Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Reformation: What it Was and Why it Matters

Reformation 500
On October 31st, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Thesis on the door of the  Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany. This date is commonly held to be beginning of the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s act ignited a fire that burned across Europe, the heat of which we still feel today. Five hundred years later, the Reformation is just as significant now as it was in Luther’s day. In order to see why the Reformation matters, we must learn its story.


The Story of the Reformation
The Catholic Church was in a dismal state, plagued by corruption and marked with doctrinal error. For a season, there were three popes claiming to be Christ’s representative on earth. The question arose, who has authority? The popes, or the church councils that appointed the popes? The authority of papacy was laughable, its morality sorrowful. One of the most notorious papal degenerates was Alexander VI. He became pope by buying his position, had children by mistresses, and held drunken orgies at the Vatican. The Pope of Luther’s day, Leo X, was agnostic. In Catholic teaching, one had to make penance for sin, and what sin remained that wasn’t covered by penance would  have to be paid for in purgatory. Some extraordinary saints had achieved so much merit through righteous living, there was a storehouse, a treasury of merit. The church taught that individuals could purchase this merit for their own sins or the sins of their loved ones in purgatory. These were called indulgences. The church blended sanctification with justification and added works to faith as necessary for salvation. Church services were in Latin so that both the clergy conducting the service and the laity attending the service were ignorant of what was actually being said. The Bible of the day was the Latin Vulgate which isolated people from having the living, powerful, word of God in their own language. The church was ready for reform, and some heroes would rise to the occasion.

Years before Luther were the Morning Stars of the Reformation: British theologian John Wycliffe (1320-1384) and Bohemian professor John Huss (1374-1415). Wycliffe argued that spiritual authority was not the papacy, but Scripture. He rejected the Catholic doctrine that the elements of communion were transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ. His greatest achievement and contribution was his translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible into English. Wycliffe died a natural death, John Huss did not. Like Wycliffe, Huss fought for the authority of the Bible over the papacy and denied their right for the issuing of indulgences. In 1414, the Council of Constance condemned Wycliffe and Huss as heretics. Wycliffe’s body was dug up, burned, and his ashes thrown into the river. Huss was stripped of his priestly clothes, bound to the stake and burned. As he was swallowed by flames he recited some Psalms. Before his execution, Huss had said to his captors, “You may roast this goose, but a hundred years from now a swan will arise whose singing you will not be able to silence.”

Huss’s words proved to be prophetic. One hundred and two years after the burning of Huss, Martin Luther (1483-1546) took a mallet to the church at Wittenburg. Luther had been a monk tormented with his inability to live righteously. He visited Rome and was bothered by what he saw there— licentious sin and gross immorality. He was plagued by his conscience and disaffected with the church. His spiritual discontent was slowly building. It was  Johann Tetzel who brought Luther to a full on boil. In Rome, Pope Leo X was reconstructing St. Peter’s Basilica and needed money. To achieve this, Johann Tetzel became a salesman of indulgences. “When the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs,” Tetzel would proclaim. He would play on his hearer's emotions and ask them if they heard the voices of their loved ones crying out from the torment of Purgatory. He brazenly announced that indulgences could free you from Purgatory even if you raped the Mother of God. Luther was disgusted, and formulated his Ninety Five Thesis which were problems he saw in the church that needed reform. At this stage, Luther was a good catholic, and only wanted to see the church made pure. While we look to the the nailing of the Thesis to the church door as an epic moment, it was extraordinarily ordinary. Church doors functioned like community bulletin boards, and Luther was simply calling for an academic discussion. He had no idea what his action would set into motion. Teztel called out for Luther to be burned, and Luther soon found himself in debate with Catholic theologian John Eck. Their debate quickly turned to the question of authority, where Luther identified authority as being in Scripture alone as opposed to the Catholic understanding of authority being in Scripture plus tradition. Eck accused Luther of being a heretic like Wycliffe and Huss, and to Luther’s surprise he discovered that he was indeed teaching what the Morning Stars of the Reformation had taught one hundred years before him. During this time, Luther became truly born again. It was in his reading of the book of Romans, that Luther finally understood the beauty of the Gospel. We could not ourselves become righteous—that was Luther’s agony. In salvation, God declares us righteous and we are covered by Christ’s blood. This was sheer joy to a troubled Luther. He began to write profusely, spreading evangelical theology. In 1520, he was excommunicated by the pope. In 1521, Luther appeared at the Diet of Worms before Emperor Charles V to defend himself. There, Luther was told to recant. It was here, that he uttered these triumphant words
“Since then Your Majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason—I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other—my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen.”
Following Worms, Luther lived daily under the shadow of possible martyrdom. On his return to Wittenburg, he was kidnapped by Frederick the Wise so that way he could be protected. In God’s providence this proved a fruitful time for Luther’s writing. He translated the Bible from the original languages into German. This translation was a masterpiece and with it, Luther became the father of the modern German language. His translation of Scripture would be as influential on the German language as the King James Version would on the English speaking world. Like Wycliffe before him, Luther gave the people the Bible in their own language. He unleashed the power of the word.  Mercifully, Luther would die a natural death in 1546.




80041_calvin_md
John Calvin
The Reformation was not contained to Germany, it spread across Europe. In Switzerland
 
Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) and John Calvin (1509-1564) were instrumental. In Zurich, Zwingli attacked indulgences, ended the Mass, and was committed to expository preaching. He would meet his end on the battlefield as a chaplain defending Zurich against an invading Catholic army. In Geneva, Calvin was the great pastor theologian. Like Zwingli, Calvin was committed to expository preaching. He was a master exegete of Scripture. His commentaries are still as helpful today as they were when he published them. He gifted the church with one of the first systematic theologies ever written, Institutes of the Christian Religion. He died a natural death in 1564.

In England, the Reformation found its origin in King Henry VIII's desire for a male heir. When he was not granted a divorce he broke from the Church of Rome and founded the Church of England. Though separated from Rome, Henry did not permit the Bible to be read in the common language. William Tyndale (1494-1536) defied Henry and translated the Bible from its original languages into English. He once said to a Catholic cleric, "If God spare my life, ere many years pass, I will cause the boy that driveth the plough in England to know more the Scriptures than thou dost." For his crime of putting the Bible into the hands of the people, Tyndale was burned at the stake. All English readers owe a great debt to Tyndale. He was a translation pioneer, being the first person to translate the Bible into English from Hebrew and Greek. Additionally,  most of our English translations of the Bible still use some of Tyndale’s renderings. This is especially true for the English Standard Version as the ESV is Tyndale’s heir in the classic mainstream of English translations.

While Henry was a devout Catholic, the man he put in charge of the Church of England Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556), was not. During Henry's life, the reformation in England was turbulent and Cranmer was reserved in his reform.  With Henry's death and the installation of his Protestant son Edward VI, Cranmer's restraint ended and he got to work reforming the church. During these golden years of English Reformation, churches were purged of Catholic symbolism, preaching was done in English, the Forty-two Articles of Religion and The Book of Common Prayer were published. In England, the priest performing the Mass was replaced by evangelical preachers boldly proclaiming the Gospel. Things would take a dramatic turn for the worse, however, with the death of Edward. A plan was made to install Protestant teenager Lady Jane Grey as queen. She held the throne for nine days before Mary I took the throne and had Lady Jane Grey beheaded. Following a failed effort to keep England Protestant, Bloody Mary reversed course and made England Catholic. Many Protestant heroes died under her reign, among them Thomas Bilney, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer. Tied to the stake with Ridley, Latimer said these triumphant words, "Be of good comfort, and play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out." After being forced to watch his friends Ridley and Latimer burn to death, an elderly Cranmer would in a moment of weakness sign a recantation. At his own burning, though, Cranmer would redeem himself. Tied to the stake, he proclaimed, " for as much as my hand offended, writing contrary to my heart, my hand shall first be punished there-for." With that, Cranmer plunged his hand into the flames and allowed it to be burned first, before he succumbed to a martyr's death. Some three hundred protestants met their end under Bloody Mary. In God's good providence, Mary's reign was short and she was succeeded by her Protestant sister, Elizabeth I. Elizabeth maintained Protestant theology in the churches, but allowed for Catholic ceremonies and practices to return. It was this "Elizabethan Settlement" that gave birth to the Puritan movement.
Burning of Latimer and Ridley.png
The burning of Ridley and Latimer


Why the Reformation Matters
The Reformation is a story filled with larger than life personalities, but it would be a mistake to make our celebration of the Reformation be centered upon personality. The Protestant Reformation is the story of the gospel being restored. This took the form of five major points: God's Word Alone, Faith Alone, Grace Alone, Christ Alone, God's Glory Alone.
Our authority is God's Word Alone:
  • Galatians 1:6-9 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
  • Jude 3  Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Salvation is by grace alone,
  • Romans 3:23-25 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
  • Ephesians 2:4-10 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
  • Titus 3:5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,
through faith alone,
  • Romans 4:4-5 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
  • Galatians 2:16  yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
  • Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
in Christ alone,
  • John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
  • 1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
to God's glory alone.
  • Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
  • Ephesians 1:4-6 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
  • Ephesians 1:11-12 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

The Reformation matters because the Five Solas are non-negotiable. They are not light statements. They are not trivial. They are essential. Belief in the authority of the Bible alone and salvation by faith alone, in Christ alone, to God's glory alone is the marrow of genuine Christianity.

The Reformation matters because it isn't disconnected history that doesn't impact us. It greatly impacts us because it is our history. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Baptists Brethren, Congregationalists, Mennonites,  Methodists, and Independent Churches can all trace their roots to the Reformation.

The Reformation matters because the chasm between Catholicism and Evangelicalism remains. The Catholic church still affirms the Council of Trent, where Protestant theology was damned, indulgences upheld, transubstantiation maintained, and salvation by faith alone denied. Catholics and Protestants who see unity, only see unity because of ignorance--the Catholic is ignorant of his own church's teachings and traditions, and the Protestant is ignorant of Scripture.

The Reformation matters because the evangelical church today desperately needs reformed. The Bible is not treated as the ultimate authority. For some, feelings, impressions, and folk wisdom are placed on the same level as Scripture. Biblical illiteracy, lack of discretion, and belief in continued revelation demand the need for the teaching of the ultimate authority of the Bible alone. Anxiety about standing before God, and confusion about the place of works in the Christian life proves the need for the instruction of salvation by faith alone and grace alone. Cowardice in a pluralistic world that is too afraid to affirm exclusivity of salvation in Christ show cases the need for the teaching of Christ alone. Personal fixation that borders on self worship in songs we sing, and the pragmatic organization of ministries around the felt needs of individuals begs for the renewed teaching of God's glory alone.

The Reformation matters because it shows us the way forward. The Reformation is most significant because it is the story of the unleashing of God’s Word. Wycliffe, Tyndale, and Luther all gave the common man the opportunity to read the Bible in his own language. As majestic as the story of these big personalities taking on a corrupt church is, the power of the Reformation was not personality. The power all along was the Bible. If the church today would be reformed, God’s Word must again be unleashed. By looking to the past we get direction for our future.
"Take me, for example. I opposed indulgences and all papists, but never by force. I simply taught, preached, wrote God's Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept or drank Wittenberg beer with my Philip of Amsdorf the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing: the Word did it all. Had I wanted to start trouble.... I could have started such a little game at Worms that even the emperor wouldn't have been safe. But what would it have been? A mug's game. I did nothing: I left it to the Word." ~ Martin Luther
 "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." ~ Hebrews 4:12
Further Reading
  • The Unquenchable Flame: Discovering the Heart of the Reformation by Michael Reeves
  • The Reformation: How a Monk and Mallet Changed the World by Stephen J. Nichols
  • Why the Reformation Still Matters by Michael Reeves and Tim Chester
  • Theology of the Reformers by Timothy George
  • The Five Solas Series
    • God's Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture by Matthew Barrett
    • Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification by Thomas Schreiner
    • Grace Alone: Salvation as a Gift of God by Carl Trueman
    • Christ Alone: The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior by Stephen Wellum
    • God's Glory Alone: The Majestic Heart of the Christian Faith and Life by David VanDrunen

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Why Theology Matters

When we speak of theology, some Christians instinctively recoil.  It doesn’t have any practical significance in day to day life. It is inherently divisive.

Those statements are false. Theology is imminently practical, in fact it effects every aspect of your life.  Christian unity isn’t an undefined embrace of all voices and all teachings. True Christian unity is unity in the truth (John 17:17). Theology matters. Below are five reasons why theology matters.



Theology is Universal
You are a theologian. You may not have known that, but it’s true. Theology is the study of God. Everyone is a theologian because everyone has thoughts about God. The question is not whether or not you are a theologian. The question is, are you a good theologian? A.W. Tozer majestically articulates this in his masterpiece, The Knowledge of the Holy [1]:

What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church. Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God.

Theology Determines Behavior
In 1 Timothy 1:18-19, Paul links theology and behavior

This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience.
If we, as Christians, are going to wage the good warfare—if we’re going to succeed in our spiritual lives then we must have right belief and right behavior. In other words, we must have right theology because our theology will determine our behavior. In Romans 1:21-27 we see the destruction that ensues when people think wrongly about God:

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
What we believe about God will determine everything about us. It will determine how we live. If we lessen or dismiss God’s taking of sin seriously, we will not value holiness in our lives, nor will we strive to live godly. If we don’t take God’s teaching about his church seriously, then our ministry philosophy will devolve to human pragmatism. If we don’t understand that it takes the Holy Spirit’s regeneration of heart in conversion, we may be tempted to manipulate emotions. In every aspect of life, our theology will determine our behavior.

Theology Equips for Witness
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gives what has been rightly called the Great Commission:

 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
As Christians, our purpose is to make disciples of others. When we preach the Gospel we are preaching theology. God has given us the law to convict us of sin (Rom. 3:9; Gal. 3:24). Every person is born with a sin nature and will sin (Rom. 3:23; 5:12). Jesus lived a perfect life, earning righteousness for his people (Matt. 5:17-20). Jesus died in the place of sinners (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). Through the death of Christ, the sin of the elect is placed upon him and his righteousness covers his people (2 Cor. 5:21). These benefits are applied to individuals as they repent from their sin and believe (Mark 1:14-15; Rom. 10:9).
All of these statements are theological statements because they are making statements about God, the nature of humanity, Christ’s work, and our salvation. Christian witness is a theological endeavor.

Theology Protects from Error
In 1 Timothy 4:16, Paul says something truly remarkable. He writes,  “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” What Paul is telling Timothy in this verse is that if he wants to succeed in ministry, then he must keep a close watch on himself and the teaching. Paul tells Timothy that his well being and his congregation’s well being are determined by Timothy’s personal holiness and his theology.


False doctrine has always plagued the church. It is a constant threat (2 Tim. 4:3). Often in Paul’s letters, he is responding to false doctrine.

Christians are told to identify and separate from false doctrine and false teachers:

  • Romans 16:17-19 I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil.
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:6  Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us
  •  2 John 1:10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting
Additionally, Christians are called to fight against false teaching and false teachers.

  • 2 Timothy 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
  • Titus 1:9 He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
  • Titus 1:13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,
  • Jude 3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.
Sometimes Christians are even called to rebuke other Christians for behaving in a way that confirms false teaching. In Galatians, Paul recounts his rebuking of Peter. Peter was not teaching false doctrine, but he was behaving in a way that affirmed false doctrine.

  • Galatians 2:11-16 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” 15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Identifying, separating from, and confronting false teaching and false teachers requires our knowing right teaching. If we are going to be obedient to God, then we must take theology seriously.

Theology Leads to Worship
When we speak of worship, many Christians have in mind the part of the Sunday morning service where we sing songs to God. Sunday morning singing is part of worship, but it is not all of worship. For the Christian, all of life is worship. Paul makes this clear in Romans 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Worship is a lifestyle. Not conforming to the world is worship. Renewing our mind through through the Bible is worship. Discerning what God deems good, acceptable, and perfect is worship.

Theology helps us in all of these areas. Theology helps us worship God. Good theology always leads to worship because it teaches us about God and his ways. Consider Paul’s doxological outbreak in Romans 11:33-36:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Paul has just finished teaching deep theology. Romans 9-11 is all about God’s incredible program of salvation. At the conclusion of this weighty teaching, Paul’s heart has been so uplifted he cannot help but worship!

If you desire for your affections to burn for God, then you must fill your mind with him. Theology is an excellent tool to help us understand who God is and what he does. Proper theology will always lead to praise.


Conclusion
Theology matters. Theology matters because it is universal, everyone is a theologian. Theology matters because what we believe about God will determine our behavior. Theology matters because it enables us to be effectively share the Gospel. Theology matters because it protects from error and equips us to confront false teaching. Theology matters because it leads to worship.

_______________
[1] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperOne, 1961), 1.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Book Recommendation: Katharina and Martin Luther

Michelle DeRusha, Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk. Baker Books, 2017. 315 pages. 

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. The major Christian publishers have released several strong titles commemorating this monumental anniversary. Michelle DeRusha's Katharina and Martin Luther is one of these works. 

Katharina and Martin Luther consists of eighteen chapters and an appendix:
1--To the Cloister School
2--A Nun without a Choice
3--A Family Rift
4--The Good Monk
5--The Road to Damascus and Nail in the Door
6--Hear This, O Pope!
7--The Risks of Freedom
8--Escape
9--Marriage Makeover
10--Tying the Knot
11--Backlash
12--Hausfrau Extraordinaire
13--Two Pigtails on the Pillow
14--A Family Affair
15--The Noblest, Most Precious Work
16--In the Valley of the Shadow of Death
17--'Til Death Did Them Part
18--A Chancy Thing

Appendix 

Much has been written about the thunderous reformer, Martin Luther. Some has been written about his wife Katharina. There have been almost no books written about their radical marriage. Michelle DeRusha's purpose in writing Katharina and Martin Luther is to fill this void. 

This book is an excellent resource to learn more about the Luthers, especially Katharina. The book begins by tracing her origins and story. How she was raised and some of her personality is seen in these chapters. What becomes clear is just how perfect of a fit she was for Martin Luther. Next, Martin Luther's well known journey from the monastery to the church door in Wittenburg, to his mantle of reformer is rehashed. Finally, DeRusha gives us a portrait of their marriage. Along the way we are instructed on broader historical developments and given cultural insights. The book concludes with an appendix that is a collection of three letters from the Luthers. The finished product is a great, one volume resource on the Luthers and their marriage. 

DeRusha's purpose was to write about Katharina Luther and Luther's marriage. She has succeeded. This is a well written history of a marriage against the backdrop of the monumental Protestant Reformation. 

 I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers Program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.


Monday, July 3, 2017

God Among Sages: A Recommendation

Kenneth Richard Samples, God Among Sages: Why Jesus is Not Just Another Religious Leader. Baker Books, 2017. 262 Pages.

"Who is Jesus Christ?" That is the most important question that anyone can ask. How we answer that question will literally determine our destiny. Kenneth Samples has written God Among Sages to be "a primer for Christians who want to deepen their understanding of Christ's identity, especially in light of the competing spiritual sages" (xviii).

God Among Sages consists of ten chapters and a conclusion. It is divided into three main sections.

Part 1: The Historic Christian Portrait of Jesus Christ
  1. Jesus's Stunning Self-Understanding
  2. The Matchless Life of Jesus
  3. A Historic Christology
  4. Answering Challenges to Jesus's Historic Identity
Part 2: Four Major Leaders of World Religions and Jesus
  5. The Prince (Krishna) and the Lord
  6. The Buddha (Gautama) and the Christ
  7. The Teacher (Confucius) and the Savior
  8. The Prophet (Muhammed) and the Son of God
Part 3: Christianity and the World's Religions
  9. Truth, Tolerance, and the Plurality of Religious Claims
  10. Biblical Perspective on the World's Religions 
Conclusion 

God Among Sages begins with a basic Christology.  Samples opens the Bible and demonstrates that Jesus considered himself God. Further his moral uprightness, authoritative teaching, and miraculous abilities vindicated Jesus self understanding. Samples does an excellent job surveying the church's historic understanding of Jesus and provides answers for skeptics. This first part of the book is comprised of systematic theology,  historical theology, and  apologetics.

Part 2 is the comparison and contrast of Jesus and Christianity with four religious leaders and religions. Four religions are examined in this second section: Bhaki Hinduism, Buddihism, Confucianism and Islam. The same format is used in each chapter. First, Samples compares the religious founder with Christ on eight points: history, nature, character, mission, role, state, life, future. Next, Samples compares the religion with Christianity on six worldview points: cosmos, ultimate reality, history, human beings, human predicament, solution. The last category of comparison is the religion and Christianity on five points: problem, need, solution, goal, assurance. Samples closes each chapter with suggestions for evangelistic encounters with the discussed religion.

Part 3 is comprised of two chapters and a conclusion. These chapters deal with Christianity's relationship with competing religions. The discussion of pluralism, inclusivism and Christian exclusivism serves as a natural close to this helpful volume.

Ken Samples has authored an excellent, one volume resource contrasting Jesus Christ with competing religious founders and ideologies. I would recommend this book to any Christian needing to bolster his understanding of Christ. Additionally, this resource makes for a great volume to pass along to skeptics of Christ and Christian exclusivism. With a comparison/contrast model, readers get to see the similarities and real differences between major religions and Christianity. What becomes very clear in this study is that Jesus is vastly superior to human sages. Unlike these mere human founders, Jesus was morally perfect and his life is grounded in the reality of history.  Additionally, with this comparison Christianity shines as light in darkness, truth in a world of error. With a Christianity that is growing increasingly ignorant of the exclusivity of Christ's teachings, Kenneth Samples' God Among Sages is a most welcome book and worthy of recommendation. 

I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Reflections After Two Years

Two years ago I started in ministry at Desert Heights Church.  It has been a fast and fulfilling couple of years. After what seemed like an eternity of schooling, I am finally getting to do what I love at a place I love. Desert Heights Church is the church I’ve always longed for. It’s a church that is serious about the Bible. The weekly diet of preaching is an expository feast. In my two years at DHC, we’ve worked through 1-2 Timothy, Hosea, Joel, Amos, and we just started 1 Thessalonians. Verse by verse preaching creates an appetite within people for substantive, authoritative preaching. Many of our people are regularly reading and journaling through the Bible. Desert Heights is a healthy and growing church. As a pastor, I am growing along with it. Below are some reflections on my two year anniversary of ministry at DHC.

Equipping Classes
At Desert Heights, we don’t have a traditional Sunday school program. Our heart is to equip our people to serve knowledgeably and effectively. We do this by developing and offering  college-level Bible courses we call Equipping Classes.  Over the past two years, we’ve offered classes in ministerial philosophy, Bible overviews, Old and New Testament surveys, and several classes of systematic theology: the Bible, The Kingdom, God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and Man and Sin. I’m looking forward to teaching the doctrine of salvation, and the doctrine of the church later this year. Interest is growing in our Equipping Classes and it excites me to see people interested in enriching their walk with God through the study of doctrine.

Life Groups
Throughout the week several people from DHC meet together in homes for a time of building one another up, praying together, and sharing what God has been teaching them through his word. Because as a church we are all on the same Bible reading and journaling plan (SOAP), we come to Life Group having read the same chapters of the Bible. Hearing how God has specified his word to each person is a rich experience. Often, people point out verses that made a huge impression on them but you might have missed. It is a visible testimony to God's faithful working in conforming his people to Christ. It is rewarding to having meaningful, building up, accountable, relationships with other Christians. On several occasions, people have come to Life Group with heavy hearts and the group has built them up. This is how Christian community should be. After two years at DHC, I’m pleased to see God growing Life Groups.

DHC Youth
When I first began at Desert Heights, DHC Youth was the single most discouraging part of my job. Because our church is comprised of many young families, DHC Youth went through the pains of snail-paced growth numerically and spiritually during the first year. Now, DHC Youth is my favorite part of job. DHC Youth does not have a big budget. It does not have special facilities for teenagers. It is not centered around the triviality that defines far too many youth groups.  DHC Youth is a youth group that is hungry for the Bible. For the past two years we’ve been working our way through the Gospel of John. This last Tuesday, we finished chapter 16. As we've journeyed through John's theologically rich gospel, we've discussed a variety deep doctrines as the text presented them. Youth pastors who treat teenagers like they can’t handle Bible exposition are really doing these young adults a disservice. Teens need to know that Christianity is a viable and superior worldview to competing religious and secular perspectives. Teens need to understand that Jesus is lord. Teens need to submit to the authority of the Bible. The teens of DHC Youth don’t come every week because we play rad games (we don’t).  They don’t come because I’m Mr. Cool (I’m not). They come to be learn. They come to interact with Christian friends. They come to receive Bible teaching. I could not be more proud of my teens, I love them and at times wonder at the privilege God has given me by entrusting them to me. It is a joy and an honor to serve them.

Shepherd’s Conference
I plan on writing a longer post on Shepherd’s Conference soon but for now I will share a few things. To put it concisely, Shepherd’s Conference was incredible. I waited years to attend and it finally happened this year. I was refreshed by the substantive preaching, doctrinal singing, and incredible fellowship with other pastors. I also got meet one of my ministerial heroes and mentors, John MacArthur.  Last year I went to Together for the Gospel in Louisville, Kentucky. I am convinced that pastors should attend a conference like T4G or Shepherd's annually. It keeps them sharp through fine expository preaching, and rigorous theological discussion with close friends.  Just being ministered to is itself refreshing and makes conferences like these worthwhile. Shepherd’s Conference was a delight in every way and it will become an annual event for me.  I cannot wait to get back to Grace Community Church next year for this special time.

Coming Back Down to Earth
When I was at Bob Jones University, I remember Dr. Bruce McAllister speaking about those finishing seminary and entering into ministry needing to come back down to earth. After years of theological study, it’s necessary for new pastors reorient themselves from the academy to the church. This is not to say that pastors should not be engaged in scholarship or that preaching shouldn’t be theological. On the contrary, it would suit pastors and their congregations well for the pastor to reclaim his status as pastor-theologian.

Dr. McAllister wasn’t saying to disregard theological education and be a dummy. Coming back down to earth means meeting the congregation where they are and building them up to where they need to be. Few in the church care about the distinctions between soteriological systems, or ridiculous critical theories advanced by German liberals, or who John Owen was and why they should know about him.  Ordinary people in the church are concerned about the sin that is plaguing their family, or wrestling with why God would allow them to suffer through health maladies, or just how to even do something as simple as reading the Bible. Many young pastors make the mistake of speaking above their people so much that they hurt themselves long term because people assume they are arrogant or they just give up trying to follow along with the pastor is saying. 


Christians should know about Arminianism and Calvinism. Christians should know about the dangers of liberal theology. Christians should know the history of the church. But most importantly, Christians should be equipped to walk with God through Bible reading, prayer, Christian community and service. The rest will fall into place when people are walking with God.

I didn’t enter into ministry expecting people to be theological jedis nor did I try to impress anyone with C- knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. But the longer I am in ministry, the more aware I am becoming that my people need me to be an example of Christlikeness to them and need me to clearly and simply communicate to them what the Bible says. I will still teach my people systematic theology, historical theology, and church history and show them how critical it is to be familiar with these subjects. What has changed is how I do this. I am now slowing down, and being intentional with making things as simple and clear as possible. I am also learning not to get frustrated when people aren’t where I think they should be. While obvious, it's easy to overlook or to forget that not everyone has had the privilege to attend a Christian university and seminary. As long as people are walking with God, they will get to where they need to be in his time. My people don’t need me to be seminary professor. They need me to be a pastor-theologian who loves them, teaches them, and models Christ for them. Josh, teach deeply, but do it in a way that doesn’t make people feel like theology is out of their reach. Josh, encourage your people, don’t drop the hammer on them every time the opportunity presents itself. Shepherd them gently:

"So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock." ~ 1 Peter 5:1-3
This was probably the biggest take way from year two. God is working on my heart to be more patient, more understanding and more gentle with his people.

My time in pastoral ministry at Desert Heights has been amazing. Being with God’s people, administrating Life Groups and Equipping Classes, leading DHC Youth, and regularly preaching and teaching have been the greatest privileges I have experienced in my life. I don’t take the role of a pastor lightly or for granted at all. It is sheer mercy that I get to do this for a living (2 Cor. 4:1).  I look forward, God willing, to many more years of Desert Heights Church and of pastoral ministry.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Book Review: Meet Generation Z

James Emery White, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World. Baker Books, 2017. 219 pages. 



Overview of the Book
Meet Generation Z is divided into two parts, consisting of eight chapters total, with three appendices. 



Part One: The New Reality
1. A Seventh Age, the Second Fall, and the Rise of the Nones
2. Meet Generation Z
3. When Christ and His Saints Slept

Part Two: A New Approach
4. The Countercultural Church
5. Finding Our Voice
6. Rethinking Evangelism
7. Apologetics for a New Generation
8. Decisions

Appendix A: Gay Marriage
Appendix B: Mapping the Spiritual World
Appendix C: Why Believe in God? 
 


The Good
In my estimation, the real strength of Meet Generation Z is the first part: The New Reality. Here, White interacts with various statistics and sketches for us the current picture of where our culture is in regards to its social and religious perspectives. Surprisingly, while Generation Z is not religious, it is spiritually curious.
 


Generation Z, according to White, is made up of those born from 1995 to 2010. Essentially, Generation Z is made up of everyone presently under the age of 25. Generation Z is characterized by five traits: 1) Recession Marked, 2) Wi-Fi Enabled, 3) Multiracial, 4) Sexually Fluid, 5) Post-Christian.

Chapters two and three were, for me, the most helpful in the book. Here, White presents Generation Z. Generation Z is losing its childhood and innocence at a younger age than any preceding generation, it is highly influenced by the music industry, and is riddled by pornography.  Additionally, Generation Z's parents tend to be under protective and religiously unaffiliated.


The data presented here is excellent information that should interest anyone working in youth ministry. Every generation has its own quarks, and the information here orients the reader towards understanding where Generation Z is at. 



The Bad
White has a commendable and desirable passion to reach Generation Z. Unfortunately the means he prescribes to reach them are seriously deficient. He advocates that the Sunday gathering of believers be fundamentally changed towards reaching the unbeliever. White writes, "Yes, I know, many churches feel that both weekend services and small groups should be discipleship oriented. We disagree. The weekend service should be, a least for now, the front door of the church for outreach. As a result, it should crafted optimally for that outreach. That often means it is not crafted optimally for discipleship" (p. 152).  Everything in the service from the music played, the media used, the messages, and the dress should be oriented towards reaching the lost. 



This understanding of nature of church is fundamentally flawed. The church is the gathering of believers. The word for church, ekklēsia, means the called out gathering or assembly. The church is comprised of those who have been called out this world of sin (1 Pet. 2:9), called to live holy lives (1 Peter 1:15-16 ) that are worthy of this great calling (Eph. 4:1). The church is the gathering of believers building each other up (1 Cor. 14:26; 1 Thess. 5:11) and pastors are those who are to equip God's people to do the work of ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). The church is the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:17; Eph. 4:12; 5:30; Col. 1:24). This is not to say that unbelievers aren't welcome to attend the gathering of Christ's body, the church. But to orient the service for the unbeliever and not for the believer is ministerial malpractice. The Sunday gathering is for the building up of God's people. It is the responsibility of every believer to go out from the church and do the work of evangelism and discipleship (Matt. 28:18-20).



White's suggested correctives flow from his errant view of the church. He advocates that we should rethink evangelism, be cultural missionaries, skew young, target men, prioritize children's ministry, cultivate a culture of invitation, disciple your mission. While some of these methods can be helpful (targeting men and having an excellent children's ministry) some of them are downright silly. White actually suggests hiring young people and going to great lengths to have young people in prominent positions on the platform or as greeters--simply because they are young. If you want to attract young people, White argues, then feature young people. The biblical model is not the rejection of young people, but young people being examples of godliness (1 Tim. 4:12-13). The Bible certainly not exalt young people just because they are young. Instead, young believers are to be discipled by older believers (Titus 2:1-8). Intentionally portraying the church as young to reach the young is pragmatic in nature and wrong. 



Conclusion
Overall, I benefited from reading White's book. At Desert Heights Church, one of the hats I wear is that of youth pastor. My experience with Generation Z fits what White describes in the first part of his book. Where I profoundly disagree with White is how to reach them. At DHC, we are serious about expository preaching (explaining the biblical text). This usually takes the form of going through a book of the Bible verse by verse. We are often told by people that one of the main reasons why they stay is this commitment to the authority of the Bible manifested by verse by verse preaching. DHC Youth, which I oversee, is also committed to expository preaching. In the year and a half that I've overseen it, the youth group, made up of 13-17 year olds, has slowly grown.  These teens come because they are learning and growing in their faith. I have not expended any energy in trying to dress like them, or talk like them, or strain to communicate to them using  references of their culture. I have simply loved them and fed them with the Bible--which is the essence of pastoral ministry (John 21:15-19; 1 Peter 5:1-5). 



My one complaint--substantial complaint--with White's book is his minimization of the ordinary, God-prescribed ways of church ministry in favor of over-contextualization and pragmatism. We can and should expend much energy in reaching the lost, but it is God (John 6:44) through the power of his Gospel (Rom. 1:16-17) that will grow his church (Matt. 16:18). Generation Z like every other generation preceding it, will be reached not by man's innovation or creativity but by ordinary churches using the ordinary, God-ordained means of growth (Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 10:14-20; 1 Cor. 1:18-25). Christ will build his church and nothing, including the gates of Hell, will prevail against it.




Friday, January 20, 2017

President Donald J. Trump

A New Beginning
January 20th, 2017.  Inauguration Day. Today is a day to celebrate. Today is the day where the forgotten, American worker received the representation he so longed for.  Today is the day where power was returned to the people.  Today is the day when globalism died and American nationalism was reborn. 
 
The Day Everything Changed
In 2012, Barack Obama was well on his way to fundamentally transforming America. The world was on fire. The economy was in shambles and the middle class was being crushed to death. Thousands of working men and women had seen their hours  and wages cut, been laid off, and lost their homes. When Barack Obama easily defeated Mitt Romney, every conservative across America felt the sickening blow of a clear, crushing defeat. There was a finality to it. The Republican leadership and party became a party of non resistance, then disappeared from relevance. Conservatism was dead.

On June 16,2015 everything changed. 

Donald Trump, the New York billionaire businessman, entered the race. His announcement speech was electric and sent shock waves across the country. Trump thrashed the politicians ruining the country, expressed disgust at the state of the economy, made illegal immigration a prominent issue, and vowed to make America great again. 

From that first speech throughout his entire campaign Donald Trump has campaigned on an America first platform. America's border would be secure. America's military would be strong. America's economy would recover. His political ideology moved past traditional conservatism to American nationalism. 

Trump descended from his New York City penthouse on the top of Trump Tower to be a man of the people. He is the populist billionaire fighting for the common man. He is tough. He is brash. He doesn't hold back. He tells it exactly how he sees it. He is a scrapper. He is what Mitt Romney never could be. For years, Republicans have wanted real change and strong leadership; and that's exactly who they got in Donald Trump. He was the conservative's dream candidate. He was the candidate that we had been waiting so long for.

Immediately, the media attacked him with the standard playbook used against Republicans: Trump is a racist! Trump is a sexist! Trump is a bigot! But none of it stuck. The political establishment, both Democrat and Republican united against him. But the more they spoke, the higher he climbed. Americans were feeling nothing less than rage against the political class that was hurting them. Purist conservatives offended at Trump's character flaws and failure to pass their litmus tests for conservatism vowed to vote #NeverTrump. But they failed to understand that the drastic reforms required the bull dog, crass, steel-spine personality of a Donald Trump. Mitt Romney would never build a wall, eradicate ISIS, or even threaten tariffs. The #NeverTrump movement would prove to be as irrelevant as the GOP under Obama's term. The louder these groups shouted, spoke, and protested the higher Trump ascended. There would be no stopping him. 

One by one, Donald Trump knocked out the other 16 Republican contenders and secured the nomination. With Mike Pence by his side he entered the General Election against political elitist Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump could not be any more opposed to each other. The 2016 General Election was a contention of contrast: globalism vs. nationalism, the status quo vs.  change, the continued empowerment of the political class vs. the welfare of the common man.

On election night, the man who had never held a governmental office, the political maverick, the billionaire populist astoundingly defeated Hillary Clinton. The world was stunned. No one gave him a chance, the polls showed Hillary with a commanding lead over Donald, and the pundits predicted an easy, dominating victory for her. But the agony of the American worker was unaccounted for. The factory worker, the coal miner, the roughneck in the oil field--all were forgotten. Politicians, Democrats particularly, promised to go to Washington to fight for these workers, the backbone of America. But these were lies, nothing more than empty campaign promises. Instead of fighting for the common man politicians passed crushing trade agreements like NAFTA which did unaccountable damage to the working class. Higher taxes and regulation stacked upon regulation knocked these people off their feet and they suffered greatly. On November 8th, 2016 there would be a reckoning.  As the blue strongholds of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania went to Trump, the reality of the anger and hardships that the common man felt was realized. The election of Donald Trump was nothing short of a whole sale retaliation against Washington. For the first time in a long time, a private citizen, non politician, man of the people was going lead the nation.

Real Hope and Change 
Barack Obama campaigned on hope and change. The nation was swept up in optimism. It was a new America. Once the fanfare ended, though, things got ugly. He failed miserably. All across the country the cumulative policies of Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama came crashing down on the heads of the common American worker.

The effects of the economy's collapse have not been foreign to me. I've seen friends and family have their hour's cut, their salaries slashed, lose their jobs and their homes. The democratic policies have crippled the oil and gas industry. It's been hard to watch so many suffer so greatly.

For years, I've longed for a Trump presidency. In 2011, in the midst of non existent GOP, Donald Trump was figure of resistance against Barack Obama. He publicly flirted with the idea of running against Obama in the 2012 election. My hopes got high at the possibility of a successful businessman in the oval office.  Ultimately, however, he decided against a run and the Republican party nominated an abysmally weak Mitt Romney.  Trump continued to critique the president, and continued to be a figure of resistance.  During these four years he was slowly building a platform to stand on during the next election race.

It's hard to express the excitement I felt on June 16th, 2015 when Trump finally entered the race. Before and during his campaign I've been an enthusiastic, unapologetic supporter of him. Against many conservative friends of mine, I was not at all bothered by his less than traditional, strictly-conservative propositions. His populism and American nationalism was far more appealing to me than his meeting a litmus test for conservatism.  

In early October, I found myself in New York City. Being the enthusiastic supporter I was I visited Trump Tower and was blown away by its sheer grandeur. The success he had experienced is on full display in the elegance of Trump Tower. This successful leader is what America needed to be great again. Later in October I had the amazing experience of seeing him speak in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Wearing my crimson Make America Great Again hat, I stood with thousands of other people inside an airplane hanger and eagerly awaited him. Here were gathered a diverse crowd--Whites, Mexicans, and Navajos. The media's narrative of Trump's supporters being made up of white supremacists was grossly exaggerated. The place went crazy when his plane literally pulled right up to the hanger and he came out to speak to us. He spoke about draining the swamp, strengthening our military, building a wall along the border, and he committed to us that he would not allow governmental regulations to continue to hurt the oil and gas industry. The Yuuuge crowd, and the enthusiasm they had communicated a tantalizing possibility--Donald Trump could possibly take New Mexico. This was a solid blue state, that Democrats didn't even have to campaign in to win. And while he ultimately failed to take New Mexico (thanks to Gary Johnson), the possibility was a foreshadow of a reality that would surface on election night where some traditionally blue states would go red.  The next week, in my hometown of Farmington, New Mexico, I had the honor of meeting his son, Donald Trump Jr.  I shook his hand and expressed my gratitude for the Trump family's willingness to face the venom of political exposure. 


On election night I was filled with glee as it became increasingly apparent he would win. I never doubted him for a second. I knew he would win. I was convinced for years that Donald Trump would win if he entered. When Pennsylvania was called and word broke that Hillary Clinton had conceded to him it became official. Donald J. Trump was elected to be the 45th President of the United States of America. It was exhilarating, gratifying, and vindicating to see him descend the steps to victory surrounded by his family to cheers of his supporters. My heart was filled with joy and I felt tears in my eyes as my years of wanting Donald Trump to be my president finally came to fruition. 

Donald Trump isn't perfect. Not even close. He is a very flawed man. I don't, for one second, believe he is a Christian. But he has had my support from before he even entered the race because I believe his populist, nationalist political philosophy wed to an alpha male personality is exactly what is needed to restore America to national, global and economic greatness. Donald Trump is the combination of populist, nationalist politics and the grizzly, courageous personality to implement those polices. He is the anti-Obama.

Donald Trump didn't need the salary, he's a billionaire. He didn't need the status, he's a celebrity. He didn't need the criticism, he's an accomplished businessman. Donald Trump fought to become president because he loves his country and wants to make her great again. Donald Trump's inauguration as the 45th President of the United States has filled me with great hope for and has me expecting real change for our country. Donald Trump represents the post-ideological traditional politician.  He is a new breed altogether. He is not a liberal. He is not a conservative. He is a populist, American nationalist. He is going to restore our country to global respectability. He is going to build up our defense. He is going to use his power to protect the American worker by gutting crushing regulations, keeping American companies in America, and cutting taxes. 

It's a great day for America. The power has been taken away from the political elites and returned to the people.  For me, this journey to see Donald Trump being sworn into office has  been years in the making. I cannot wait to watch Donald J. Trump make America great again.

Image Credit: NBC News