Make sure to pick up the new release by Newt Gingrich.
Understanding Trump, published by Center Street (Hachette Book Group), serves as one of the first books mostly written since President Trump’s inauguration. Further, it is one of the only books released by a major publisher that takes a positive view of the current occupant of the White House.
Given that Mr. Gingrich is both a historian with an earned doctorate as well as the former Speaker of the House, he brings a unique perspective on any topic he chooses to write on. Combining historical awareness with public policy wonkishness, Gingrich’s prose sounds just like he talks–which is to say, both interesting and informative.
You may disagree with his politics, but Gingrich won’t bore you.
I hope this book will help people better understand that we may be at a watershed moment for our country. Trump represents the third–and hopefully final–great effort to break away from a half century of big-government liberalism dating back to the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson. The first big push came in 1981 when President Ronald Reagan took office. The second was in 1994, when we signed the Contract with America.
The Left and much of the media are horrified, because the age-old power structures on which they rely are specifically the ones President Trump is seeking to demolish and rebuild. Some in the establishment are confused, because Trump’s campaign–and his first months in office–are totally opposite from business as usual in Washington.
His success calls into question their presumed expertise and collective worldview. But many Americans are happy. To them, President Trump represents a force of change in Washington–the likes of which we’ve rarely seen in American history.
Trump’s election is a tremendous opportunity to tear down the walls of big government, liberalism, and elitism and set the path for a bold new direction that is once again guided by the will of the people. His approach to politics and governing can be studied as a remarkable strategy for breaking out of the Left’s intransigent power structure.
At the center of this phenomenon is President Trump, and as he learns and continues to evolve, this phenomenon will change with him. This book is a step toward understanding President Trump and his vision for the country, so we can achieve real and substantive change to make America great again for all Americans.
Twenty years ago today, a New Jersey high school senior named Melissa Drexler went to her prom–a very normal thing for teenagers to do.
But during the evening, she left her friends on the dance floor of the catering hall and entered the ladies restroom. There, she gave birth to a son and, according to The New York Times coverage of what happened next, Drexler “cut the umbilical cord, choked him and put him in a plastic bag that she knotted and threw away.”
Friends knocked at the door. She said, ”I’ll be done pretty soon. Go tell the boys we’ll be right out.”
She exited the bathroom and sat down at her table. She ate a salad, then danced one song with her boyfriend.
Very soon, what happened in the bathroom came to light, as the janitor was called to clean the mess she had left behind–and found the dead infant.
The callous manner of the murder shocked everyone–and the story went national. Labeled “Prom Mom” by the tabloids, people worked hard to try and come to an understanding of how someone could not just commit infanticide, but also return to the dance floor as though nothing had happened.
Also strange was the fact that nobody had seemed to know that Drexler had been pregnant: not her parents, her boyfriend, nor her friends who had gone with their third-trimester friend to try on prom dresses. Because of this, some people wanted to claim–or guess–that Drexler didn’t even know she was pregnant. Maybe it was all just an accident?
But in her court testimony, Drexler admitted that she knew she was pregnant, that her water broke that morning, that she went to the prom anyway, and that she knew she was killing the baby. She pled guilty to aggravated manslaughter and the judge sentenced her to 15 years in prison–the maximum sentence. Drexler served just over three years and was released in November 2001.
In recalling such a sordid piece of news–now twenty years old today–I’m still left feeling what I did two decades ago when this story first broke: sackcloth and ashes.
I have a son who will be twenty on his next birthday.
Some crimes serve as an indictment on the larger society from which they arose. Infanticide has occurred throughout human history. But callous, middle-class, infanticide as a means of not missing a night of teenage fun? When that happens, it should give reason to pause for reflection.
Had Drexler aborted the child 2-3 months earlier, our culture would have looked the other way. Or even funded the procedure. But since she carried the child full-term and then threw it in the trash receptacle, she became “Prom Mom.” But morally, what’s the difference between the two actions? How does 60 or 90 days change the morality of the action?
“Christopher”: the name Melissa Drexler later gave the baby.
A beautiful name in both sound and meaning: “Christ-bearer”–the idea that Christians bear Christ in their hearts.
Jesus Christ was born in a manger and, as an infant, he was hunted down for execution by King Herod.
But in the fullness of time, Jesus bore our sin while on the cross. Now, those who bear him in their hearts feel sorrow for sin and find salvation from it. That offer goes out to everyone, no matter what they have done or who they did it to. That’s grace.
Christopher Drexler–born twenty years ago today–we remember you. May reflecting on your brief, snuffed out life lead to our national repentance.
Neither public opinion nor legal rulings on the death penalty in the United States remain fixed. Upfront, we acknowledge that the judicial system does not provide complete impartiality and perfect justice. But the fact remains that the majority of citizens recognize that some crimes demand the ultimate punishment be meted out on the guilty.
The Pew Research Center website contains a treasure of public opinion data on the subject, going back years. A recent post stated:
“Support for the death penalty in the U.S. has fallen dramatically in the past two decades, but more Americans still favor than oppose it. A Pew Research Center poll in August and September 2016 found that 49% favor the death penalty for people convicted of murder, while 42% oppose it. But support is at its lowest level in more than 40 years. Democrats account for much of the decline in support over the past two decades. In 2016, just 34% of Democrats favored the death penalty, compared with 72% of Republicans.
And speaking of 40 years, it was in January of 1977 that a prisoner was executed in the U.S. after almost ten years of executions being stayed. Prior to that, the last execution occurred fifty years ago this Friday.
On June 2, 1967, Colorado put to death Luis Jose’ Monge for the first-degree murder of his pregnant wife and three of his ten children (and, of course, the child in the womb too).
The case against Monge was simple. Though he apparently had planned on killing his entire family and then committing suicide, he ended up calling the police and confessing to the murders. Two had been beaten with a fire poker. A preschool son was strangled. An infant daughter was stabbed.
Apparently, Monge’s motive was to hide an ongoing sexual molestation of one of his daughters. Better to kill his entire family and die himself than to be exposed as a molester?
For such a man, the death penalty was certainly fitting.The jury recommended
The jury recommended execution for his judgment, and six years after the crime, Monge entered the gas chamber at the Colorado State Penitentiary. Twenty minutes later, he was pronounced dead. It would be the final time Colorado used the gas chamber. And, it would be the final execution anywhere in the U.S. until the aforementioned January 1977 resumption of the death penalty.
During these years, death penalty opponents took the issue all the way to the Supreme Court (Furman v. Georgia, 1972). And so, the lower courts stayed all pending executions. And so, Monge’s execution–fifty years ago this Friday–has the distinction of being the last for a decade.
But thirty years to the day of Monge’s execution, Timothy McVeigh stood in a Federal Court and heard a judgment of “guilty” declared against him for his murderous actions at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. 168 people died. 680 were injured.
In that courtroom on the 2nd of June 1997, McVeigh was pronounced guilty. And eleven days later, the jury recommended the death penalty. Technically, he was convicted of the deaths of the Federal officers he killed–and that is why when McVeigh was put to death in 2001, the execution took place in a Federal prison at the hands of the Federal government.
Technically, he was convicted of the deaths of the Federal officers he killed. And that is why when McVeigh was put to death in 2001, the execution took place in a Federal prison at the hands of the Federal government. McVeigh was the first person executed by the Federal Government since 1963–a most just and fitting end to the life of the mass murder who loathed the Federal government.
Improvements in the judicial process are a constant concern. Short of eternity–and God’s perfect judicial declarations–human declarations of guilt and innocence will be flawed. Sometimes, they may even be intentionally skewed toward injustice.
But once the debate over capital punishment begins, press home the logical conclusions of those who would argue against the state having any right to execute a citizen.
Press that thesis to its Luis Monge conclusion or its Timothy McVeigh conclusion. Should these two men have been sentenced to live out the remainder of their natural life in prison?
It is important as parents to actively teach our children about the meaning of important events, dates, holidays–the help the understand the significance of the moment.
Like the Old Testament Jewish leader Joshua who commanded the people to set up stones of remembrance, we believe that having a memory of things past is vital to the present and future morality of a people.
Joshua 4:20-24 “And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.
On Memorial Day, take the time to find narratives of heroism and sacrifice and tell them to your children. Celebrate the people who gave their life to defend our nation, and counter the trend of building “men without chests.”
To this end, my inbox today gave me this gem from my friend David Lane:
“This Medal of Honor recipient Master Sargent Roy Benavidez was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Ronald Reagan for his actions in South Vietnam in May of 1968.
As we celebrate Memorial Day in America, and live in freedom, we thank God for you men and women in the United States Armed Forces–and your sacrifice.
Search online for “Beryl Amedee” and you’ll quickly find the video, “Freshman legislator Rep. Beryl Amedee invokes scripture on the budget mess” (embedded below). Amedee, standing before her colleagues, used the too-often-perfunctory task of giving an opening prayer to call the lawmaking body to repentance and reform. She employed theological language marked by boldness, sobriety, and grace.
And keep in mind, this was in her first full week of service as the newly elected Representative for Louisiana’s 51st District.
I interviewed Rep. Amedee last week to hear about how the work is going. I especially wanted to hear about the origin and outcomes of this opening prayer.
Knowing and using Scripture while in the public square is becoming a rare thing. And framing a policy matter like debt as something that must be repented of–that is unusual language for a public official. Did you get any feedback from that prayer?
Feedback, backlash–Yes, they haven’t asked me to lead in prayer since. It’s been a year and a half.
The house has a routine. Every day when we open the house floor session, either one of the legislatures or the chaplain who was standing to my right in this video or maybe a guest like someone’s pastor will come and pray. On that day it was my turn. They asked, and I agreed.
My prayer was coming from my heart, overflowing with having the opportunity to now not only pray for the state of Louisiana as a citizen, as a member of the state of Louisiana but to pray from the position of being a legislator. I was going to pray from the position of one who now carried the burden to make certain decisions on behalf of the whole state.
When you pray from your position of authority, that’s when your prayers can be most effective. If you’re the parent of a child, when you pray for that child, your prayers are most effective. I can pray for my neighbor’s children and as a believer, I have some authority. But no one can have greater authority in prayer for that child than their own parent or grandparent.
And so, having the opportunity to stand and pray a public prayer in the house chamber–as a house member–was a beautiful opportunity for me. So I tried to take full advantage of that authority, first by thanking God for all the many and abundant blessings that he has always bestowed upon Louisiana. But secondly for also standing in the gap by taking the responsibility for the years and years of wrong decisions.
I’m not saying every decision was wrong or every legislator had made horrible decisions. And I certainly wasn’t pointing at simply the previous administration. I was taking on the responsibility of saying, “I may be a freshman, but now I am a legislator, and the legislature over the years has made certain decisions that have brought Louisiana to this point in time, to this condition, to this circumstance that we now need to address and repent of and change.” I was asking other believers to join me in repenting of that so that we can move forward.
The effect of that prayer is that many people who maybe never have heard that kind of prayer were highly offended, because they thought that I was calling them out and saying, “You are corrupt. You did this. It’s your fault.” And over the next few weeks after that prayer, if I had a bill on the house floor, it didn’t matter what the topic of the bill was, the questions that came from some members were: “Do you believe I’m corrupt?” Of course, I think that that’s a complete misunderstanding.
Overall, what is it like to be a freshman legislator there in Louisiana? And what are the particular challenges of being a Christian lawmaker?
Well, I came in with certain preconceived ideas, and some of them have panned out wonderfully–and some of them have been a little surprising and disappointing.
For example, in my first session–being faced with a $2 billion shortfall–I thought, “I’m just getting here. What are we going to do?” I looked to a lot of the senior members, some who’ve been there for years, and I was really disappointed that after years of dealing with this budget, they didn’t seem to have more answers than they did.
I was hoping that through some experienced leadership we would have a big plan that I would really be able to jump into and promote. But I was disappointed because I didn’t see any big plan.
In coming to Baton Rouge, I had vowed that I that I would put everything I could into the work. So it was quite shocking to have to figure out where to find $2 billion and to be faced with a budget that is so convoluted and twisted and complicated–more so than probably any other state budget in the nation.
On the other hand, many things were familiar to me because I had done grassroots lobbying for years. I relished the opportunity to come in and debate and explain ideas and share ideas with legislators.
What inspired you to run for office?
As a little girl, I would have never said, “When I grow up I want to be a legislator.” Never even crossed my mind. But back when I was homeschooling three children, some Congressman decided to pass a bill to make what I was doing illegal The proposed law said that in order to teach your own children in your own house, you needed to be a certified teacher. And so, I got involved in the grassroots movement to try to kill that legislation.
So, I got involved in the grassroots movement to try to kill that legislation. This was back in the days before cell phones, before email or internet in our homes. To communicate with Congress meant calling or faxing the member’s office. We organized and were so successful that for three business days in a row, the capital switchboards were shut down because they were overwhelmed with so many calls. Congressmen had to leave their offices, walk down the street, and find payphones just to get any business done.
And …Congress has never attempted to outlaw homeschooling since.
And then, this political activity ended up being an ongoing thing in your life?
Yes, as my sons were old enough to be at home by themselves for a little while, I would run off to Baton Rouge and argue with legislatures any time they attempted to put further regulation on homeschoolers. But while I was there, I found there were a number of topics I could discuss with legislators–life issues, religious freedom, parental rights, and issues about smaller government. I enjoyed it very much as a hobby.
Yes, it was the Issachar Training workshop in Baton Rouge that was put on by the American Renewal Project. It was very helpful. I loved the ideas that were promoted and the explanations that were given. The training was very beneficial, and I recommend it.
Now, for me, it came a little bit late because I was already halfway or two-thirds of the way through a campaign at the time. So, I was sitting there thinking, “I wish someone had explained to me earlier.” It’s okay though because I’ll still put to use everything that I learned–in the future.
Did you enjoy the campaigning? Some people they enjoy that. For others, it’s a gruel. How did you take to the campaigning?
It was both. There were parts of campaigning that I truly enjoyed–knocking on doors, doing events and organizing the groups–that’s fun to me. The difficult part was to constantly have to look for places to put up campaign signs!
I was coming in as an unknown. Signs don’t vote–that’s the saying. And yet if your name is not known, signs are a really good way to get your name out there. But it felt like I spent nine months doing nothing but putting up campaign signs from the crack of dawn ’til after dark. I had mosquito bites to prove it. So that was the grueling part.
Would you encourage Christians to consider run for elected office? And particularly for people who are vocational pastors?
I wholeheartedly encourage believers to run for whatever office interests them, at whatever level of government they could reach.
There is a belief these days in America about the separation of church and state–and it’s a false belief. The Constitution says nothing about churches being separate from the government. The Constitution, when it talks about religion, talks about keeping government out of the church–and there’s a big distinction there.
I believe that if Christians are not involved, if we don’t have a civic voice, if we don’t have any positions of authority, especially those positions that make the decisions like legislative positions, then our voice is lost. Our voice is hidden away.
And so the only way we can hold steady, the only way we can, maybe, make progress at restoring some of the religious liberties that we’re quickly losing, the only way that the church can be an influence in policy, is to be involved.
Sometimes, being involved could simply mean praying. We’re all supposed to do that. Other times it means taking action like showing up at your local government meetings and speaking up that you either feel strongly about because you love it or because you hate it. But other times it might mean just jumping in and running for a particular office. And that could be any office, but especially those offices where the decisions are made.
As for pastors, many pastors–especially the senior pastor of a large congregation–may not have the time to give to serving in public elected office, because it is a sacrifice. It is a responsibility, and there’s always work to be done.
However, there are people who are serving in ministry who may not be the senior pastor of a large congregation, who may not have that everyday, all-day type of responsibility–they could give up a portion of their time to civic and community service in this way. And I do highly recommend it.
Now, as an example of “Issachar Stories,” here is a fresh story of a pastor who recently stepped into the public square.
What’s interesting about Roy Costner’s story is that he began down this path after his son ripped up his high school Valedictorian speech!
Instead, he quoted the Lord’s Prayer and the crowd went nuts with applause. By the end of the week, the young man sat for an interview with Megyn Kelly.
You see, an out-of-state liberal group had issued a “cease and desist” order against graduation speeches mentioning God. All speeches were to be approved in advance.
But the son decided to ignore those shackles on his First Amendment rights.
Shortly thereafter, the father attended an American Renewal Project event in South Carolina, hosted by Bobby Jindal. The Lord began working on Costner. Fast forward…he is now the elected Council member of Pickens County–and the Chairman of the Council!
I recently had the joy of talking with Roy Costner (III and IV) — a father and son duo from Pickens County, South Carolina.
Roy (the son) made national headlines four years ago when he recited “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:9-13) in his Valedictorian speech at Liberty High School–after tearing up the speech that had been approved by Administrators. You may remember seeing Costner talk about it on news programs (i.e., Megyn Kelly).
Well, Roy (the father) found inspiration in his son’s actions and sensed a calling to enter public service by running for a seat on the Pickens County Council. He won, and the Council made him the Chairman.
Did I mention that he is an Associate Pastor?
Here is the video of the interview, followed by a transcript (lightly edited for clarity). I embedded a clip of the younger Costner’s graduation speech into the video at the beginning.
Lamb: Throughout human history, for people to have heard the Lord’s Prayer by somebody standing in front of them, a pastor or somebody else, that’s not unusual. So, to get a rousing applause means that there’s a story there. I want you to tell me that story. Why would a Valedictorian get such applause by reciting the Lord’s Prayer? What’s the story?
Roy (son): Well the Freedom From Religion Foundation out of Wisconsin had sent a letter of intent to our school board the semester before I graduated at Liberty High School and they were basically saying that all allusions to the Bible, any reference to God was to be removed from all aspects of school life. That also meant that they were going to restrict the Valedictorian Speech as well. Whenever I sat down with our principal, she basically said to us no allusions to the Bible, no references to God can be made.
Lamb: What did you think immediately when you heard that? Were you like, “Oh rats. I had something good planned.” What was your immediate thought?
Roy (son): Well I didn’t understand. First of all, it was phenomenal. When the Freedom From Religion Foundation had sent the letter of intent, there was actually a school board meeting held where thousands of people from the local community came out and they were all praying. There was standing room only in that building when they were going to present before the school board saying, “We don’t agree with you guys doing this. We don’t understand why you’re doing this. God is such a powerful aspect of all life here, especially in the upstate.” There was no internal compliance within the school district. It was all external so nobody understood why this was happening at all.
There was no internal compliance within the school district. It was all external so nobody understood why this was happening at all.
Lamb: Okay, all right and remind me, what year was this? I didn’t catch the year on the YouTube. How old are you now?
Roy (son): This was in 2013. It was in June of 2013. I’m 22 years old now so it’s been about four years since then.
Lamb: Okay, so what makes an 18-year-old or thereabouts, what makes a young man decide to take this kind of stand? I mean what kind of thought process went through it? Did you just get some counsel from others? Take us through that process of your thinking.
Roy (son): Well they challenged me to speak on the past. That’s what they asked me to speak on as the Valedictorian. I really didn’t know how I could speak about the past without incorporating all the aspects of God and how He’s had His hand in my life ever since birth really until the day of graduation. So I felt like it was important to include Him and I felt like they were taking that away and especially with the already escalated tension within the school district. I wasn’t sure what to do to be honest.
It wasn’t until … I had a conviction about it. I did a lot of praying about it. I spoke to my Dad a little bit and some of the other pastors in our local community, but at the end of the day it was still my decision and I felt such a strong conviction to do so and to really share the Gospel in a way and just say thank you for the time that I’ve had on this earth and where God has brought me to. I mean I didn’t even think I was going to be Valedictorian, to be honest.
Lamb: If you’re a student of history, can you imagine what our Founders would have thought–that this would have even been such a contentious issue? I mean can you imagine the Founders right after the Revolutionary War saying, “Hey let me take you to the future and show you a man of courage–he’s reciting the Lord’s Prayer.” What a diminishment of our personal liberties.
Okay so Dad, let’s turn to you now for a moment. That was something that came about because of things you’d poured into his life, but our children also influence our thinking, seeing the work of the Holy Spirit in a young man’s life. How has that impacted you?
Roy (father): Well so when this happened, and I have a confession to make. When he first came to me to say I want to go do this, I said, “Just go graduate. Don’t worry about it.” I talked to my pastor about it as part of our accountability and he said, “You know are you going to stand in the way of God?” I said, “Well okay.” When I talked to my son I said, “If you’re going to do this because you believe it’s what God wants you to do then do it. If you’re doing it because you want to stick it to the man, don’t do it.” He said, “Okay I’ve got my answer.” We didn’t even know if he was going to do it or not, do the Lord’s Prayer, so it was a surprise to us and boy, how exciting is it to see all those people get excited.
But I talked to my pastor about it as part of our accountability and he asked, “Are you going to stand in the way of God?” I said, “Well okay.” When I talked to my son I said, “If you’re going to do this because you believe it’s what God wants you to do then do it. If you’re doing it because you want to stick it to the man, don’t do it.” He said, “Okay I’ve got my answer.” We didn’t even know if he was going to do it or not, so it was a surprise to us and boy, how exciting is it to see all those people get excited.
It stirred something in me. Fast forward a couple of years later I went to, I hear Governor Bobby Jindal speak. Governor Jindal was talking and to be honest with you I thought he was going to ask us for money for his presidential campaign.
Lamb: This was at one of the American Renewal Project meetings?
Roy (father): Yes, at the American Renewal Project, at a function that happened in Greenville, South Carolina. We got invited as pastors to come hear him speak and he gave his testimony. As a part of his testimony, he said, “I believe that the country needs to wake up. I believe that Christians need to have an awakening and as a part of that we’re asking all you pastors to consider serving in a public life. Run for office. Do what you can in your community.”
After seeing what happened with my son and the impact that he had not just in our community but across the country, and hearing Governor Jindal speak I said, “You know what? I’m going to run.” I ran for county council, ran against an incumbent who’d been there for 20 years and won hands down. Was thrilled to be able to do that and then at the very first organizational meeting they elected me as chairman. So I began January the 3rd. I was chairman, I am currently Chairman of Pickens County Council.
So I ran for County Council–ran against an incumbent who’d been there for 20 years and won hands down. Was thrilled to be able to do that and then at the very first organizational meeting they elected me as Chairman. So I began January the 3rd. I am currently Chairman of Pickens County Council.
Lamb: And what kind of things does the Council do there in Pickens County? What kind of responsibilities do you have?
Roy (father): Oh boy. I will say this, when I won the election I felt like I needed to go through a crash course in understanding local government. Of course, we’ve done a lot. We’re very fortunate that four of the six people on the council are brand new including myself, and with that what we’re accomplishing is … All we want to do is communicate, educate, work with the different municipalities, work with the different schools, work on economic development in the sense of how all that works together.
One of my personal goals being a pastor is I really want to try to see if our … Even though you’re not supposed to keep God in government, I want to see if there’s a way that our council can help work with the pastors in the community to really create that awakening that Governor Jindal talked about where we all come together, leave our catchphrases, our slogans, our denominations at the door and truly have an awakening. Maybe it’s an event once a quarter, once a year, but whatever that is to bring together people talking about Jesus Christ.
In our county–to me this is astounding–we’re in the Bible Belt and most people say we’re the belt buckle of the Bible Belt. There are over 170 churches in our county. There are 16,000 students in this county and of those 16,000 students, 14,000 don’t go to church.
Lamb: 16,000? You’re talking K-12?
Roy (father): K-12.
Roy (father): 16,000 total kids and of that 14,000 don’t go to church.
Lamb: Wow, that’s a generational difference from 50 years ago. I mean in terms of the Carolina’s and the Bible belt.
Roy (father): Absolutely. I really believe, I believe it has to do with all the churches worrying about their own little kingdoms and what I want to do is as a leader be able to pull the pastors together and say, “You know what? It’s all one Kingdom with one Jesus Christ. There’s one cross and there’s one way to Heaven. So, can we not all come together and really accomplish something incredible, not just for our county but for the upstate, and for our communities?”
Lamb: Okay, so you said you’re a minister, a pastor, and how has that gone with the people in the congregation you serve? Do they understand what you’re doing? Are there, is there any push back? I mean how’s that going for you?
Roy (father): Actually it’s been no different. They still talk to me, just goof on me as much as they did before I got elected.
It’s a great church. I’m Associate Pastor at Fellowship Community Church in Liberty, South Carolina. Pastor Chad Hope is our pastor and he has been very open, very forgiving of me and my time because as councilman–where I was helping out with youth on Wednesday nights, I now tend to get called to do a lot of meetings and other things that are going on.
We just as part of one of the things we just opened a new auditorium. It’s the Pickens County Performing Arts Center and we performed a play there called “Fried Apple Pies”. It’s a play that I wrote, but it’s a Christian play so we pulled in the churches. We did the donations for Meals on Wheels. This guy here ran sound and directed as far as everything that was going on. I mean we’re working towards pulling the community together.
Lamb: Well, let’s go back to son for a moment. What are you up to in the last four years? This is obviously a defining moment for you, but now the rest of your life goes on. What have you been up to the last four years and do you see yourself, how do you see yourself being involved in the public square or being very active in community life?
Roy (son): Well currently I’m still a student at Clemson University. I’ll be graduating this upcoming December.
Lamb: I think I’ve heard of that University. Is that the one with the football team?
Roy (son): Yeah, it’s a real small one.
Roy (son): No, we had a phenomenal year of football, but yeah I’m going to Clemson University studying communications. Like I said, I graduate in December. As far as what the future holds, I’d love to be able to serve. That’s my biggest thing and I think one of the ways that I can to that, I hope to eventually enter the public square, but right now on a discipleship basis, on a one-on-one basis. I think we can have maximum impact and really radically change our country and this world.So currently what I’m looking on doing is
So currently what I’m looking on doing is emphasis in videography as well as a minor in brand communication. I’m hoping to facilitate a way for small mom and pop type shops here in our local community to find a way to get websites done, to get video done, to get branding done all in one house for a reasonable cost because I really want to give back and be able to serve and be passionate about what I do and help others. I think I’ll be able to do things that way, but who knows what the future holds.
Roy (father): One of the things that he won’t … He doesn’t like to brag about. I’m really proud of him. He stayed humble through this whole process of being thrust onto the national stage and really staying core to his belief and his faith. He did write a book called, “It’s not a Coincidence.” I’m hoping that one day we can get somebody to publish this because it really tells the story of his life.
What he won’t tell you is he was born a preemie and at the time that he was born my wife and he were both in such a horrible situation, the doctor came and said expect neither one to make it. Before social media, before everything else, they started a prayer chain and we had folks calling from Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina all praying for my wife and my son. Three days later my wife got out of the woods and started doing better. Several weeks later this guy came home at four pounds. He’s fine now, but it was touch and go for a long time.
He talks in his book about how starting at such humble beginnings and believing that he really wasn’t even going to start and how God is–it’s not a coincidence that God put him in that path to be able to do that Valedictorian speech, to reach so many people.
And now, it’s not a coincidence that he did all that and now I’m Chairman of the county council.
Lamb: Obviously, you need a prayerful deliberate approach before you do something like jumping into an election, a campaign, that kind of thing. But given that somebody is prayerful and thoughtful about it, would you encourage pastors to consider being involved in local political offices and such–based on your experience?
Roy (father): Absolutely. I think everybody should experience this at some point. You know I think of something that I’ve taught the kids about for a long time which is 1 Timothy 4.7. Basically, to paraphrase it, it says it’s not how hard you try. It’s how well you train.
I don’t want to just try to be a Christian. I’m going to train at this every day. I’m going to read my Bible. I’m going to pray. I’m going to surround myself with people who have a love for Jesus Christ and I’m also going to reach out to those who don’t.
My son says, “You can’t take God out of me if I go the school. So they can tell me all day long not to bring God to school, but I’m taking him with me.”
The same thing is true with me whenever I serve in public office. Everywhere I go, I’ve got God right there with me.
I love that we still open in prayer. Everything that we do we keep Jesus Christ at the center of it. I believe that if more people would just jump in, and again, as Governor Jindal said–let’s wake up. Christians need to wake up. We don’t need to be the voices that are hiding in the closet. We need to be the guys that are sitting right out front telling the good news about Jesus Christ.
Our Baptist friends in Missouri held a conference recently to which they invited Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla to speak and then sit for a Q&A session.
During the Q&A, a participant asked Lankford about the current state of religious liberty debate in the U.S. Senate. Lankford spoke with great clarity to that point, bringing in discussion about the Johnson Amendment–which, of course, was in the news last week when President Trump announced an Executive Order that began work on the issue.
It will take action from the Senate–not simply an Executive Order from the Oval Office–to end this provision of the tax code.
To that end, listen to Sen. Lankford on this subject–and read the transcript that follows.
Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla: We work a lot on religious liberty. Religious liberty is a major passion of our staff. I have a team member that is a Liberty Law School graduate, incredibly sharp and is very active in this area with all of us.
Let me give you a couple of things. One is there are split decisions from the Supreme Court right now. You take the Hobby Lobby decision where it says individuals should be able to live their faith in how they choose to live their faith and not be restricted based on the place they work or how they work. You take that same Court and other decisions going exactly the opposite direction. The gay marriage decision for instance. By the way Justice Kennedy had two opposing opinions of himself a year and a half apart, in his own opinions based around the issue of religious liberty.
When I bring up religious liberty in the Senate right now, for instance I added in a requirement that every time we do trade agreements with any country in the world, for instance Vietnam, when we do trade agreements we should bring up human rights and religious liberty in that context. That’s a leverage point for us to say, you want to do trade with the United States. We value the opportunity for every person to live their faith as they choose to. If you’re not willing to do that, we want to restrict trade to you. It’s a leverage point. I added that in.
I had members of the Senate that came and caught me and said, listen is this amendment secretly anti-gay because you’re promoting religious liberty? Religious liberty and gay rights have now been put in opposition with each other in the culture that we live in. That is unfair dichotomy. But that is part of what we’re living in right now.
There’s also a battle Constitutionally between the Establishment Clause and between Free Exercise. To say is this establishment of religion or is this free exercise of religion? I lean pretty hard on free exercise. If this is an individual that’s an individual that can choose to have no faith or practice their faith. But not just have a faith, live their faith.
I often speak to people that we do not have the freedom of religion or the freedom of worship. This is a big catch for me. I have all kinds of folks say we have freedom of worship. We do not have freedom of worship in America. We have the free exercise of religion. Freedom of worship means if you come into this building you can worship how you want. Free exercise of religion says I can live my faith wherever and however I want. That’s a very different protection.
In that context, I met with Neil Gorsuch two weeks ago in my office and we had a long conversation. Part of that conversation was about faith. He has been very strong on his opinions of faith and has been very clear. He was one of the judges on the 10th Circuit dealing with the Hobby Lobby case for instance. He has been a person that’s leaned pretty heavily on the free exercise. In fact his opinion is government doesn’t have a role to step in to tell someone that’s their religious belief. That individual can live out their faith and needs to have the opportunity to be able to do it. This is one of the great arguments of our day though.
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve interviewed judges that will be in the western district of Oklahoma as our federal judges there because we have a couple of openings and that’s one of the issues I bring up to them. Because to me it’s a bell weather issue about privacy, about so many other issues. If I know where you stand on the free exercise of religion, I can guess pretty much where you stand on a lot of other issues because of those basic protections that are there.
One quick comment. I know we got to move from here. I’m working on something called the Johnson Amendment right now. Now President Trump has talked about this a lot, but this has been an issue for a long time. LBJ, when he was a Senator, snuck in in the 1950s a section of the tax code, telling non-profits that they could not get involved in electioneering. That’s never been defined by the IRS. Never. It just hangs out there.
So for instance, if there’s a state question that deals with a moral issue on the ballot, can your church talk about it? It’s a moral issue. It’s a biblical issue. The IRS has never clarified that. It’s a chilling of speech because some churches will say we’re not going to take the risk to threaten our non-profit status. Other churches won’t. It is the only area in our law right now that tells a group of people, you don’t have freedom of speech if you’re in a non-profit. If you’re in a for profit, you have freedom of speech. If you’re unemployed you have freedom of speech. If you receive a government grant or government subsidies, you have freedom of speech. But if you work for a church or a non-profit, you don’t.
That needs to be challenged. That’s one of the areas that we’re pushing on to be able to get resolution. I’m not talking about finances. No one should be able to run a political campaign through a church. That’s absurd. That’s already illegal, should remain illegal, but I’m talking about the ability for a pastor to be able to speak without worrying that there’s an IRS agent in the back monitoring their speech. That’s not the role of the IRS and a pastor just like a business owner or just like an unemployed person or a college student shouldn’t have the government monitoring their speech. We hope to be able to get that fixed this year, finally.
(Video courtesy of the Missouri Baptist Convention)
Gary Miller is no stranger to readers here at The Washington Times. He penned a great article on prayer that received a wide reading. The topic of prayer in the life of a Christian is a main theme of the ministry of Miller and his wife Dana.
And, prayer is the central theme of a new book Miller published, released this past week. I interviewed Miller about the book and its emphasis on prayer. We recorded it in video format, but technical issues on my end garbled the signal. Thankfully, we have the audio, and also an edited transcript of the interview (below the YouTube of the audio).
I hope you enjoy and profit from reading or listening to Miller’s heart on prayer as much I did in interviewing him.
Lamb: Gary, it’s always an exciting thing when a book is written by a friend. When a friend releases a book, I can’t wait to get my hands on it, because I can hear their voice–especially when a book is so central to one’s life as this new book you’ve written is central to your life and ministry. This theme of prayer isn’t a tangential issue or a side theme of your own life. So jump right in and tell us about this book. Start with the title itself. What is it all about?
Miller: Well, I had heard my father, Don Miller, use four little words for years: Talk less. Pray more.
I couldn’t shake that as a sense of direction. About seven years ago, Dana and I felt led to resign from full-time pastoral ministry and begin a ministry. We decided that since “Talk less! Pray more!” had been the central theme of our lives.
Lamb: Did anything in particular bring you to that point?
Miller: Yes, Dana’s battle with breast cancer brought us to that conclusion. When she was given that news, we were sitting there together and I just went to places I had never been before. She responded like a real prayer warrior–and I was a mess. The more I talked about it, the bigger cancer got.
During those two to three years with the surgeries and the chemo treatments, we would tap out on more than one occasion and just say, “We’ve talked too much. I’m already terrified. Can we just start praying?”
That challenge, the crisis–she called it her “great adventure.” I never got to that kind of spiritual maturity, but that’s where it really began. We were practicing prayer for years, but not at the level that cancer took us to.
“Talk less, pray more” just became a way to express in our lives the plea to God: “Just give us your direction here. Give us your protection. Any course correction in our lives. Make sense out of the senseless, things that are just terrifying to us.” That’s where it was birthed. I heard it from my dad, but it became a reality when we started having to live it and apply it.
A year or so before dad’s death, I told him that we had decided to call our ministry “Talk Less, Pray More” and dad said, “I’m going to put that on my gravestone.” At that time, I wasn’t sure he would even remember that he had said that, but I had never forgotten it. And it’s not something you can quite remind somebody to do. But the day after he died, my brother sent me a picture of his gravestone, and there it was, in those four words–Talk less, pray more. He had never forgotten that he had said that.
Lamb: What is the nature of prayer? What is the foundation of prayer? Looking in from the outside, prayer might seem like a strange thing. You bow your head. You close your eyes–that kind of strangeness. For a Christian, what is prayer all about?
Miller: The fundamental thing is that it’s not eloquence. It’s dependence. As a child runs to the father who he knows love him, the child expects an audience. A child doesn’t even need to know how to speak, but a child instinctively understands, “I’m running to someone who cares for me. Prayer is running to God. It is getting over yourself and running to him.
If you follow the life of Jesus–and that’s what has become the greatest encouragement to me about prayer–Jesus would pray this way: “Thy will be done.” The essence of prayer is to change “my” to “thy.”From me to thee. That involves knowing his direction and seeking his protection and any course correction along the way. Those three things have become elemental for me in praying.
When I get off my knees in prayer–this isn’t about me spilling my whine list to him. Baptists aren’t supposed to have a “wine list”–but we have our whine list, where we just cry out with all of our complaints. But what Jesus would do is he would conform his will to his father’s will through prayer.
I think that’s what happened when the disciples would hear him pray. The five greatest words spoken about prayer may be, “Lord, teach us to pray.” What we learned through this is that prayer is the thumb that helps you get a grip on life.
Without prayer, you’re just slapping at the enemy. Prayer is warfare with an enemy that seeks to kill, steal, and destroy everything we love and care about. When we fight him without prayer, we’re slapping at the enemy rather than making a fist. I think that’s something that I’ve learned is that this is about warfare, but it’s not about my power. It’s about his power. I’m going to him for his strength and his sense of direction in life. It doesn’t mean that you won’t have other challenges. I certainly don’t wish cancer on everyone, but we’re stronger if we’ll turn to him. Lord, teach us to pray. He didn’t teach us how to pray. He teaches us to pray.
Lamb: What does a Christian do when they sense a dry spell in their life? I think if we understand prayer, it’s something that is supposed to be natural, and perhaps it has been more natural at other times, but then there’s times where it does seem as though there is a dry spell. What do you do? Perhaps the old words, that would be “revival.” That has connotations of crusades and things, but it’s a biblical concept. How would you exhort somebody who is experiencing a desert of spirituality? How does prayer infuse new life?
Miller: The best counsel I was ever given as a young pastor when I was … I was at the end of my rope. We had just burnt out and been depleted. It’s your first pastorate…I said something to one of my men. I said, “I just don’t laugh anymore.” That concerned him. I didn’t remember saying it, but he came to me and said, “I want you to meet with someone.”
So, I met with this fellow, and in the course of our conversation, this older man said these words: “Your walk with God is the next 20 seconds.” I think if he had said another verse of scripture, read this book, go to this conference, do this one more thing, I think I just would have collapsed. But there was something about the gentle way that he said that.
A month later, he did not remember saying that to me, but I heard him say, “Your walk with God is the next 20 seconds.”
If you think about it, that’s the breath that’s in your lungs. Just take your breath, halitosis and all, and call out to God: “I feel dead inside. I need fresh breath from you.” Again, it doesn’t have to be eloquence. It’s dependence. If I had to give any counsel to somebody, just start breathing. Prayer is the next breath.
Lamb: It sounds through everything you’ve said so far that you envision prayer or you experience prayer under the shadow of grace, not at all prayer as a work, though it’s obviously something we’re called to do. But prayer is both a grace in the doing it and then in receiving from the Lord, which is a refreshing thing. It’s not something we do in order to win merit.
Ok, so tell me about some heroes of prayer. Throughout church history, there have been certainly some people you write about your studied or perhaps known. Some heroes of prayer?
Miller: There are some fellows like when I was a young I was handed a book called Waiting on God. A very simple 30 chapters. A little book by a fellow named Andrew Murray. 100 years ago in South Africa, Andrew Murray was a leader of a great awakening in that country and then in England and in America. He had been one of those forgotten authors. Andrew Murray challenged us to understand that prayer was not me just whining to God. It was waiting on God, that there’s timing in God’s preparation for us.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, he said, “I’d rather teach one man to pray than 10 men to preach.” He’s known as the prince of preachers, and yet he had that capacity to understand. We’re not quite getting hold of the power of God.
Chadwick, a great Methodist preacher out of England. He was a mentor of Leonard Ravenhill. The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies or prayerless work or prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray. There are men and women that have grasped this. I had not taken hold of that like they had. I felt like maybe I was like one of those disciples that heard Jesus pray. Lord, teach me to pray. What am I missing that these fellows got hold of?
I am not an expert at this. Prayer is a journey that I will never end until I take my last breath. He’s given me this way of having intimacy with him.
Lamb: Well, I know that you speak at conferences. Churches invite you in to speak on this topic, you and your wife Dana, and I know that this is something you think about and talk about quite a lot. I would reckon to say probably I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the book that just came out last week. An author who has drunk deeply in the subject matter before they write the book, the book’s probably going to be good. How can folks get a copy of the book?
Miller: Well, it’s very simple. It’s not a huge book, but they can go to TalkLessPrayMore.com, and they can go to our website. It’s available there. Or they can go to Amazon.
Lamb: All right. Well, Gary, thanks for taking your time with us today. I look forward to folks getting this. I look forward to getting it myself and digging in there. I know that for the particular Jesus in the public square kind of discussions that we often have here at The Washington Times, prayer is a foundational thing that we should be doing as a part of national revival. It begins with us, and it’s the kind of thing that we can do, no matter who else is doing it or not. It can start with us. You’ve spoken on those issues as well and believe in the importance of prayer in the public square.
We thank you for your time today. Folks, get a copy of this great new book, Talk Less. Pray More, by our friend Gary Miller.