In the card game known as Rook, there is always one color of card that wins over the other colors as you play out a hand. That card is called the trump card. This term has become a synonym for having the upper hand in any given situation. The team with a “go to” player who can take over a game is said to have the trump card. The business that has a product or service that gives it an edge against the competition is said to hold the trump card. “The trump card” has become axiomatic.
As we enter 2016, The United States approaches a familiar event: the election of a President. The interest and excitement of this event begin much earlier and begin to reach fever pitch with the primary season. Christians join the banter on Facebook and blogs, making known their preferences and why. Who will stand for this or protect that right? Who will stand up to the entrenched establishment and give us fresh direction and leadership?
Twenty-four years ago a candidate convinced people that character does not matter when choosing a president. Enough people were convinced so that this man was elected to be President twice. Still widely popular in spite of his obvious character flaws, this man has nevertheless become a living symbol of the character question. His Presidential successes serve to bring into question the necessity, if not the validity, of the character question when it comes to leadership. Is it true that ability, not character, is the real issue regarding leadership in general and Presidential leadership in particular? That the question begs to be ask is evidence of a deep moral decline and a latent, if not blatant, indifference to Biblical morality. But the argument needs to be made for Christian voters at least.
Whether a popular view or not, character is still the trump card when it comes to leadership. Many factors go into the choosing of a President: managerial ability and experience, decision-making discernment, stability under pressure, to name a few. These cannot be discounted. But that without which a man or woman cannot lead well is character, and no one should be more fixed on this one quality than the Christian voter.
When the November elections arrive, we will likely have two candidates to choose between for President. It is very possible that neither will have the depth of character Christians should be looking for in a leader. We often have to choose the best of the bad. But until that day arrives, we should be evaluating each candidate with a shortlist of qualities. At the top of that list should be character or moral integrity. This is the prism through which every candidate is viewed. Impressive promises must be weighed against past actions. Personal and professional values provide a barometer indicating future actions and decisions. Biblically directed Christians, of all people, should be attuned to things beyond the surface and not easily impressed with the impressive. Surely we are learning that our hope is not in the next President, no matter how good he may be. It is imperative, no matter how good or poor our choices, that we lay aside our earthly hopes, distrust our emotions, and cultivate our best Biblical thinking as we invoke our civic and Christian responsibility in the process of choosing our next President.
We have talked about the myths of assurance, but where is are starting point when it comes to dealing with assurance of our salvation? Quite simply, we have to remain focused on the foundation. Charles and Daniel talk about it on this week’s CrossTalk.
“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”
Lewis Carroll – Alice in Wonderland
I learned two things specifically on the Global Encounters Christmas trip – now just over a week gone by since we landed back in the states. I learned what Winston Churchill said, “It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.”
We had such a short amount of time to work in Ecuador, just two short weeks in which we packed more children’s programs and traveling than I’ve done on trips twice as long. Just six of us traveled to Quito two days after Christmas. Our mission: to spread the gospel, meet and encourage the believers in Ecuador, and open doors of opportunity for future teams to go further into the reaches of this country. God blessed us on all these fronts.
We spent the first week doing morning and afternoon programs in and around Quito. We worked in new places we had never been before and quickly fell in love with the kids we met. Our translators went with us every day and were as much a part of our small team as any member that traveled from the states. Without them, our trip would have been for nothing.
At the end of the first week, we spent New Year’s with Pastor Benjamin and our close friends in Quito! Experiencing and participating in Ecuadorean customs were some of the best times I have had. Our team rang in the New Year playing a very aggressive game of spoons and watching fireworks takeover the night sky in Quito.
We had the opportunity to spend a night in Otavalo (a mountain city we have visited in the past) and see some of the kids our summer team had worked with. We experienced a soaking rain in the local market but the team managed to acquire some excellent finds and gifts to bring home.
The second week was a challenge as we knew it would be. We flew to Cuenca, a beautiful city with unique architecture. From there, we were joined by two translators – thanks to our friend Justo Pillman a missionary in the city – and we traveled by van out to the mountainous region of Cochapata. We were informed no American Team had ever stayed in this town before. Pastor Gonzalez, a native of Ecuador, and his family moved their two years ago without anything but the clothes they had. Since then they have begun to build a church building, and as he told me one evening, they are encouraged by the openness of the people.
In the mornings, after a night spent sleeping in a hammock or tent, we made our own breakfast and prepared to work with single mothers and their children. Some of these mothers walked close to an hour through the mountain paths to join us. Later, after lunch, we walked about 30 minutes to work with kids in the afternoon at a local school. Everyone on our team would tell you they were challenged in different ways, but we saw God working. Soccer with the kids and snack time every day for three days was just a small part of the time we spent with these kids.
One night while we were sitting around the table of our campsite, I asked Pastor Gonzalez through a translator what would make a man leave his church and comfort of home and come to this place. He told me that after God laid it on his heart he argued with Him for two weeks, and then he said ok and moved his family here to Cochapata. I told him I wanted to pray for him and through great emotion I prayed with the team gathered around him. I learned so much from a man who gave up his comfort to spread the gospel, and I hope one day to see Pastor Gonzalez in Ecuador again.
There is not enough time to tell you about team leaders being attacked by bugs or of the reunion we had with churches visited in years past by other teams. However, please indulge me for another moment. I will recount one, if not my favorite moment of the trip. I was quite sick and lying in bed last Saturday, the rest of the team had flown home, and only Liz and I remained. Pastor Benjamin had gotten word to Melany, a little girl who I have grown quite close to over the last few years. Melany and her mother showed up where we were staying with gifts and the cutest smile. We sat and caught up on life for about a half hour. Besides making my day, I was and am reminded of the impact the teams in years past have had on so many people in Ecuador.
Emotion overtakes me as I realize words are insufficient to explain what we saw and what God is doing in this country. Before we left Cochapata, Pastor Gonzalez asked me to tell the believers in America to pray, “Please tell them to pray for what is happening here.”
Oh, and the other thing I learned on this trip was that there is not enough coffee in the world when you are on a missions trip. Also, I found out that getting a parasite is an effective weight loss program but one that I do not want to repeat. I won’t bore you with the details of shaking uncontrollably with fever or body aches. Trust me, it is not the best way to spend your days in another country. However, with proper medication I am on the mend.
Thank you for praying! Please keep praying because God is working all over the world. How do I know this? Because I have seen it.
The excitement of the holidays is gone and we are well into the New Year. Many times people struggles with doubt and uncertainty about the future at this time of the year. For believers, they may even struggle with assurance of their salvation. But what has caused this? Is it a bad thing or a good thing? Join Charles and Daniel as they discuss the myths of assurance…
As Christians we are blessed beyond measure. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. We have received the riches of God’s grace. We are hidden with Christ in God, and the Son of God is our elder brother. We have the assurance that every single thing in this life without exception is working for our good. Everything that pertains to life and godliness has been given to us. We are forgiven all our sins and have Christ as our ever-present intercessor for any we shall commit. The Spirit of the Almighty God dwells within us keeping us, guiding us, assuring us, and spreading His love abroad in our hearts. He is our earnest payment until our full redemption in eternity. Until then, we know that no accusation brought against us can prevail, and nothing can ever separate us from the love of God which resides eternally in His blessed and holy Son. These are but a thumbnail sketch of all that is the present possession of the believer, not to speak of the untold joys, blessings, and privileges we shall walk in for eternity.
But while there is nothing that can remove us from our position in Christ and take from us its glorious possessions, there is a life to live now that faces complications brought on by the very real issue of sin. While the world works to ignore, deny, excuse, or even condone it, we who know Christ are in a life and death struggle against it. Sometimes we are overwhelmed, sometimes disconsolate, sometimes defeated and discouraged. Yet we can never completely surrender to sin nor turn our backs on our Savior.
But what is it that makes sin so heinous, and why should we live with such resolve to defeat it in our daily lives? To be sure, some things are obvious. Murder, adultery, rape, and theft are among those sins that are obviously wicked. Terrorists and criminals certainly deserve the wrath of God. But what can a stray look at attractive woman or an alluring man hurt. Impatience with the offenses of others, even those closest to us, is an understandable human emotion and not to be worried about so long as it does not get out of hand. And is it so wrong to want more and not be satisfied with less?
But all sin is tragic for at least one important reason. It may not be as obvious as it should be to us, but it is no less significant. All sin obscures the reality and glory of Christ. At the heart of sin is self, and at the heart of self is pride. Pride leads us to think to highly of ourselves and to little of Christ. It leads us to put ourselves first and Christ next. It leads us to wonder why we have so little or why we do not have more. Sin is about me: my expectations, my pleasure, my feelings, my desires.
When John the Baptist was approached with the rising reputation of the teacher from Nazareth, his response was immediate and instructive: “He must increase; I must decrease.” This cannot be true with any of us so long as sin is given a seat. Whatever obscures the reality and glory of our Lord to us personally and to those around us must be our enemy and given no quarter. Our purpose is to display the glory of the indwelling Christ. This is our hope (Col. 1:27), and as we behold His glory in His precious Word, we will day by day obscure Him less as we recede from view. This is what we earnestly long to do as we as we wage the battle against sin. May our Lord make it so.
In the love of Christ,
Due to technical difficulties, we were unable to release our last episode in the Christmas series. Since this series has been about Christmas being more than just a day, it is appropriate that we would release it now at the first of the year. Join Charles and Daniel as they discuss ‘Christmas is Salvation’.
I awoke this morning facing the new year. Oddly enough my thoughts were not on making New Year’s resolutions. My mind was transported back to my childhood. I was remembering the retro toy called Viewmaster. This was a contraption that you put a thin cardboard disk containing a 3D color photograph into so you could view the picture. Some showed travel attractions; others cartoons or TV shows. I vividly remember putting the slide in wrong many times. Of course I could not see clearly or figure out what was before my eyes. I twisted and turned the slide until it fit correctly. I am sure directions were written on the disk, but it was so easy not to follow them or pay attention. Life sometimes seems like this cardboard disk: twist, turns, and being upside down. So the new year rings in, and we all determine to make those resolutions either to do something or to not do something. Resolutions can be profitable, but we usually do not keep them.
I guess the closest thing to the retro Viewmaster in this century might be virtual reality headsets. Let’s view life through the lens of the Word of God. The spiritual lens of this “viewmaster” will be the test for showing me what I need to do this year or what I should leave off. The only reality our lives need is clearly seen in Scripture. 2 Peter 1:3-4 sums up perfectly what my spiritual “viewmaster” disk should look like. “According as His divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him Who has called us to glory and virtue; Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” When viewing this disk, what should be my spiritual response?
And beside all this, giving all diligence add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge self-control; and to self-control patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are in you and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he who lacks these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. (vv.5-9)
So this new year I open my eyes and see that it is not about making a New Year’s resolution but giving diligence to the Word of God; by His grace making my calling in the Lord sure; and knowing by His promises I shall never fall. “Open Thou mine eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Your Law.” (Psalm 119:18).
Open my eyes, that I may see Glimpses of truth Thou hast for me;
Place in my hand the wonderful key, That shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee, Ready my God Thy will to see;
Open my eyes, illumine me, Spirit divine!
-Clara H. Scott-