Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom

demThe Puritan, John Winthrop spoke of America as “the city on a hill” as he gazed upon the shores of his new home from the confines of his ship, the Arbella. President Ronald Reagan inspired freedom lovers around the world as he too spoke in glowing terms of this “city on a hill.” Winthrop and Reagan captured the very heartbeat of every human being with that phrase as they echoed the cry for freedom – a freedom which is made possible by democracy.

Former Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleeza Rice paints a beautiful portrait of freedom in her most recent book, Democracy: Stories from the Long Road to Freedom. Rice explores the early foundations of American democracy by providing a basic framework for freedom.

Most of the book is devoted to telling stories about the hope of democracy in countries like the Russian Federation, Columbia, Poland, Kenya, and the Middle East. Readers will not be surprised to learn that while democracy is on the rise in the world, the promise of democracy is usually a long path and is usually accompanied by pain and bloodshed. Some nations like Germany and Japan are “stabilizing forces for good.” But other nations like Russian and China “seem determined to disrupt the global order.”

Dr. Rice makes full use of her experience as Secretary of State by sharing stories about her role in helping various nations move forward in their quest for democracy. Readers will quickly note that Secretary Rice has a passion for freedom and is quick to defend the downtrodden. Rice adds, “Giving voice to the voiceless is a moral cause for a country – America that is based on an idea: that human freedom is the source of human dignity and progress. That cannot be true for us and not for them.

Democracy by Condoleeza Rice is a book for every American. Liberals and conservatives alike should digest this book and be reminded of the great price of freedom. Indeed, “The United States has been a north star for those seeking liberty not because it is perfect, but because it was born imperfect and is still struggling with imperfection. That has always been the best argument for America’s example – and America’s engagement. We are living proof that the work of democracy is never done. For those who are just starting – stumbling, and starting again – that is reassuring and inspiring. And it is reason to be a voice for them as they struggle in their freedom – just as we do – to chart a better future.”

Dr. Rice tells about the time she visited the home of Lech Wałęsa in Gdańsk, Poland. One hundred thousand Polish workers were waving flags and shouting, “Bush, Bush, Bush … Freedom, Freedom, Freedom.” Rick turned to her colleague as said, “This is not exactly what Karl Marx meant when he said, ‘Workers of the world unite.”

So the atheistic worldview of Karl Marx is relegated to the ash heap of history. And the city on a hill shines brightly, still. However, there are still forces that loom large and cast a dark shadow on our liberty. Democracy is a celebration of our liberty and a vivid reminder of the freedom we enjoy as Americans.

Highly recommended!

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The Puritanical Genius of Mike Pence

A recent Washington Post article revealed some fascinating tidbits about Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen. At the top of the list, was Pence’s proclamation in 2002 that, “he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife.”1 The article revealed what many Americans have learned in recent months about Mike and Karen Pence, namely, that these people fear God and take their wedding vows seriously.

One would think that such a story would not draw much press or criticism. Think again, as the liberal media pounced on Pence and sought to portray his views as Puritanical and out of step with the modern milieu. Such views are better relegated to the stone age, at least in the minds of “cultured” people.

For example, Jessica Valenti writes that Pence’s position is “all a part of his deeply retrograde worldview.”2 Writing with deep sarcasm, Valenti considers the values of Pence to militate against the tenor of the times: “It’s an insulting view of men, a limiting role for women – we’re there to either entice or domesticate – and an archaic take on gender roles more generally.”3

Valenti accuses Pence of being a “misogynist,” a truly bizarre accusation, especially in light of the honor that the Vice President pays to his wife. This egalitarian banter is both unfair and unproductive, putting words in Pence’s mouth and making judgments which are simply untrue. And these ridiculous accusations are light-years away from anything that resembles graciousness. So much for left-wing tolerance.

While the liberal media wastes precious time and ink, attacking the Vice President with straw man arguments, perhaps there are some lessons to learn for the rest of us. What kind of wisdom does Vice President Pence possess that other men could learn from? How can we learn from the Puritanical genius of Mike Pence?

He Understands the Power of the Flesh

The Vice President is well aware what Scripture says about the human heart. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” The Bible clearly states that people of faith battle indwelling sin; this sin is smoldering in the heart of every person and will make the best of every opportunity. It will strike when we least expect it. The apostle Paul, a man who penned much of the New Testament, was aware of the diabolical nature and strategy of sin: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Rom. 7:18-20, ESV).

The Puritanical genius of Mike Pence is his keen awareness of the power of the flesh and the wisdom to steer clear from this ominous monster, no matter what the cost.

He Upholds the Sanctity of Marriage

The Vice President made a vow of faithfulness to his wife, Karen. Unlike some men in our culture, Mike Pence intends on making good on those vows. The standards that guide his life honor both his wife and honor his God. These standards demonstrate a rock-solid allegiance to Karen and help him love her in a sacrificial way, as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5:25). These standards place his marriage above the expectations of the world. Such a stance will no doubt draw the ire of his detractors but his aim is to please his Savior, not the attention of worldly people (Acts 5:29).

The Puritanical genius of Mike Pence is his deep understanding of his marriage vows and commitment to keep his word.

He Undermines Any Attempts to Question His Character

When the Vice President chooses to live above reproach, as we have recently learned, he short-circuits anyone who would seek to destroy him or cast a dark shadow on his life and reputation. Of course, anyone can cast stones and make spurious claims. But the wisdom of Pence helps protect him from any unsubstantiated claims. Such wise living is consistent with biblical principles and sound judgment, for “One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless” (Proverbs 14:16, ESV).

The Puritanical genius of Mike Pence is his wisdom to avoid any situations that might do harm to his personal life or marriage.

He Underscores the Value of Integrity

The former congressman, J.C. Watts once opined, “Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught.” Vice President Pence understands the importance of integrity and demonstrates this valuable virtue in the way he lives his daily life and in the way he leads. He understands that integrity takes a lifetime to build but can be destroyed in a moment.

The Bible unveils the importance of integrity which supports the values that Mr. Pence embraces:

“May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.” (Psalm 25:21, ESV)

“He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,” (Proverbs 2:7, ESV)

“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.” (Proverbs 10:9, ESV)

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.” (Proverbs 11:3, ESV)

“Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.” (Proverbs 28:18, ESV)

The Puritanical genius of Mike Pence involves living a life that is marked by integrity.

Final Thoughts

We have seen that some people consider the worldview of Mike Pence to be “retrograde.” Such criticism argues that his values are a negative influence on our culture and that his views move us in the wrong direction. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The worldview that Pence promotes helps advance a cause that all Americans should cherish – one that values faithfulness, honesty, and integrity.

J.I. Packer compares the New England Puritans to “California’s Redwoods”4 which tower above the earth and demand the attention of onlookers. Packer says, “The Puritans made me aware that all theology is also spirituality, in the sense that it has an influence, good or bad, positive or negative, on its recipients’ relationship or lack of relationship to God.”5Mike Pence is not a Puritan in the strict sense and never claimed to be one. Yet the Puritans would be proud of his values as he cherishes. They would commend Pence for his influence on people in the executive branch. And they would compliment him for the example he sets forth for the American people

God made a promise to Solomon that we would do well to remember: “And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules,” (1 Kings 9:4, ESV)

The wisdom that the Vice President displays in maintaining proper relationships and boundaries is consistent with 1 Kings 9:4. This kind of wisdom is desperately needed at the highest levels of the federal government. But it is also needed across America – in our classrooms, board rooms, court rooms, sanctuaries, and media outlets.

When the dust settles, the Vice President may be battered and bruised by the liberal press.  He may bear the marks of unjust persecution.  But his strong values and commitment to purity will help preserve a strong marriage.  He will stand side-by-side with his treasured bride and enjoy the benefits of a clean conscience.

Americans should pray for Mr. Pence and ask God to enable him to walk with integrity before his God. We should pray that God protects his marriage and family. We should pray for God to grant much wisdom as he serves our nation in the days ahead. We as Americans should be thankful for the Puritanical genius of Vice President Mike Pence.

  1. See Ashley Parker, Karen Pence is the Vice President’s “Prayer Warrior,” Gut Check and Shield (Washington Post, 28 March, 2017).
  2. Jessica Valenti, The Real Reason Mike Pence Refuses to Dine Alone with Women (Alternet, 31 March, 2017).
  3. Ibid.
  4. J.I. Packer, A Quest For Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life(Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1990), 11.
  5. Ibid, 15.

A Crazy, Holy Grace

acraBuechner, Frederick, A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017, 139 pp. $16.99

A Crazy, Holy Grace: The Healing Power of Pain and Memory by Frederick Buechner is a book about life and death and the contours of grace. This grace reaches into the deepest, darkest places of our lives in ways that are unfathomable and even indiscribable.

Buechner writes with a depth of transparency that not only reveals his own soul but invites readers to share a bit of their own. He speaks candidly about his father’s death and his own insecurities. Pain is dealt with in a variety of ways and readers are invited to be open and honest about their own personal pain.

I appreciate the Beuchner’s willingness to bare his soul. It is clear, however, that he stands in a theological stream which is more ecumenical and mainstream than some readers will be comfortable with. I encourage a careful, reflective reading which is informed by biblical discernment that accepts what is true and delights in God’s amazing grace.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

A Small Book About a Big Problem

Welch, Edward T, A Small Book About a Big Problem, Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2017, 186 pp. $13.90

Edward Welch has become somewhat of a household name in recent years, especially in circles that welcome biblical counseling. Dr. Welch’s new book, A Small Book About a Big Problem is written for everyday people who experience everyday problems. In this short and powerful little book, the author presents fifty meditations that address anger, patience, and peace.

Each chapter contains a central thought that educates, inspires, and challenges readers. The meditations are informed by Scripture and force readers to wrestle with motives, hidden sin, and temptations that are common to all.

The strength of this book is its brevity. The meditations are designed to be read on a daily basis and encourage deep thought and contemplation. Ultimately, the subject matter concerns sanctification and is written in such a way to attract both baby Christians and seasoned believers.

Anyone who desires short, readable and biblical encouragement should pick up a copy of this excellent book. Highly recommended!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

The Theological Backbone of William Tyndale (1494 – 1536)

Today  marks the anniversary of the martyrdom of William Tyndale.  This faithful man was born in 1494.  He attended Oxford, Magdalen Hall and Cambridge University.  A student and adherent of the Protestant Reformation, Tyndale engaged in numerous debates with Roman Catholics.    One leader in the Roman Catholic church mocked Tyndale: “We are better to be without God’s laws than the Pope.”  Tyndale, never one to mince words replied, “I defy the Pope and all his laws.  If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy who drives the plow to know more of the Scriptures than you.”

Tyndale was a confident, bold, and fearless theologian and scholar who translated the Bible into an early form of Modern English, likely with Luther’s help in Wittenberg.  But Tyndale was arrested and imprisoned for 500 days in a kangaroo court, and ultimately convicted.  He was sent to be strangled and burn at the stake in the prison yard on October 6, 1536 – the same year that Calvin published the first edition of The Institutes of the Christian Religion.  His last words were, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.”

May God raise up a new generation of leaders like William Tyndale – courageous and bold; men with a theological backbone and rock solid integrity.  May God raise up  a new generation of men who say what they mean and mean what they say; men who are unashamed of the gospel; men who are utterly unwilling to compromise the truth; men who are willing to be burned at the stake for the sake of truth.

Semper Reformanda!

The Son of God and the New Creation

sonGoldsworthy, Graeme, The Son of God and the New Creation, Wheaton: Crossway, 2015, 142 pp. $12.24

Graeme Goldsworthy has become a bit of a household name, especially as one considers the field of biblical theology. The Son of God and the New Creation is another solid contribution by Goldsworthy where he focuses on the second member of the Trinity and alerts readers to the mission of Jesus.

The author makes sure he establishes his bottom line:

Jesus as Son of God is also God the Son, the eternal second person of the Godhead. But our salvation and eternal destiny depend on his being the incarnate one who is revealed as Son of God. Jesus in his person and work, sums up the pattern of creation that establishes the nature of the kingdom of God.

This central thought is exposed and re-articulated in several ways as Goldsworthy reveals the person and work of Jesus from creation to consummation. “Jesus as the Son of God, by his death and resurrection, was putting the whole universe back together from the futility to which it has been subjected because of human rebellion against the Creator.”

The Son of God and the New Creation is designed for laymen but is a challenging read, nonetheless. I expect Goldsworthy’s work to be used in Bible Colleges and Seminaries and should be a welcome addition to every pastor’s theological library.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield – Steven Lawson (2014)

It is impossible to determine the impact that Reformation Trust’s,  A Long Linewhitefield of Godly Men Series will have.  have personally been enriched, challenged, and inspired by this excellent series that has surveyed the likes of Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, Martin Luther, C.H. Spurgeon, and John Knox.  The latest installment, The Evangelistic Zeal of George Whitefield by Steven Lawson packs a powerful punch and will leave readers hungry for more.

Several features make Dr. Lawson’s latest work noteworthy.  First, the book is very interesting and readable.  It is filled with historical facts that help readers contextualize the arena that Whitefield ministered in – on both sides of the Atlantic.

Second, the book raises critical awareness about the biblical relationship between the doctrine of election and the need to evangelize.  Lawson is quick to point out that while Whitefield embraced the doctrines of grace, he was also eager to proclaim the gospel to every creature – a scathing indictment of hyper-Calvinism and a challenge to anyone who scoffs at the two-fold  truths of election and evangelism.

Third, the book provides an inside look at a man who faced a myriad of trials and tribulations.  Every preacher, indeed, every Christ-f0llower experiences trials.  But I have yet to meet a pastor who was met by an angry mob who hurled dead cats and rotten fruit onto the platform.  Whitefield endured this and more.  Yet he endured each tribulation and he passed the test.

Fourth, the book acquaints readers with the evangelistic zeal of George Whitefield.  Here is a man who took the Great Commission seriously!  His ministry led to countless conversions – all a result of faithful proclamation.

Whitefield was a man who refused to compromise the truth.  He delivered the truth with power and passion.  And a multitude of lives of changed as a result of his preaching ministry.  Lawson cites Arnold Dallimore who writes about the God-centered stature of George Whitefield: “And what manner of men will they be?  Men mighty in the Scriptures, their lives dominated by a sense of the greatness, the majesty and holiness of God, and their minds and hearts aglow with the great truths of the doctrines of grace.”  Oh that men in this age would model the Whitefield approach.  May their hearts be consumed with nothing but the greatness of God.  And may people from every tribe and nation be drawn to the sovereign Savior.

Highly recommended!

5 stars