Let’s be clear: I hate slavery and racism because God hates slavery and racism. The bible is clear that all human beings are created in God’s image and have essential dignity. That’s why any Christian who is pro-life must also be anti-racism. Just as murder is an attack on God Himself so too is racism (Gen. 9:6).
So why do I not celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday? It’s because he was neither pro-life nor anti-racism.
The fact that Lincoln was a racist and a champion of slavery and the rights of slave owners is well documented in numerous sources. Walter Williams writes:
In an 1858 letter, Lincoln said, "I have declared a thousand times, and now repeat that, in my opinion neither the General Government, nor any other power outside of the slave states, can constitutionally or rightfully interfere with slaves or slavery where it already exists." In a Springfield, Ill., speech, he explained, "My declarations upon this subject of negro slavery may be misrepresented, but cannot be misunderstood. I have said that I do not understand the Declaration (of Independence) to mean that all men were created equal in all respects."
Further, Lincoln himself acknowledged that the Emancipation Proclamation was nothing more than a political gimmick he used as a wartime maneuver. He had no real care for slaves or their rights as human beings. For example, in his fourth debate with Stephen Douglas in 1858 Lincoln said,
I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races. I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people. And I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will ever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. … And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.
If I were African-American I would certainly celebrate the end of chattel slavery but I wouldn’t celebrate or honor such a hypocrite as Lincoln and perpetuate the lie that he was a real friend to African-Americans; he wasn’t – and some don’t.
Lincoln mythology is the ideological cornerstone of American statism. He was in reality the most hated of all American presidents during his lifetime according to an excellent book by historian Larry Tagg entitled The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: America’s Most Reviled President. He was so hated in the North that the New York Times editorialized a wish that he would be assassinated. This is perfectly understandable: He illegally suspended Habeas Corpus and imprisoned tens of thousands of Northern political critics without due process; shut down over 300 opposition newspapers; committed treason by invading the Southern states (Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution defines treason as “only levying war upon the states” or “giving aid and comfort to their enemies,” which of course is exactly what Lincoln did). He enforced military conscription with the murder of hundreds of New York City draft protesters in 1863 and with the mass execution of deserters from his army. He deported a congressional critic (Democratic Congressman Clement Vallandigham of Ohio); confiscated firearms; and issued an arrest warrant for the Chief Justice when the jurist issued an opinion that only Congress could legally suspend Habeas Corpus. He waged an unnecessary war (all other countries ended slavery peacefully in that century) that resulted in the death of as many as 850,000 Americans according to new research published in the last two years. Standardizing for today’s population, that would be similar to 8.5 million American deaths in a four-year war.
God hates the idol of statism as much as He hates any other idol.
The issue here is not the South nor are we re-fighting the civil war. The issues for the Christian are the same as always: the truth; the good of others; and the glory of God. When we are ignorant of history and the ideas that shape it we can only suffer. Liberty and justice for all is rooted in and can only be sustained long-term on a biblical worldview. All other worldviews ultimately lead to oppression. Lincoln had no concept of liberty and justice for all despite his hollow rhetoric to the contrary. He was the consummate statist and fought a war for the centralization of state power. 850,000 lives weren’t lost because Lincoln wanted to free those he believed to be inferior to whites and therefore didn’t deserve equality. No, he was fighting a war that had raged since our nation’s founding: the war between those who favored state power and those who favored limited government in order to preserve liberty. The difference is that he fought it with real guns and 850,000 “fellow Americans” paid the price.
Yes, slavery should have ended and we celebrate the fact that it did. But we can’t celebrate the inexorably increasing loss of liberty Lincoln’s ideas and actions have brought about. We can’t celebrate the victory of statism and one of its champions. It’s not only a rival to liberty and justice for all but a rival to God Himself and indeed His kingdom (Dan. 2:44).
So no, I won’t be celebrating Lincoln’s birthday.
Check out Dr. Dean’s new e-book “Naked and Unashamed: Liberating Sex from Cultural Captivity” at True Worldview. You’ll find other helpful resources there as well. Follow him on Twitter: @pauldeanjr.
If we’re created to glorify God, then putting His reality and power on display in the midst of distress is where the rubber meets the road. When affliction is upon us, how do we keep it between the ditches? To change the metaphor, how do we keep from fumbling the opportunity God’s given us? In two previous articles, we talked about dealing with God and dealing with self. But there’s one more category we have to think about.
The third thing we have to do is deal with others. That’s where contact is made; where the linebacker wraps us up; where God’s reputation will be displayed in our lives or fumbled away. God’s given us a commission: as we go, we’re to make disciples of Jesus. We can’t call time out when it gets rough. In fact, hard times are sometimes the greatest opportunities for us to put our heads down and hit Satan square in the chest. When we suffer well, he’s knocked back and the spectators see it. Score one for God’s team. How do we do it?
1) Be wise in how you act. Paul said, “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time” (Col. 4:5). He’s telling us we have to be wise in how we act in front of or toward those who don’t know Christ. It’s not wise to grumble and complain about our circumstances in front of unbelievers for example. If we tell them God is real and in control of all things and then complain about what He’s allowed in our lives, we’re contradicting the very thing we’re trying to communicate.
Sometimes it’s really hard not to complain if you’re in a lot of pain or you’ve just lost your house in a fire. But, either God is sufficient for every situation or He’s not. Of course, I’m not suggesting that God wants you to wear a “Colgate smile” no matter what; there’s nothing wrong with crying out if you’re in physical pain and there’s nothing wrong with being sad your house burned down. We simply don’t want to grumble and complain. There’s a difference between pitching a fit and grieving.
It’s interesting that Paul connects our responsibility to be wise toward others with “redeeming the time.” He’s talking about the same thing we’ve been talking about; God gives us opportunities to glorify Him and we don’t want to fumble them away. To redeem the time is to make the most of our opportunities. It’s to recognize that we’re on mission with God one-hundred percent of the time – twenty-four-seven. We can’t simply let time and opportunities float down the stream. And, the more we think about these things and redeem the time, the more joy we’ll have; we’ll be fulfilling God’s call upon our lives more and more.
2) Prove your confession to be true. Paul told the Corinthians when they gave money for the gospel, they were obedient to their confession of Christ (2 Cor. 9:13). Those who confess Christ either live out that confession or they don’t. That’s not to say that any of us are perfect. It is to say that we think about these things and seek to put Christ on display as much as we can. Those who never think about such things are either not saved or don’t really understand the purpose of their salvation. We’re saved to shine. Yes it’s hard to shine when we’re suffering. But, if we’re able, we shine far brighter in the tough times than we do in the easy times. When we shine on the bed of affliction, we prove our confession to be true and our God to be real because the strength to shine comes from Him, not ourselves. That old cliché is true; sometimes you’re the only Jesus people ever see.
3) Try to put others at ease. When life has dealt a vicious blow and you’re hurting, people want to help; they want to be there for you; they want to do something. I’ve seen people who are so despondent in their misery that no one or nothing can bring them any kind of relief. Their hopeless words and their dejected attitude makes would be comforters reluctant to stay or come back.
Indeed, it’s not about making them comfortable per se. At the same time, if we’re witnesses for Christ, we want to be thankful for those who come round to see us. We do want them to be at ease. It’s not that we’re not suffering and need to pretend we’re not suffering. It’s that we need to let folk know that God is meeting us in our hour of need. That magnifies God’s grace and power and helps others to help us. It’s interesting; we can help others to help us. That’s the mutual edification Paul speaks of so often (Rom. 1:12).
4) Comfort others after God’s comforted you. We want to honor God when we suffer. Comforting others after the fact is the culmination of that desire and indeed the call upon our lives. God does meet us in the valley of despair. He does lift us up. He is our strong deliverer. And, once He’s brought us through, He does want us to help others who are hurting. Paul put it this way:
[God] comforts us in all our tribulation that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation (2 Cor. 1:4-6).
That’s pretty plain. Our suffering is connected to the suffering of Christ. When we’re afflicted and then comforted, it’s so that we might help others. Let’s not fumble away opportunities to fulfill the grand purpose for which we were saved and given the gift of suffering (Phil. 1:29). Honor God: don’t fumble your surgery!
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Earnest Byner will never forget the moment when he was about to score the tying touchdown in the 1987 AFC Championship Game and fumbled the ball instead. How can he? People like me bring it up from time to time (even though I have great admiration for his superlative football career). Not only that, the moment has been preserved for all time as it’s been dubbed famously, “The Fumble.” Nobody wants to fumble and lose a game like that. Nobody wants to fumble at all, Christians included. We don’t want to fumble, so to speak, when God gives us an opportunity to glorify Him even through a trial. How can we hang on to the ball and honor God even when we’re suffering in some way? Well, in a previous article, we talked about dealing with God; that’s first. But then, we have to do two other things.
The second thing we have to do is deal with self. Dealing with self is certainly connected to God and indeed to others. As we deal with God, He deals with our hearts. That’s when our walk with God is improved and we’re better able to deal with others as well. So, how do we deal with self in this context?
1) We have to examine our hearts. A mere change of behavior is not what God is after. Good behavior in a human sense doesn’t glorify God. Hypocrites behave to get praise for themselves. Only when we deal with our hearts will we then be able to behave in a way that glorifies God. It was Jesus who said, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mk. 7:21-23).
When you’re in financial difficulty, do you think you deserve better? Has pride crept into your heart? Are you willing to sin against God to better your situation? Be careful of greed. Do you expect God to restore your financial status when you’ve learned what you think He wants you to learn? What if you never reach the financial heights you once held? Be careful of covetousness and a materialistic mindset. Do you grumble and complain about your circumstances? Do you carp about how others have mistreated you? Be careful of bitterness. Do you whine when you don’t get your way? Are you demanding of or short with nurses when you’re in a bit of pain or tired of being in the hospital? Do your friends seem not to want to be around you because you’ve become negative? These are heart issues and must be dealt with because they dishonor God and drag His Name through the mud before others.
And remember, God allows difficulties and perhaps complications to fall upon you so that you might see that there are some heart issues He wants you to work on. I have a friend who was so angry about his neighbor’s barking dog he was ready to kill it or move. I told him God put that dog next door to show him he had anger in his heart that needed to be cut out. If he had simply wallowed in his anger, continued to complain about the dog, he would have fumbled his opportunity to honor God. But in dealing with anger at the heart level, he put God’s glory on display.
2) We also have to straighten out our theology. Some people think that whenever bad things happen to them, they must have sin in their life and God must be punishing them. I have another friend who suffered a major financial upheaval. A mutual friend asked him one day what he had done to make God so mad at him. That’s bad theology. In the first place, under the New Covenant (as opposed to the Old), circumstances are never the sign of God’s blessing or cursing. All believers have every spiritual blessing in Christ (Eph. 1:3). In the second place, all our sins were punished at the cross. God doesn’t punish believers.
Now, God does lovingly discipline His children as any good father would; the Lord chastens those whom He loves (Heb. 12:6). He does that to get us back on track when we’re in unrepentant sin.
But, not every trial is the result of God’s chastening. Sometimes God is showing us something more of Himself. The Lord allowed Lazarus to die because Mary and Martha knew that Jesus could heal him, but they didn’t know He was the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:21-25). Some hardships are designed to prepare us for a great work God has for us. Trials are used by God to wean us from the world; give us a platform to comfort others; spread the gospel; and generally put His glory on display as we trust Him no matter what.
Owning a beach condo, a Lexus, or a membership at the Country Club doesn’t put God’s glory on display before a watching world; anyone can have those things. Suffering well for Christ magnifies His person and work.
And you know what? We have all kinds of troubles simply because we live in a cursed world and no one can walk in the rain without getting hit by a few drops (Jas. 1:2). Ultimately, God is conforming you to the image of His Son when adversity comes your way (Rom. 8:28-29).
If you don’t want to fumble away your surgery, that’s the second step: deal with yourself. Always, “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (Jas. 1:2-4). When you do, you’ll not only grow in the Lord and get closer to Him, you’ll be comforted knowing that God is doing something wonderful in your life. And, you’ll be prepared to take the final step toward the goal line with the ball securely in place.
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Life is tough; there’s no doubt about it. I’ve seen people handle adversity well and I’ve seen others fall to pieces. Some trials are tougher than others and we can’t judge people harshly not having walked in their shoes. At the same time, trials are opportunities to put the glory of God on display. If at all possible, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we don’t want to fumble those opportunities away. How can we keep from doing just that; how can we honor God when we’re hurting? Three things.
The first thing we have to do is deal with God. No relationship is more important; how we think about God, approach God, and respond to what God is doing is our first priority. When we get that, we confirm in our hearts that He’s real. So, what do we do?
1) We have to seek Him. We do that first through prayer and we begin our prayer with praise and thanksgiving. When Job lost all he had including his family, he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Paul says that even when we ask God to help us, we do so with a heart of thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6). It’s not that we’re happy about the calamity and have to thank God for giving us a tumor. But we thank Him for His presence, wisdom, and grace in our lives.
Further, we’ll want to confess our sins; we’re told to do that when we’re sick (Jas. 5:15). We should ask God to work sanctification in our hearts; give us strength to be witnesses for Him; help us to endure the trial for our good; and deliver us according to His will. In this way we’re doing business with God, and in so doing, we’re honoring Him. Dealing with God is critical because God is the one who tests our faith, which is precious to Him, that we might be a conduit for His glory as we trust Him (1 Pet. 1:7).
We seek God through searching the Scriptures as well. We do that not necessarily to find a direct answer to all of our questions, though we may get some answers; we search the Scriptures to know God better and to know His ways. The more we know Him and His ways, the more peace we’ll have.
Of course, we must be careful not to take a mystical approach to seeking God in His Word. One time I was trying to figure out if God wanted me to accept a call to pastor Mt. Zion Church. In my daily devotion, I came across Ps. 2:6 which says, “I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion.” I thought God had spoken to me! But that’s not how to use the Scriptures. That verse is about Jesus as king or head over His people; it has nothing to do with a local church called Mt. Zion. What we want to do is understand what the Scripture says and apply it to our own hearts and lives. That’s how to honor God.
2) We have to trust Him. No matter what’s going on, we must cling to His promises; to the reality of who He is; and to what His ultimate purpose for us is, our sanctification. You honor God when you remember that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). He promises not to withhold anything from you that is good for you (Ps. 84:11). And, just as He gave manna to Israel when they needed it, He’ll give you what you need when you need it. You can trust Him.
3) We have to cling to Him. Sometimes all we can do is hang on for dear life. I know a man whose wife died a few months back. He tells me he’s so lonely he doesn’t really know what to do; but he’s hanging on to God. That’s what trust is, of course. It’s just that we don’t always understand and that some trials are really hard to bear. But, through the truth of His Word, the fellowship of His body, and the ministry of His Spirit, we can hang on; because He hangs on to us (2 Tim. 2:13).
There’s more, but that’s the first step; dealing with God. He’s real and He’s of main concern in our lives. If we don’t get our relationship with Him right, nothing else matters. He’s doing something in our lives through the pain. Remember, “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5). God uses the tough times to build His character into us. That’s why we must deal with Him, and in so doing, we get hope that does not disappoint.
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