christ, not only by life but lip.”

That’s the method that God chose to save the world through his church. I think Charles Spurgeon was right when he said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!”

Christians are ambassadors of Christ, given a ministry of reconciliation to the world (2 Cor. 5), meaning we do this because it’s who we are.

The Reactions to Your Mission

In having studied the Christmas text (Lu. 2:18-20), I found at least two responses or reactions to the good news of the birth of the baby Jesus- which launched the mission and ministry of the Messiah.

  • The Crowd (18)

And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them…

We have a message for the lost people in our lives as to why this baby was born to die and die the way he did and most importantly, why he died at all. Christmas is just a bridge to the cross and Easter Sunday. That’s a wonder.

Regardless of what people think, we tell our story and focus on God’s story, which started at Christmas, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). God could have sent a soldier or a judge or a reformer to Israel under the yoke of the Roman empire, as most of the Jews then and now, would have preferred and are still waiting for.

Rather, God sent a Savior to meet man’s greatest need as the Rabbinical  Jewish religion could not meet the needs of men’s hearts nor the demands of God’s law.

  • The Shepherds (20)

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

This is the reaction every Christian should have after they’re saved, as we prepare to celebrate the true reason for this season. We have the hope of glory to come. So, like the shepherds, let’s celebrate and sing about what we’ve seen and heard about Jesus- more than the wrapped gifts under the tree.

Let’s rejoice and share the joy with the enthusiasm we had as new converts to the faith. Have you noticed how new believers in Christ can’t wait to praise God and worship Him and share the grace gift they’ve’ been given? We need to recapture that love of Christ and the gospel as when we were first saved – to return to our first love (Rev. 2). We need to take advantage of this Christmas COVID season and fulfil our mission to bring Christ back to a time and place of despair and infuse it with the hope that we all wish for.

Counting Blessings for COVID and 2020?

Bernie Diaz, November 24, 2020

.. give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thess. 5:18, ESV).

The traditional adage of ‘counting our blessings’ always comes into sharper focus as the annual Thanksgiving holiday rolls around in the United States doesn’t it?

However, there is little doubt that many Americans – Christians included, will be a bit more challenged than usual to count their blessings in the year of our Lord, 2020, though biblically oriented disciples of Jesus Christ understand, (though may not cherish) the exhortation in scripture from the apostle Paul to give thanks for even circumstances such as the following ‘lowlights’ of the year:

  • The seemingly never-ending pandemic of the global Coronavirus, which has crippled much of our society’s normative way of life since the beginning of the year.
  • Civil and racial unrest manifest in protests and violence in the wake of some high-profile police related shootings that began in the summer.
  • Our politically and culturally divided country enduring one of the most contentious presidential election campaigns in American history, of which the result has been questioned and not completely acknowledged – yet (as of the date of this post), as we enter the final month of the year.

Of which the later event by the way, will not be totally resolved until the state of Georgia conducts its special run-off election in early January, to decide the makeup of the Senate majority of our country and its legislative direction for the next two-four years. God only knows what further division that result will cause.

That said, why and how can we obey the biblical imperative (command) to give God thanks each and every day for circumstances like COVID-19 and a divided nation in the year 2020?

The Lord actually has given us a vaccine for ingratitude in everything, speaking in relevant terms today.

In the New Testament, Paul also wrote that prayers filled with thanksgiving serve as a remedy for anxiety (Phil. 4:4-6). From the Old Testament, Israel’s King David wrote a Holy Spirit inspired psalm – a song of praise that recognizes God’s sovereignty and faithfulness to his people, which should fill their hearts with peace and hope in even the most difficult of circumstances:

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
    and give thanks to his holy name.

 For his anger is but for a moment,
    and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
    but joy comes with the morning
(Psa. 30:4-5).

I take that text amongst many others which affirm it, to mean that thanksgiving can be found in the fact that this world’s nature of affliction, evil, pain and suffering (including God’s holy wrath or “anger” against sin) is temporary (“may tarry for the night”).

It is scripture like this which reminds me that by faith we trust in and obey God because he is good – perfectly so, and is perfectly free and sovereign to directly or indirectly cause circumstances which may on the one hand “tarry” or remain for a season, inflicting discipline and difficulty, but will also  bring ultimate glory for himself, hope, edification, good and grace for his own (Ro. 8:22,24-25b, 28; Ro. 5:3-5, 11,15). We can be thankful for that theological truth.

As we’ve posted here and preached before, salvation, sanctification and eventual glorification, come to God’s children from a world of pain and suffering in which the Lord providentially brings about greater, redemptive purposes in his kingdom through it all. Again, that is a reality worth thanking God for I would argue.

The opposite of thanksgiving can only breed despair if not depression and bitterness – circumstances notwithstanding. When things go wrong, what do we usually do? Complain. Grumble. Doubt God. You might say, Pastor Bernie, “We all do this right? What’s the big deal? God knows we’re only human right?”

The problem with that, is that ingratitude leads to self-pity. Self-pity unchecked, grows and becomes depression. It betrays a heart of unbelief. What God wants from his people- from Israel to the church, is humility and a gratitude attitude from faith, which leads to joy- or what I like to call soul satisfaction. That’s the Christian’s real joy and Paul knew this better than any other Christian I can think of in scripture other than David (Col. 2:6-7).  

Therefore, I will prayerfully push myself by the help of the Spirit of God to give thanks for 2020 and all of the obstacles to worldly happiness the good Lord has presented or allowed in it, including the lowlights becoming highlights from the above:

  • I thank God for allowing COVID-19.

Not in the havoc or destruction of the life, liberty and the pursuit of prosperity that has resulted from it, but for the dependence it has fostered to tens of thousands of people who have looked to God for mercy, grace in provision and for meaning in the midst of it all as never before.

I thank the Lord further, for giving the church of Jesus Christ the greatest appreciation of its assembly in person, in the worshipping, feeding, fellowshipping and loving of one another as never before in our lifetimes. “Virtual” (online) and regulation limiting church services have served as a necessary though largely unsatisfying and poor representation and reminder of the best biblical congregating God offers his people. I’m thankful for that dose of appreciation as I long for it to return.

I also give thanks that I personally know of so few people in and out of my church that have been infected with, much less hospitalized without a fatality from Coronavirus.

  • I thank God for allowing civil unrest in our nation.

Why would I thank God for that? It is because that unrest has caused me to rethink the state of race relations and ethnic hatred, bias and bigotry which still resides in all of our tainted flesh in this country and the need for us to introspectively consider what we can do to personally and corporately lessen this sin problem, which is misdiagnosed as a simple skin problem.

It is not mainstream ‘Critical Race Theories’ which will remedy this issue.

Only a return to the preaching and ideals of a multi-cultural and ethnic church, unified in the gospel and single-race blood of Jesus Christ (Eph. 2), is what will bring greater unity to our land.

  • I thank God that he seems to be allowing a change in the governing authorities of our country.

I am not thanking the Lord for what seems to be the upcoming inauguration of a President-Elect and administration which supports the murder of the pre-born, redefines God’s divine design for family and sexuality and seeks to attack if not greatly restrict the religious liberty of our citizens to freely exercise their faith.

I recognize the gravity of such public policy positions and recoil at just the possibilities of them coming to fruition. While we are not to thank God for evil, we can thank him for what he can and will most assuredly do with it for greater purposes as Joseph realized in the midst of his brothers (Gen. 50:20) and what Jesus endured by God’s providence to accomplish the greatest news of all time (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28).

It is God, as I have been preaching in our church’s current Sunday series, (The Sovereignty of God) that “ ..changes times and seasons; .. removes kings (e.g. Presidents) and sets up kings, rules over the nations and the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (Dan. 2:21; 4:32; Psa. 22:28). I thankful for that.

Furthermore, as I’m tempted to despair over the course of this country as my young adult children and their children will deal with, I’m thankful and encouraged that “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will (Pro. 21:1).” The course of this nation’s future is in God’s hands and only he can save our likely President-Elect and members of his administration (including the Vice-President Elect) and turn them to Christ or to govern rightly by his common grace. We are to pray for that (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

Thus, I conclude with the story of Corrie Ten Boom and the Hiding Place. Corrie and her sister Betsie, were courageous, compassionate Dutch Christians who helped harbor Jews from the Nazis in Holland during World War II. After the sisters were arrested for doing so, they were imprisoned at a German concentration camp.

Forced to live in the rancid conditions at Ravensbruck, Corrie and Betsie found they could not sit upright on their own platform beds without hitting their heads on the deck above them. They lay back, struggling against nausea that swept over them from the reeking straw.

Suddenly Corrie started to sit up, striking her head on the cross-slats above. Something had bitten her leg. “Fleas!” she cried. “Betsie, the place is swarming with them!” “Here! And here another one!” Corrie wailed. “Betsie, how can we live in such a place?”

“Show us. Show us how,” Betsie said matter-of-factly. It took Corrie a moment to realize that her sister was praying. “Corrie!” Betsie then exclaimed excitedly. “He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!”

Corrie checked to make sure no guards were nearby, then drew from a pouch a small Bible she had managed to smuggle into the concentration camp. “It was in First Thessalonians,” she said, finding the passage in the feeble light. She prayed aloud from the text, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus …” (1 Thess. 5:14-18).

“That’s it!” Betsie interrupted. “That’s His answer. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances!’ That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this barracks!” Corrie stared at her incredulously, then around at the dark, foul-smelling room.“Such as?” she inquired. “Such as being assigned here together.”

Corrie bit her lip. “Oh yes, Lord Jesus!” “Such as what you’re holding in your hands.” Corrie looked down at the Bible. “Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all the women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.”

“Yes,” agreed Betsie. “Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!” She looked at her sister expectantly and prodded, “Corrie!” “Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds.”

“Thank you,” Betsie continued on serenely, “for the fleas and for …” That was too much for Corrie. She cut in on her sister: “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

‘Give thanks in all circumstances,” Betsie corrected. “It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.” So, they stood between the stacks of bunks and gave thanks for fleas, though on that occasion Corrie thought Betsie was surely wrong.”

One evening when Corrie arrived back at the barracks Betsie’s eyes were twinkling. “You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,” Corrie told her. “You know we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,” Betsie said, referring to the part of the barracks where the sleeping platforms were. “Well—I’ve found out. This afternoon there was confusion in my knitting group about sock sizes, so we asked the supervisor to come and settle it. But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice as she exclaimed, “Because of the fleas! That’s what she said: ‘That place is crawling with fleas!’ ” Corrie’s mind raced back to their first hour in the barracks. She remembered Betsie bowing her head and thanking God for creatures that Corrie could see no use for.

I pray I can get to the point where I can join the Ten Boom sisters in their gratitude attitude to God. To thank God for his sovereignty in COVID 19 and 2020 – and “in all circumstances,” because I remember God’s goodness, his glory and can be grateful as a result. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Sovereignty of God in COVID and Nature

Bernie Diaz, November 19, 2020

I have found in my preaching and teaching ministry over the years, that there is virtually no issue or doctrine which engenders more theological controversy and conflict than the sovereignty of God, particularly as we live in a sin-cursed world that necessarily entails evil, pain and suffering.

Indeed, the reality is that many people struggle with the concept of a God who exists and is good, while allowing as a sovereign creator, evil and suffering to exist at the same time.

Headlines of late I’m sure have driven many to search themselves and the scriptures to reconcile the Bible’s teaching that God is the governor of all that occurs on earth and the events that are transpiring on it.

According to published reports, the COVID-19 pandemic as predicted by many experts, has brought a long-feared second wave of cases and hospitalizations across the globe, in conjunction with the holiday and winter season having begun in the United States for example, which is a time in which indoor socializing is maxed out.

Last week a record 177,000 plus people in the U.S. were reportedly diagnosed with COVID-19 and more than 70,000 coronavirus patients were hospitalized nationwide. Although there may be some legitimate question as to the extent of the volume and validity of these numbers (including fatalities), there is little doubt that the pandemic has made a comeback as hospital intensive-care units have begun to run dangerously low on beds, leading as many as a dozen states to consider an increase in their mask mandates of every kind and stay at home, quarantine orders.

As if all of that weren’t enough to chew on in a nation still wrestling with the uncertainty of the results of its presidential election, economic downturn and civil unrest in 2020, many of us overlooked the devastation caused this week by Hurricane Iota, in central American and Nicaragua in particular.

That category 4 storm – the latest of a record two dozen plus named storms this year, has killed at least six with many more fatalities expected from the damage left behind by swollen rivers and landslides.

The cost to repair the nation’s infrastructure (99% of Nicaragua is reportedly without power) may reach into billions of dollars as thousands of Nicaraguans and nearby Hondurans are homeless and in shelters.

Could the sovereign God of the Bible (Psa. 135:6-7; Isa. 45:5,7; Amos 3:6) have actually caused all this damage himself? The scriptures would most definitely point in that direction as the Old Testament speaks of God’s providence in the affairs of man, working in and through nature, such as in his judgment of Israel over the centuries.

The prophet Jeremiah predicted that Jehovah God would bring the sword, famine and even pestilence to the nation that had rejected him and his word time and again – particularly for the sins of idolatry and empty worship.

To which, in comparing false idols with the true and living God, the prophet said, “Are there any among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Are you not he, O Lord our God?     We set our hope on you, for you do all these things” (Jer. 14:22).

Notice the noun of the supernatural source of such ‘natural’ calamity in that text. The scriptures and the moral implications of such events led a former local newspaper columnist and friend of mine – an avowed agnostic if not an atheist, to write in the wake of another hurricane and the chaos it left behind some years ago:

Faith in a way, makes it harder to understand the maddening capriciousness of natural disasters, or even man-made cataclysms like wars and terrorist attacks. Why would an omnipotent God do this to someone?”

That is a fair and difficult question from a skeptic who at least understands  the implications of this issue and joins those that feel that the above turn of events prove to be the ‘Achilles heel’ of the Christian faith. That being that if God is good then he must be powerless to stop evil from occurring if it exists, or that if evil and suffering exists and God is all powerful (omnipotent), than he cannot be good if he allows it.  

It is an interesting dilemma until one comes to grips with the biblical fact that a sovereign and omnipotent God may allow and use evil, pain and suffering (e.g. hurricanes, cancer and COVID) to accomplish greater purposes in his world and redemptive history for his own glory and the ultimate good of many people.

The Sovereignty of God Over ‘Climate Change’ and the Environment

In the current preaching series we’re doing at our church right now in the aftermath of all that we have been experiencing in 2020, we have explored God’s sovereignty over the nations (including this month’s presidential election of course), our health, wealth and even the Christian’s salvation as I will argue from the scriptures this coming Lord’s Day.

One topic we won’t be addressing from the pulpit but I am in this post, is the fact that God is active and sovereign in our weather too. I sure hope so, having endured more than a foot of rain in my community from storms which rendered my lawn into a bit of a swimming pool of late.

Lest I fall into the sin of murmuring over my inconvenience, we tend to regard such things as little more than the impersonal expression of certain fixed meteorological or geological laws (i.e. low pressure systems, ‘the rainy season’, mother nature, hurricane season in my home state of Florida). In practice, even Christians tend to live and think like the practical agnostic or deist who thinks of God having created and then walked away from the universe, having wound it up like a clock, running until the alarm sounds, as it withers away according to its own natural laws.

However, that is not the God of the Bible who is alive, well and working in the day-to-day operations of His creation by his direct or permissive will. He has established physical laws by which He governs the forces of nature as primary or secondary causes, though those laws continuously operate according to His sovereign will.

Interestingly, a Christian TV meteorologist has determined that there are over 1,400 references to weather terminology in the Bible. Many of these references attribute the outworking of weather directly to the hand of God, such as when Jesus quieted the storm on the Sea of Galilee. Most of these passages speak of God’s control over all weather, not just His divine intervention on some occasions (Job 37:3, 6, 10-13).

All one has to do is let God speak for himself from his special and specific revelation to make his case for his sovereignty over his creation and the provision for it:

8 He covers the heavens with clouds;
    he prepares rain for the earth;
    he makes grass grow on the hills.
He gives to the beasts their food,
    and to the young ravens that cry.

(Psa. 147:8-9, cf. 16-18)

Jeremiah again, adds on God’s behalf, When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses (Jer. 10:13).

Take note Christian, that all these Scriptures among many others, attribute all expressions of weather—good or bad—to the direct controlling hand of God.

Ironically, secularly based insurance companies get it, when they refer to major natural disasters as “acts of God.” The truth is that the Bible teaches that God controls all the forces of nature, both destructive and productive, on a continuous, moment-by-moment basis.

Whether the weather is nice (like today as I write this post) or bad, we are never the victims or even the beneficiaries of the impersonal powers of nature. God, who is the loving heavenly Father of every true Christian, is sovereign over the weather, and He exercises that sovereignty moment by moment.

Why Does this Matter?

We sin against God when we complain about the weather, as much as anything else because we not only deprive God his glory by acknowledging his sovereignty over it, but we also deprive ourselves of the peace and comfort that comes from recognizing our heavenly Father is in control of it.

That reality serves as the motive in my wanting to preach a series on God’s sovereignty right now, in the midst of the fall of 2020. We need this truth more than ever.

The fact is, for most of us, the weather and the effects of nature are usually favorable anyway.

We tend to overlook God’s common grace as theologians call it, as he, “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matt 5:45).”

What about ‘natural disasters’ like Hurricane Iota in Nicaragua?  

Because God is God and we’re not, he is not obliged to, nor does he reveal to his own the precise reasons he does what he does with the weather or anything else.

But, as author Jerry Bridges pointed out: It is not wrong to wrestle with these issues, as long as we do it in a reverent and submissive attitude toward God. Indeed, to fail to wrestle with the issue of large-scale tragedy may indicate a lack of compassion toward others on our part. However, we must be careful not to, in our minds, take God off His throne of absolute sovereignty or put Him in the dock (witness stand) and bring Him to the bar of our judgment.

The sovereignty of God – over the weather or our salvation, or anything else for that matter can be a difficult truth to accept as we watch and listen to people suffer, ‘mourning with those that mourn.’ Yet as another theologian commented on Isa 45:7 amongst other parallel passages, “We gain nothing by seeking to minimize the force of the present verse. We must allow the Bible to say what it says, not what we think it ought to say.”

In summary, God’s sovereignty over his creation – including nature, does not mean that Christians will never have to suffer evil and pain- far from it. Plain experience and observation clearly teach otherwise.

But, God’s sovereignty does mean that whatever we experience at the hand of the weather or other forces of nature and bodily decay (diseases and pandemics like Coronavirus), they are all under the watchful eye and sovereign hand of our God. I for one among millions over church history, choose to praise the Lord for that and take comfort in it as well.

Election 2020: The Divided States of America – Character Counted Pt. 2

Bernie Diaz, Nov. 11, 2020

We’re one week removed from the presidential election of 2020 and I’ve come to some preliminary conclusions that bear attention to in the midst of the ensuing chaos that remains at the moment, in trying to ascertain who by God’s providence, who will be in leadership of our country from both the White House and Capitol Hill (with the Senate still up for grabs through January of the new year). 

Our nation – politically is at a standstill and societally is more divided than at any time in recent history – at least in more than a generation since the civil unrest and upheaval of the decade spanning from the mid 60’s to the mid 70’s (e.g. Vietnam, the first wave of the sexual revolution and race relations). That much seems clear to most people.

However, the political pundits seem to be missing the point or the big picture in my view, as to what divides us as they began their obligatory post-election analysis of what happened last week.

What we do know if anything at this moment, is with tens of thousands of outstanding mail-in ballots still waiting to be counted and confirmed (including a recount in GA), Joe Biden held a victory rally in Delaware last Saturday night claiming the title of president-elect, in a speech in which he ironically referenced Ecclesiastes 3 and proclaimed a national “time to heal.”

His speech came after the major news television networks declared – anointed him really, as the winner of Pennsylvania, Nevada, and the Electoral College vote.

Meanwhile, the incumbent in the oval office, President Trump, said, “The simple fact is this election is far from over,” in a statement on Saturday. This week his campaign and cadre of lawyers began filling lawsuits before the Supreme Court and elsewhere, protesting the results of the handful of battleground states which will have the greatest impact on the final count of electoral votes necessary to winning the presidency on the grounds of voter fraud or irregularities (i.e. late or manipulated ballots).

Indeed, the possibility of such irregularities reversing the media’s call of Biden as President does exist, though the possibility seems unlikely- as unlikely as when Democratic Challenger Al Gore, appealed his razor-thin loss to Republican George W. Bush in 2000 (remember the “hanging chads,” Floridians?), in which Bush’s election results prevailed.

Why Did the President-Elect ‘Apparently’ Prevail?

Early exit polls estimate that in a year of increased racial tensions, President Donald Trump surprisingly improved his standing among racial and ethnic minorities – winning my home state of Florida, due in large part to the Hispanic voter turnout in Miami, consisting of Cuba and Venezuelan-Americans fearing an onset of socialism in our country, under the helm of a Biden administration, though the current President-Elect still won the majority share of black, Latino, and other minority voters’ support.

Although Biden performed worse among voters of color overall than Hillary Clinton did in 2016, a strong turnout of African-Americans in key major cities such as Philadelphia, PA; Milwaukee, WI and Atlanta, GA may have put Biden over the top in those three key states.

All of this could seemingly point to a strict, black and white racial divide in deciding the presidency. I think that conclusion takes the wrong colors into account. I see red and blue rather than black or brown as the dividing lines in our nation.

In addition, I see two practical factors that may have tilted the results of this election despite questionable poll data which may emerge to the contrary- if you put any stock in media-driven polls, which failed again, miserably, in anticipating the winners of this election and their margins.

One factor was the record deluge of early and mail-in ballots which were cast, preceding election Tuesday, of which at least a two-thirds majority seems to have favored Biden.  A second contributing factor from the election which may have made the difference, is the likely possibility that ‘character still counts’ for a Presidential candidate.

Some analysts have already concluded in their post-mortem that many “shy” Trump voters did not disclose their voting preference prior to the election, skewing poll numbers due to possible concerns over being affiliated as endorsers of Trump’s questionable character and tongue – particularly among evangelical Christian voters who are to be concerned about such things.

One prominent pastor from the Midwest speaking on perhaps tens of thousands, said this past week, “I did not vote for Joe Biden, or for Hillary. I cannot vote for ‘the party of death.’ I am now an independent. My sympathies and convictions are closer to the GOP on issues, but I will not vote for ungodly, borderline racist, misogynistic, xenophobic candidates because they are GOP.”

There were assuredly many other thousands that voted for President Trump but remained, ‘in the closet’ about it- “shy”, as #NeverBiden voters. Trump’s character and communication methods – his messaging did little or nothing to gain their support of his person. Rather, they relied on his politics or policies, as we had posted prior to election day.

Similarly, there seemed to be little passionate support for Biden nationwide, among many Democratic voters, but rather a mass of fearful voters cast ballots – not only of the prospect of President Trump’s being re-elected, but of their party veering too far left to the radical and liberal agenda of its leadership in congressional races. As a more moderate Democrat on his way out of the Senate after losing last Tuesday, put it, “We’re not some demonic cult like we’re portrayed to be.”     

What marks the color divide of red (GOP) and blue (Democratic) states and voters is quite simply worldview. Ideological conservatives who tend to vote for Republican candidates – generally, on the most current and key issues of our day,  do not support ‘defunding the police’, packing the court and pursuing a new and extreme, environmental, Green New Deal. Whereas the ideological liberals or ‘progressives’ who tend to generally vote for Democratic candidates do.

As we noted in the platforms of the two major political parties of our country that one- represented in modern political terms by the color red, is pro-life, pro-traditional family, pro-liberty – as in religious and is pro-capitalist, while the other platform, represented by the color blue, is pro-abortion, pro-LGTBQ, pro-secularist and socialist leaning. It must be added, that the ever present centrist or purple minority may impact an election as well.

These political ideologies or positions are simple reflections of how people view reality or truth and the world they live in and would like to live in.

For instance, on the clear and unmistakable issue of abortion:

The red thinker and voter generally sees life as God and the scripture does, being sacred and dignified as a fellow image bearer from the point of conception to death (‘womb to tomb’) and worthy of the law’s acknowledgment and protection.

The blue thinker and voter- generally, sees life as utilitarian and subject to the whims and needs of those already born and the freedoms they already enjoy- mostly of a physical and sexual nature. Thus, which presidential candidate do you think most voters of those particular colors supported on election day?

Likewise, on the issue of local law enforcement and race, a red voter would emphasize the need for a Romans 13, biblical perspective of law and order in supporting police and policies which punish evil and protect the innocent (how imperfectly that may be administered).

Whereas a blue voter may deemphasize the above- even at the cost of public safety, in the emphasis of social justice, such as guaranteed racial outcomes of equality. I would argue that the ideologies of worldview, trump mere divisions of skin tone or ethnicity. President Trump’s inroads into certain minority groups in this election would seem to bear that out.

America remains divided more between red and blue in a culture war that does not seem to have an end in sight in our near future.

Interestingly enough, the cause may be due to the absence of the influence of Christianity in our nation, which once viewed as the moral glue that held this nation together since its inception.

America was more religiously diverse than most of us today might think in its infancy – denominationally, as well as between Deists, evangelicals and  Jews for that matter.  However, Americans of every worldview at that time in the wake of the revolution supported religious freedom and the idea of a creator God that was the source of and guaranteed their fundamental (“inalienable”) rights.

That theological worldview coupled with the correct view of mankind and his inherent sinfulness, saw that its citizenry could only remain free if it were virtuous – self-regulated or governed so a centralized government would not have to.

There was once a “civil spirituality” in our nation according to historians, or a set of common, religiously influenced American values which kept our states more ‘united’ than divided as it is today.

Therefore, I would argue that a true religious revival among God’s people (the church) may be just what this nation needs from preventing us- under God’s watchful hand, from falling from a culture war into civil war in 2021.

Election 2020: Captive Thoughts and Character Counted Pt. 1

Bernie Diaz, November 5, 2020

Could this week’s election results – or the conclusive lack thereof, have been more fitting in this year of uncertainty that has marked 2020?

As of the date of this post, America was still uncertain over who its President would be beginning with Inauguration Day in January of 2021.

While major news outlets pronounced Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden the winner in the states of Wisconsin and Michigan based upon post-election day estimates, his margin of victory remained razor-thin in the electoral college (towards the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the White House).

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s campaign challenged the results in both of those states plus Pennsylvania and Georgia – both of which are still counting mail and absentee votes now and perhaps through the end of the week. Par for this course, to use the golf analogy.

Our country has been wading in a sea of uncertainty over the state of our nation, its future and this election campaign all year long, which we hoped might be over by now. Uncertainty for many has reigned over:

The Coronavirus: which may be rearing its ugly head again, in a recent uptick of cases nationwide, as many “experts” expected in the midst of the winter flu season. Will the powers that be (subordinate to God as they are) look to further lock down or quarantine most communities, if not the country again as Western Europe is doing, in the hopes of eliminating any possibility whatsoever that anyone might contract the COVID-19 virus?

The economy: unemployment claims are trending down – slightly of late, but businesses continue to suffer with many having shut down in the wake of the pandemic’s policies and impact.

The state of race and civil unrest: recent post-election protests (e.g. Portland- which was actually announced in advance) featuring the obligatory round of looting, burning and ransacking of property in the name of social justice and tolerance, may have broken a period of relative calm before another storm.

What Me Worry?

If I were a secularist, or a basic, run of the mil, unbeliever living in the United States, I frankly wouldn’t have a clue as to how to think about, much less deal with all of the uncertainty surrounding our society right now. It would seem to be random and not make much sense at all, as to why it was all happening this way and this year. If I were an atheist, I would be worried.

Worry, or fear- anxiety, over current circumstances are part and parcel with living a life of a godless worldview or philosophy of life (‘captive thoughts’). Being a deist- one who believes in a deity that is nonetheless distant at best, or absent and unconcerned about the affairs of man at worst, should bring no comfort or consolation at all.

However, the Christian conscience – the biblically grounded thoughts of a disciple of Jesus that are held, “captive to Christ,” can make some sense of 2020 – without having all of God’s rationale available, because of knowing who God is and how that knowledge has and continues to manifest itself in our world.

That captive thought, spoke to the theme of the message I preached in my church last Sunday on election eve, “The Sovereignty of God.. Over the Nations.”  I argued in that sermon that Christians should not worry about the results of this election or anything else and are in fact, commanded not to (Matt. 6:25-34), because of God’s sovereignty.

Frankly I reminded my church that the sovereignty of God is one of my favorite doctrines in all the Bible as well as one of my favorite attributes of his, simply because that reality brings certainty and comfort- confidence to Christians in a world that feels uncertain and uncomfortable.

What does it mean that God is sovereign?

What comes to your mind when you hear the word or talk about a ‘sovereign?’ A king perhaps? A king is the absolute ruler of a kingdom in  earthly terms. Jesus Christ is known in scripture as the ‘king of kings and lord of lords.’ A Lord is also a master and that means an absolute authority.

With God, the concept of sovereignty goes even further than an earthly king. The sovereignty of God refers to the fact that God is in complete control of the universe, being the King over chaos in this world.

His sovereign lordship essentially means that He has the power, wisdom and both the freedom and the right to do anything He wants – including the ordination and control of particular governments over world history- all of them, including the outcome of the 2020 presidential election- whenever we finally catch up to his providential will and purpose and figure out who the President will be (Psa. 135:6).

The Old Testament prophet Daniel realized that truth when praising both God’s sovereign will and providence (the circumstantial outworking of his will) in interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s first of two dreams during Israel’s Babylonian captivity about 2,600 years ago, when he wrote: He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings (Dan. 2:21a).

That tremendously thought-provoking text, means that God not only  controls the course of all human history, but that he literally removes and sets up kingdoms- changes administrations and the rulers of all nations of all times and places. Indeed, God is behind the scenes and controls the scenes he is behind.

Therefore, we can conclude that Donald Trump is currently in the White House and that he or Joe Biden may occupy it anew in the new year, precisely because God put one of them there.

In fact biblically, we can affirm the same for every national government institution in history, from the Pharaoh in Egypt, to Alexander the Great, to Barrack Obama, Bill Clinton, Fidel Castro, Adolf Hitler, Karl Marx and everyone before or since (Ro. 13:1). God saw fit to have them all in power in one way or another, as we understand that he can take them out and preserve or keep them in power at any time and for as long as he wishes.

For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations (Psa. 22:28, ESV).

But if the above is true- and it is, then the implication must be that man has no vote- no say so in the election of government leaders right? Not quite. Human responsibility comes along side God’s sovereignty as the Lord’s  means to his ends, whether we’re talking about voting in an election, praying for something or someone or believing in Christ by faith. God has given us all a role to play- we exercise our will in day to day life, including the privilege and responsibility to vote, within the confines of God’s sovereign plans and what theologians call his providence. Ultimately, God is the decisive cause of our 2020 Presidential election (Job 12:23).

That providence – in other words, God’s gracious oversight of the world:  

1.  Upholds all things.

2.  Governs all events (Pro. 21:1).

3.  Directs everything to its appointed end.

4.  Does this all the time and in every circumstance.

5.  Does it always for his own glory and the good of his children.

Alas, are Christians to feel somehow intimidated by, or lacking somehow in influence over the events of our world today? Quite the contrary. Christians should feel confident that their lives, work and ministry is “not in vain” but under God’s gracious, merciful and watchful eye and held in his hands.

Also, we must remind ourselves that our King is not up for election, that our faith and kingdom is global, not primarily national or local and that politics—while important—is not ultimate.

But as to the election results to come- whenever that will be, the perfect government on earth is coming regardless, when its King – Jesus Christ, comes back to rule and reign over it with us. So Christian – no worries. If the candidate who is to be sworn in as our next President is immoral or ungodly in character or competency, remember that God is able to use even the most wicked of leaders to accomplish his good, eternal plan.

I for one, am not worried over the final results- as controversial or contrived as they may be, because my thoughts are captive to Christ with comfort and confidence, knowing God has pre-ordained the result, using his people, common grace and his providence to accomplish his good will and purpose.

In part two of this post, I hope to give you a biblical, post-election analysis of this election, speaking to the way that character and the captive thoughts of Americans played a role in the result.

Final Election 2020 Primer: the vote – Character, Competency and Conscience

Bernie Diaz, October 27, 2020

It took eleven different presidential elections over the course of a generation in my lifetime for me to finally cast an early vote as I did this week at a local library. Rarely have I seen lines this long at the ballot box and felt such an eerily quiet, if not ominous buzz among a crowd of voters who were casting this most consequential of votes.

This year’s election is so consequential because it not only demonstrates so well the political, cultural and ideological divide which exists in our country, but it also may well determine the societal direction of this nation for years to come.

I qualified the above statement with, “may” by the way, because the results of this election have already been preordained and will be providentially ordained or ordered by… God as of election night, November 3rd, as I will be preaching to my church congregation this coming Lord’s day (The Sovereignty of God, “Over the Nations”).

If God is sovereign- and he is, holding absolute rule and reign over all of his creation, including ultimately the acts and decisions of his own image bearers (Pro. 16:33; 20:21), Christians need not worry or become anxious over the results of this upcoming election. Tuesday night’s result will be precisely what God decreed to happen for this nation, by his own good will and pleasure, which ultimately and thankfully, will be for his glory and the good of his people.

So why vote? Because we understand that human responsibility complements God’s sovereignty and is the means he has ordered by which much of his will is carried out. American Christians have been given a privilege and a responsibility it may be argued, to cast a vote. Thus, the question remains should a Christian vote for the Presidential incumbent ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, or the challenger’s pair from the Democratic Party, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris?

The issues that we would normally consider in how we arrive at such a decision can be rather lengthy and complicated- particularly this year, to the extent that they must be prayerfully deliberated over with much wisdom (e.g. management of the Coronavirus, the economy, ‘racism and social justice’, foreign affairs, health care, climate, et.al). Many of these issues may be debated- lovingly, and graciously among believers as to applications and biblical positions, since they are not all explicitly delineated in the scriptures.

However, Christian voters must be reminded that where the scripture is clear- in the application of the Bible’s precepts, principles and practices to today’s politics, then our vote must be clear. I have argued in this series of posts that the Bible- even affirmed by our nation’s Judeo-Christian influenced founders, have made clear three essential issues of policy that should form the basis of our voting priorities: life, liberty and the ‘love of neighbor’, which are echoed in America’s foundational and Declarative principles of, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Life

There was a time in the 1990’s when a Democratic President of the United States (Clinton) actually wanted abortion to be: “safe, legal and rare.” Today, Biden and the Democratic party’s position might rephrase that as abortion being, ‘common and available at any time and for any reason.’ Whereas, in contrast, President Trump and the GOP platform might suggest that abortion once again become ‘illegal and unthinkable.’

This week’s Senate confirmation of Amy Comey Barrett as the newest justice of the Supreme Court, might just make the later possible by reversing the court’s Roe v. Wade decision of nearly 50 years ago, in the near future.

Unsurprisingly, our country remains divided on the life and death issue of this age, having been born and bred under the influence of Roe, with a majority of Americans favoring some restrictions on abortion, but supporting Roe as a general rule according to national polls. Regardless, born-again Christians are to think and therefore vote according to biblically based convictions about abortion, rather than compromising those convictions to political expediency and the pop-culture’s embrace of the sexual revolution.

Make no mistake about it, that moral revolution – supported by the radically liberal, political agenda of today’s Democratic Party, embraces the unlimited right to abortion- the intentional taking of innocent life and liberty  without limitation, even to the point of the delivery of the pre-born child.

Thus, we’ve already laid out the candidates’ position and their party’s platform on these three fundamental issues in this election primer series, beginning with life, of which the Bible is unambiguously clear on, being pro-life from womb to tomb.  

While some high-profile evangelicals of late, have ironically self-identified as ‘pro-life’ supporters of former Vice-President Biden, focusing on other issues and means to reduce abortion in this country, they have failed to join the vast majority of the evangelical church and her mandate to publicly call abortion the “greatest moral evil of our times” – which it is, and for the initiatives of any and all policies which may reduce the number of murders among the pre-born, who cannot speak for themselves (Pro. 31:8).

Inexorably, this issue and it’s potential for conflict, has led to the question, “Can you be pro-abortion and Christian?” The short and technical question would be yes, in that abortion is not a litmus test for salvation and a repentant sinner being justified by faith alone in Christ alone. However, it could be a litmus test as to the sanctification and level of a Christian’s biblically based wisdom, knowledge and discernment, being that God’s will and word is as clear as it is on this issue.

To ignore or willfully brush aside abortion as the moral issue which most closely and clearly reflects the heart of God and his role for government – which is to restrain and punish evil and to protect and promote that which God says is good (Ro. 13:2-4, 8-10), is to stand idly by the shedding of the most innocent blood among us (Lev. 18:21; Eze. 22:3-4).

Therefore, it may be said that the professing Christian who may be ambivalent to, or supporting pro-abortion as well as anti-family and anti-religious liberty policies and politicians, are morally blind and in desperate need of discipleship – ASAP, on the true disciples relationship to government – before Tuesday even.

Liberty and Love of Neighbor

I include both of these issues together here in summary, in the interest of space and redundancy, in that the biblical position is clear enough on both. First, in insisting that Christians support religious liberty as a policy issue, in order to maintain the freedom to congregate and worship God corporately, as well as to preach the life-saving gospel of Jesus Christ to the lost – personally and publicly and to be able to work and live out their convictions of faith, as this government’s own constitution has guaranteed.

Second, the ‘love of neighbor,’ which encompass the justice and greatest good for the greatest number of people, which again begins with their opportunity to have life and to enjoy liberty.

Those two issues are intertwined with the enforcement of laws and policies which promote God’s design for family and for law and order. Therefore, were the factors of character and competency equal, the biblically informed, evangelical vote for President would seem to be abundantly clear – at least to me. However…

Character and Competency

Some pro-life, family and freedom Christians and leaders, including pastors as well-read and respected as John Piper, have been struggling with their conscience in voting for the re-election of President Trump, infamously known as perhaps the most arrogant, divisive and egotistical president of at least modern times, possessing a well-documented past and present record of sins, to the extent of again calling into question of whether or not his character makes him unworthy of the Christian vote, as it did in 2016.

Whereas, I cannot and will not condemn the conscience of a brother and sister in Christ who cannot vote in this election on the grounds of conscience, I would appeal to their conscience to reconsider each candidates’ competency- the ability to do the job in the Oval Office as well as the content of their policies, as the greater measure of being worthy of their vote.

Both Trump and Biden are sinners whose spiritual condition is unknown to us all, personal professions of faith notwithstanding. They both therefore deserve the prayers of God’s people for their salvation (1 Tim. 2:1-4).

But Piper among others who are abstaining from a vote this year, have drawn a moral equivalency of the President’s ungodly attitude, rhetoric or speech (guilty as charged) among other “respectable sins” as author Jerry Bridges called them, to the morally heinous sins of murder of the unborn and the oppression of the rights of the religious and the law-abiding. This just will not do in my theological view of scripture.

While yes, all sin is wrong and rebellious before the eyes of our holy and perfectly righteous God – equally deserving of condemnation, not all sins are equally condemned nor “hated” by God (Pro. 6:16-19). Indeed, the Bible seems to imply that there are different levels of punishment or torment in hell, indicating that the judgment will indeed be experienced differently for different people (Ja. 3:1; Rev. 20:11-15).

Therefore, I would argue that although ‘character still counts’, competency will count most, when the character of a candidate is questionable or cannot be all we would like it to be in a perfect world. A candidates character may be overridden by the overwhelming content of their political platform – their ability to do the greatest good for the greatest number of American people.

In 2020, I have come to understand that the policies of the presidential candidate I have already voted for, will have shed the greatest amount of salt and light on this country than the persona of the one running for the highest office in the land.

We are voting for the President – not Pastor, of the United States of America. As a fellow pastor in my community texted a group of us from an unknown source, “A vote is not a valentine. You aren’t confessing your love for the candidate. It’s a chess move for the world you want to live in.” In my view, my vote was for the kind of world best reflected by God’s will- from his word. I can’t go anywhere else in good conscience in order to vote.  

Election 2020 Primer: Love Your Neighbor…

Bernie Diaz, October 21, 2020

One of the things I love most about America’s founding is the simple, but amazingly profound truth and the perpetual relevance of its greatest values, found in the Declaration of Independence’s oft-quoted and too-oft neglected second paragraph:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..

Three items stick out to me from that text which make my voting that much easier when I cast my ballot in the upcoming presidential election for this country: (1) the truths and American values therein, are self-evident, having been given to us by God (“endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights”).

These rights did not originate by man nor are they intended to be taken by man- including elected officials; (2) the basic human rights listed are not complicated to understand. They are not lengthy either. The big three are: “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” which the latter being predicated upon the notion of justice; (3) the security of these rights to be protected by our government, are by “consent of the” who? The “governed” or the people.

That’s where our part as the governed kicks in with our vote, electing those officials and authorities that are best suited to secure these rights for us. That means we are not only choosing an imperfect presidential candidate, but as I have argued in our Election 2020 Primer series of ‘Captive Thoughts’, we are choosing a platform of policies that the candidate and his political party represent.

The idea then for the Christian voter as I see it, is to best marry the candidate and his party’s platform to the biblical view of that platform, beginning with this country’s declarative principles above.

Therefore, having already posted a biblically grounded and justified worldview for the first two of these three issues (life and liberty), I now move to the third, the ‘Love of Neighbor’ which is manifest in doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people by God’s standards, which means undergirding the critical institutions of family and law for a society.

I build my case for the love of neighbor primarily reflected in family and law, on the fact that God started it all there. He built a foundation for civilized society with the first three institutions of his creation: marriage (Gen. 2), family and then government as the means of administering justice (Gen. 4, 9).

If our government structures and election priorities get these issues right, there should be more liberty and wisdom going forward on the issues that follow, including the economy, the Coronavirus, civil and racial unrest, the environment, etc.  

Love of Family

When God created the world, it was “good” pre-fall, when he brought one man and one woman together in marriage for a lifetime to perpetuate ‘a Godly seed’ of worshippers for all time. That’s the divine design.

Post-fall (Gen.3), the institutions of marriage and family remain as the gold standard of life in community along with the church belonging to his son, and he additionally gave mankind the law – moral and civil initially, as a means of not only demonstrating his own holiness, character and attributes, but as a means of meeting out justice for all in a world that would be troubled by sin and injustice (Ro. 13:1-7).

Thus, for civilization to survive and thrive – the United States in our context, family and law must reign supreme and supported by our ‘love of neighbor.’ That means supporting public policy that harmonizes God’s plan for the world found in scripture. That further means that marriage remain hetero and not homosexual, legalized “same-sex marriage” notwithstanding.

When God says no, he means ‘Don’t hurt yourselves’ and his law condemning the homosexual lifestyle and inclinations as abnormal, dangerous and sinful (Gen. 19:1–13; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Ro. 1:26–27; 1 Cor. 6:9), seek to protect the body and soul of his image-bearers, as we from a heart of love seek to do the same.

We can love our homosexual neighbors in several ways, including servant evangelism and boldly voting for political candidates and platforms that seek their best, affirming the biblical doctrines of sexuality, marriage and family, which protect children and our future generations as well, even against the tide of our current sexual revolution.

The 2020 Democratic Party Platform – On LGBTQ Issues (Family)

  • Supports ban on “conversion therapy” practices (code for voluntary counseling – including Christian gospel based for those seeking change).
  • Supports this year’s Supreme Court ruling and legislation which includes LGTBQ identifying citizens as part of the 1964 Civil Rights equality law, prohibiting job “discrimination,” thus equating sexual preference and conduct with the immutable characteristic of ethnicity (race).
  • Presidential candidate Joe Bidden supports reversing President Trump’s executive orders regulating transgender policy (i.e. bathrooms, sports teams, medical insurance).

Biden in response to the concerns of a mother of an eight-yr. old transgender “daughter” during last week’s televised Town Hall, said, “I will flat out just change the law. Every — eliminate those executive orders, number one…. The idea that an 8-year-old child or a 10-year-old child decides, you know – ‘I decided I want to be transgender.’ That’s what I think I’d like to be.”

The former Vice-President, actually thinks the loving thing to do is to fight for the right of an eight-year-old boy to be encouraged to identify as a girl – because he and his mother want to, even to paraphrase WORLD magazine, “in the face of the most basic, indisputable, scientifically-verifiable, essential, for-the-continuation-of-the-human-race-indispensable facts of our existence — that we are created either male or female, which affects our entire embodied existence down to every cell of the body.”

The 2020 Republican Party Platform on LGTBQ Issues (Family)

  • Supports traditional marriage and family, based on one man and one woman. “Every child deserves a married mom and dad, and our laws and government regulations should actively promote married family life as the basis of a stable and prosperous society.”
  • Supports the removal of marriage penalties from the tax code and public assistance programs restructuring the tax code to increase adoptions and support families who adopt.

Christians must bear witness to the truth – including with their ballot, that God’s design for male and female is still good and that true flourishing can only take place when people embrace their God-given identity and design, in support of the family.

Love of Law

The Bible tells us that the most loving thing the civil law can do, is to punish evil, protect and promote that which God has deemed as good.

That is government’s primary responsibility, whether it be militarily or by local law enforcement, to be the last line of defense against tyranny, anarchy and chaos. Interestingly enough, the Democratic Party of the United States has been supportive of local and state policies which have done the opposite this year – subtly promoting civil unrest, rioting and the looting of public and personal property in the name of politically motivated, race-based protesting, while calling for police defunding.

New York City by the way, being among the first to jump on that bandwagon, has already found defunding of the NYPD to be an obvious boon to criminals and pose a danger to law-abiding citizens. How loving is that?

There can be no doubt that the love of neighbor should be reflected in social justice from how we look at life from womb to tomb. While we acknowledge racism or ethno-centricity as a real thing – always has been and always will be on this side of glory, as brought out in the wake of this summer’s police-related shooting incidents involving African-Americans, it is as we’ve previously posted, a ‘sin not a skin’ issue per se, meaning government cannot legislate away hate, as it wishes it could.

However, while the Christian voter can reject the false narrative of the cultural Marxist inspired, Critical Race Theory and intersectionality, they cannot ignore discrimination and bigotry where it exists, and can expect that the candidate they vote for would treat every life, regardless of color or race, with equal importance in their public policy initiatives, as created in God’s image.

Disciples of Christ should uphold platforms and policies which treat all Americans with basic justice, equality and dignity (Lev.24:22; Deut. 24:17-22), as part of a consistent pro-life worldview. Such a view affirms like the Good Samaritan, a multi-ethnic love of neighbor which allows every citizen to ‘pursue happiness’ in the purest sense.

Whereas Christians – citizens of two kingdoms which oppose one another often times, may differ as to the best course of political action on other secondary issues such as; education, the environment, guns, taxes and the economy – all which scripture speaks to, they can at least can begin their voting deliberations on which party’s person, platform and policies best align with God’s revealed word and his kingdom platform.

Interestingly enough, in a time long, long ago, this nation’s foundation (Declaration of Independence) looked like it was built upon God’s, beginning with Life, Liberty and the Love of Neighbor.

In our final Election 2020 Primer post, I’ll offer voter recommendations and guidelines as you prepare to cast your vote!

Election 2020 Primer: Give us Liberty or….

Bernie Diaz, October 14, 2020

If America is known for anything at all – characteristically as a nation both here and abroad, it is freedom. We are known traditionally as the, “Land of the Free.”

We love our freedom. In a speech to the English Parliament in late-1774, England’s King George had denounced the “daring spirit of resistance and disobedience to the law” of the American rebels which seemed to be spreading like wildfire across the continent in response to Britain’s economic pressures on the colonies. Amid those mounting tensions – in another time of civil and social unrest, the Second Virginia Convention convened to discuss their strategy in negotiating with the Crown.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were both there, as were five of the six other Virginians who would later sign the Declaration of Independence. Prominent among those statesmen was Patrick Henry, an avowed Christian and a well-respected lawyer.

It was then and there in the midst of a debate over whether or not to engage in an eventual war of independence from the U.K., that Henry according to the historical account, held his wrists together as though they were chained and raised them toward the heavens, grabbed an ivory letter opener mimicking a knife blow to the heart and shouted, “Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty— or give me death!”

That quote helped energize the fight for freedom and to preserve it –  arguably one of the most fundamental of human rights, which would become among the most cherished of common values of the United States. As a result, for Christians looking to cast a vote for the Presidency of this country on the first Tuesday of November, freedom – religious liberty as guaranteed by this nation’s first amendment to its constitution’s Bill of Rights, has emerged front and center as an election issue to be seriously considered by the evangelical voter. 

I argue in fact that religious freedom is one of the three most critical issues that disciples of Jesus Christ should prioritize in comparing the candidates and platforms of the two political parties vying for the White House: Life, Liberty and the Love of Neighbor.

Some may find it surprising that so many Christian leaders and Christ followers are concerned right now about preserving this constitutional right to the freedom of speech and the free exercise of one’s religious beliefs in light of the historic commitment to this right that has transcended political party lines for so long.

For instance, in 1998, Democratic President Bill Clinton said, “The right to worship according to one’s own conscience is essential to our dignity as human beings.” Republican President George W. Bush agreed in 2008 and in 2012, President Barack Obama declared that religious liberty was a  “universal human right.” Just last year, the incumbent President Donald Trump added, “The right to religious freedom is innate to the dignity of every human person and is foundational to the pursuit of truth.”

However, those words have seemingly lost their impact since the sexual revolution began to take place in our nation more than a generation ago and has continued to roll on (LGTBQ) ever since, having rendered such presidential comments as archaic, referring to a time long, long ago in light of more recent news and events on everything from Coronavirus regulations to sexuality:

  • Discriminatory COVID-19 government orders and mitigation regulations on both local and state levels have unfairly targeted houses of worship who are banned from congregating in states like California and Nevada, forcing churches to ‘forsake the assembling of themselves’ while allowing freer access for gambling casinos, liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries and city street protests of every kind.
  • The state of New York told the Syracuse-based Christian adoption agency, New Hope Family Services, it had to place children with same-sex couples or not place them at all. But a federal court stepped in last week, ruling the agency could continue to operate according to its Biblical beliefs, for now.
  • Former local Kentucky clerk Kim Davis spent five days in jail in 2015 for declining to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples due to her Christian beliefs. The couples ultimately received their licenses but sued Davis anyway for unspecified damages. A federal appeals court just ruled the lawsuit could move forward, and the Supreme Court on Monday rejected Davis’ appeal.

What do cases like this and others that have threatened the religious liberty of other citizens of faith in America (i.e. wedding bakers, photographers, bed and breakfast owners and florists) have in common? One, their religious convictions and livelihoods have been held hostage by non-elected judicial ‘legislators’ and two, sexual freedom looks to have usurped religious freedom. How did this happen?

Two Supreme Court decisions within the last fifty years really redefined the American concept of liberty, prioritizing the freedoms of sexuality over the right for one to not only hold to their religious convictions but to also live in accordance with those convictions.

In 1973’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision, the right to abortion – a procedure usually performed to justify sexual irresponsibility, became the new law of the land in creating an unprecedented freedom to do away with the freedom and right to life of another vulnerable and innocent human being. The Obergefell decision of 2015, created a new and unprecedented version of marriage, legalizing and thus legitimizing in the eyes of the law, same-sex marriage, an abomination before God.

Little wonder why the current Supreme Court nomination hearings of Amy Comey Barrett now taking place in Washington have taken on such weight. The threat is real enough to have lead current Supreme Court justices  Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito to publish a statement arguing that the Obergefell case’s mandate that all states recognize same-sex marriage, is “found nowhere in the text” of the Constitution and threatens “the religious liberty of the many Americans who believe that marriage is a sacred institution between one man and one woman.”

Despite assurances from the political left that religious freedom would be maintained in American life in the wake of Obergefell, Judge Thomas countered that Obergefell is highly flawed and marginalizes those who do not believe in same-sex marriage.

Even to the extent that in reference to the decision rejecting the appeal of marriage license clerk, Kim Davis, Thomas said Obergefell forced Davis to choose “between her religious beliefs and her job.”

Religious Freedom Matters

The battle lines have been drawn between both sides of this constitutional and gospel issue. Former Vice-President and Presidential candidate Joe Biden supports a Democratic Party platform which on the one hand claims to be, “an advocate for religious freedom throughout the world,” while on the other hand, opposes “broad religious exemptions to allow businesses, medical providers, social service agencies, and others to discriminate.”

In other words, the Democratic party platform’s position on religious liberty “opposes” religious conscious organizations and institutions from actually being Christian in belief and practice, because they will not follow in lock-step allegiance to the moral and sexual revolution. Yes, the classic and biblical Christian doctrine of sexuality and sin is branded as “discrimination” by this particular party.

Whereas, the Republican Party platform paralleling President Trump’s policy positions, “Supports the right of America’s religious leaders to preach, and Americans to speak freely, according to their faith.” Among other party planks on the religious freedom question, the GOP platform:  

Supports the First Amendment Defense Act, that would bar government discrimination against individuals and businesses for acting on the belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman: “This Act would protect the non-profit tax status of faith-based adoption agencies, the accreditation of religious educational institutions, the grants and contracts of faith-based charities and small businesses, and the licensing of religious professions..”

Though religious liberty is not explicitly referred to in the scriptures, the principal is implicitly found throughout the Bible, seen in the use of persuasion rather than coercion as the means of drawing followers to Christ (Lu. 18:18-25) and illustrated by the apostle Paul’s appeal before Agrippa in Rome, when the Jews persecuted him for his unpopular gospel preaching (Acts 26:1-11).

The key application of the above is that religious liberty allows for Christians to not only worship God as he wills corporately and freely, but to preach the life-saving truth of the gospel freely and to live, work and play freely- according to the Christian’s Bible-informed conscience.

So without being politically partisan or biased- Christians should be neither per se, born-again believers I believe, have been given the privilege and responsibility to vote as a wise steward of that vote that God has allowed in this country, which may enable his gospel and kingdom to flourish and permeate society as salt and light is meant to do (Matt. 5:13-16).

A vote for religious liberty therefore, is a vote for the kingdom and cause of Jesus Christ to be expressed and proclaimed, including on all of the issues most clear and dear to the Lord our God. Next week’s post: Election 2020 Primer: Looking at the Platforms- Love of Neighbor.

Election 2020 Primer: Looking at the Platforms

Bernie Diaz, October 6th, 2020

In my most recent post (Election 2020 Primer: Voting and What to Look For), I argued that on occasion a biblically minded voter may be forced to look past the character or conduct of a particular candidate as the primary qualification for an elected office, and instead focus on their platform- or more likely, their political party’s platform of policies or programs as the best indicator of a candidates philosophy of governing.

At any given moment in time, one candidate’s position on an important election or governmental issue may morph into another for any number of reasons. The possibility of such a move was highlighted this past weekend when the world almost stopped- upon the news that President Donald Trump was diagnosed with the Coronavirus.

Though the President seemed to be on the road to recovery after having received some fairly aggressive treatment, he has had to alter his workload and travel on his re-election campaign trail with only three weeks remaining before election day.

All of this points to prospective evangelical voters needing to prayerfully do their homework as to where the candidates- or where their respective parties stand on the issues in comparison to the Bible’s positions and teaching on such issues.

Keeping in mind that the scriptures do not specifically address every significant issue of our modern times in detail, or that neither major party (Republican or Democrat) or candidates platform perfectly expresses the mind and heart of God on all the issues, a voter must do the best with what they have to work with.

One social media pundit put it well in a traveling analogy, posting: “Voting isn’t marriage. It’s public transport. You’re not waiting for “the one.” You’re getting on the bus. And if there isn’t one going exactly to your destination (read biblical preference), you don’t just stay home and sulk. You take the one that’s going to be closest to where you want to go.”

There is much wisdom in that comment, as one candidate may have a more biblically sound or influenced position on some moral and military issues, but may not reflect the revealed will and word of God as to dealing with poverty, social justice or even COVID-19 policy. It is a mixed bag of politics that we deal with. However, I find that where the Bible is most clear- particularly on the institutions and issues that God has clearly ordained for government, the scriptures are more than beneficial – they are essential– in helping us to vote biblically on election day.

Thinking in the most broad of categories, I would prioritize the Christian vote in three of those buckets: Life, liberty and the love of neighbor, which are biblically rooted and the first two of which are noteworthy as inalienable rights, coming from God to man in our nation’s founding, Declaration of Independence.

There were some rather interesting and relevant results of what were the top election issues going into the evangelical voter’s decision, according to a new Lifeway Research Poll, of which most surprising perhaps, were the ‘Personal character’ factor, ranking sixth at just 8% followed by the ‘Ability to address racial injustice.’

What ranked highest was a candidate’s perceived ability to improve the economy and then the ability to slow the spread of COVID-19, which are not only interrelated to one another, but the proposed solutions in dealing with both of them differ greatly from President Trump’s platform to the Democratic party’s challenger, Joe Biden. Moreover, both issues also pose a greater challenge of biblical discernment to voters as to what the clearest biblical path may be to take on them.

What is most clear are the revealed will and word of God’s positions on the critically important issues of abortion and the protection of religious freedom (life and liberty) which ranked third and fourth- even above national security for most likely evangelical voters.

Life

The distinction between both parties platform position on abortion could not be clearer, which is where we’ll begin this portion of our election primer in terms of the issues. What is ultimately most important then, is each platform’s juxtaposition to the word of God.

God speaks clearly as to the sanctity of every human life he has created through the biological process – from womb to tomb, as the unborn are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psa. 139:13-14).  There is inherent dignity and humanity in every preborn life as evidenced by Jehovah’s word to his prophet Jeremiah at the time of his ordination to ministry, “Before I formed you in your mother’s wombI chose you.Before you were born I set you apart….” Indeed, God by his sovereign authority orders life.

Why is it wrong then to abort a child? Because: (1) You Shall not kill (murder, Exo. 20:13) (2) You shall not play God. As Job told us (Job 1:21), God is God and we are not and to take innocent life in a premeditated, cold-blooded or calculated way is to play God, which is idolatrous and disobedient. God ordains governments to protect innocent life (Ro. 13), not take it, regardless of whether or not a particular government or society has legalized and legitimized abortion.

In our culture of death, brought largely upon our land by the Roe v. Wade pro-abortion Supreme Court decision of more than a generation ago, 60 plus million preborn children have been killed in our country and infanticide– the death of already born babies who have survived botched abortion attempts, is now a ‘right’ to be defended by one particular political party’s agenda.

The 2020 Democratic Party Platform – On Abortion

  • Opposes all federal and state laws that prohibit or restrict abortion.
  • Supports restoring taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood.
  • Supports the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion services.

Interestingly enough, Joe Biden’s Vice-Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, a California Senator, earlier this year voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act, which would have protected unborn babies from abortion procedures after the point at which they can feel pain (20 weeks).

Harris also voted against the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would have required doctors present during a failed abortion — an abortion that results in the birth of a living infant — to provide the same level of care that would be offered to any other baby at the same stage of development. Make no mistake about it. The Democratic party is the political party of death, with respect to the life and liberty of the unborn.

Yes, the Democratic party has gone so far as to sanction the killing of babies today that are being born or have been born in some cases (partial-birth abortion), which is nothing less than infanticide. Many of these infants are fully-formed, awake and alive, as the body is extracted from the mother except the head, which is then punctured by a pair of scissors. This is barbaric and God is and will make those in authority over such legislation, pay for it on judgment day. That tragedy occurs hundreds if not several thousand times a year. In contrast to that platform…

The 2020 Republican Party Platform – On Abortion

  • Supports the sanctity of human life and affirms that the “unborn child has a fundamental right to life which cannot be infringed.”
  • Supports a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to children before birth.
  • Opposes taxpayer funding of abortion. Calls for a permanent ban on federal funding and subsidies for abortion and health-care plans that include abortion coverage.
  • Supports a ban on human cloning for research or reproduction, and a ban on the creation of, or experimentation on, human embryos for research.

Is God and his word pro-life or pro-abortion? You better believe pro-life. There is no debating the Bible’s position on this issue and which current party platform best reflects it. Therefore, Christians are mandated to speak the truth in love (Eph. 5:11) and do what they can- including with their vote, to rescue- protect the unborn!

Pro. 24:11 Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.

Pro. 31:8 Open your mouthon behalf of those unable to speak,for the legal rights of all the dying.

If life itself is precious to God and should be to man, and if liberty itself begins with life, there can be no greater or more fundamental an issue for a presidential voter to consider than abortion, as the bully pulpit of a president and his Supreme Court justice appointments speak volumes.

May social justice in America –such a prevalent topic of discussion today, be reflected in justice from a government towards its most vulnerable and innocent victims first- the unborn. Next post: Election 2020 Primer: Looking at the Platforms- Liberty.

Election 2020 Primer: Voting and What to Look For

Bernie Diaz, September 30, 2020

We’re six weeks away from the 2020 Presidential election- truly a momentous one for Americans, having somehow endured the grueling ninety minutes of the first of three debates between the candidates; the Republican incumbent, President Donald Trump and the Democratic Party’s candidate, former Senator and Vice-President Joe Biden.

With COVID-19, racial and civil unrest and economic uncertainty still abounding in what has been a year of social upheaval, the stakes of this election are arguably greater than they were even in 2016, when Trump – a successful if not iconic businessman, celebrity and political novice, pulled  off a historic upset in defeating his Democratic opponent Hilary Clinton, herself a former Senator and First Lady in winning the White House.

The Supreme Court vacancy now available due to the passing of jurist Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has upped the stakes that much more since her possible successor, Amy Comey Barrett, a conservative and Catholic federal judge and mother of seven, has been nominated by President Trump to replace RBG, a legend of sorts among most liberals which has upset the elites and much of the electorate on the left to no end. That development may indeed impact voter turnout on Super Tuesday.

Last night’s presidential debate may have only clouded the issue for some undecided voters while partisans likely remain entrenched in support of their candidate.

In spite of the shouting match that posed as a debate this week, my aim over the next several posts leading to the election on November 3rd, will be an attempt to share ‘my thoughts held captive to Christ’, in the hopes that wisdom and sanity may be imparted to you and yours, in a way that will help you to better think biblically in the final days of the campaign, including whether or not you will vote and how.

To Vote or Not to Vote? That is the question

The right to vote as we posted in the last election cycle, was not a biblical option for citizens of the Roman Empire in the time of Christ and is not a topic explicitly dealt with in scripture.

Therefore, a Christian holding to both the sufficiency and authority of scripture (a topic upon which I preached at my church last Sunday) should refrain from being overly dogmatic or judgmental towards those who choose to vote or not to vote.

However, because the Bible is sufficient and necessary, it is not silent as to how one may arrive at a decision as to whether to vote, before even deciding on which candidate to vote for. Where the scriptures do not provide a black and white command or imperative – positive or negative on such a question, a grey issue like this one may be clarified and converted to black and white for each individual Christian, by conviction of their own conscience in obedience to the wisdom found in God’s word.  

While it is true that a Christian is not obligated to vote, as there is no scriptural command or admonition to do so, I would argue there would be much wisdom in doing so. The Lord has given disciples of Jesus Christ the clear command to be a ‘good steward’ or manager of all he has blessed us with and that would seem to include the right, if not the responsibility to vote.

Although a responsibility is not necessarily an obligation, American voters have the opportunity if not the responsibility to influence their governments’ administration of the Romans 13 mandate ordained by God, to protect a society by punishing evil and promoting what is good. They do not “bear the sword in vain” and thus, unlike much of the world (e.g. Cuba, China), citizens of the United States are afforded the freedom to make a great political impact on their future, by casting a vote for a particular party platform and candidate in the hopes it will better protect the citizenry.

Voting in my view is not a ‘must’ but a ‘can do’ and a ‘should do’, meaning a privilege as well as a responsibility which should be exercised if we truly want to comprehensively love our neighbor (Gal. 6:10), since government holds such sway in the lives of our neighbors. And if you don’t vote, then please save the complaints about what ifs and why did the outcome result in this or that.

I learned in a certain presidential election – oh, twenty years ago, that an election can be swung or decided by virtually a single vote or “hanging chads,” as was the case in Florida, when that outcome was decided by a mere 700 votes or so in my state.

Avoiding politics and silencing the Christian voice heard at the ballot box has proved to be a detriment to a nation as evidenced by the historic examples of the mainline German church bowing to Hitler’s Germany and the American church failing to unify in denouncing 19th century slavery and mid- 20th century Jim Crow laws.

Person or Platform?

What makes our decision more difficult than in prior generations, can be the problem of finding a worthy enough candidate to vote for.

What is a Christian to do, when he or she must choose to vote for a candidate whose character is questionable at best and whose conduct is sinful if not rebellious towards the biblical standards we hold to?

Furthermore, how do you vote when neither candidate of our currently exclusive, two-party system approaches a moral or biblical standard of behavior that we can be comfortable with, regardless of their faith profession?

This was a similar dilemma which evangelical Christian voters faced in the last presidential election, in the choice between Donald Trump, who admittedly had committed more than a bit of fornication and adultery in his life, to say little of his acerbic if not crude rhetoric, and Hillary Clinton, who was investigated on more than one ethical scandal in her career as an elected official.

That contentious election brought us the conflict between the #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary voters. This year, character does not seem to be as big an issue as it has been in the past. Despite new allegations of prior personal income tax evasion, President Trump’s first term in office has assuaged many fears among biblically minded voters. Though Senator Biden’s past cannot be classified as ‘squeaky clean’ either (i.e. past sexual harassment rumors and his involvement in his son’s business dealings), the character of the person running for office has now seemed to take a back seat to the politics or platform of policies of the person.

If you think that we’re voting for a ‘Commander in Chief’, rather than a Pastor in chief as President, a vote for a less than ideal candidate in character, would make some sense.

But make no mistake, God’s word speaks often to the grace and benefits of a virtuous “king” or leader for a nation (Pro. 10:9a; 14:34; 16:12; 25:5).

Indeed, a Presidential candidate of a biblically sound character would be optimal, but an optimal choice is not always available in a world of decisions we have to make on what is often, ‘good, better or best.’

If you were looking for signs of presidential dignity, decorum and character in debate number one to help guide your vote, you learned that you’ll need to look elsewhere, as voters over American history have had to do on occasion in the past (e.g. Lincoln-Douglas debates).

Remember that God has sovereignly used more than one non-kingdom, national leader or authority to advance his kingdom over redemptive history (Gen. 41:37-57; Dan. 2:46-49; Ezra 1:1-4 and Est. 6; 8).

Therefore, the best option for a Christian voter in this upcoming election, may be to consider the following criteria as most beneficial for the kingdom and this country:

  • Competency (is the candidate intellectually, physically and emotionally capable of doing the job?)
  • Content (which policy platform of the candidate and their party best represents the moral and political values consistent with the Bible?)
  • Character (is the candidate trustworthy enough to place a confident vote for?)

Though the priority of qualifications may vary from one voter to the next, the truly independent and non-partisan, Christian voter may have to accept a ‘lesser of evils’ as the best available option and prayerfully ponder which of the myriad issues we face today must be prioritized in order to vote biblically.

The rest of this month’s posts will be dedicated to dissecting those issues and each candidate’s party platform and position on them.