Review of Ask the Question: Why We Must Demand Religious Clarity from Our Presidential candidates

Ask the Question: Why We Must Demand Religious Clarity from Our Presidential Candidates by Stephen Mansfield

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was one of the best political books I’ve read in awhile. Its thesis is that it does NOT violate the separation of church and state for citizens to ask a political candidate, especially for the office of President of the United States, about his or her religious convictions. On the contrary, that it is our responsibility to do so.

As with any book like this, your first question is, “Well, what’s the author’s bias?” And in this case, it is hard to find one. His previous books include both “The Faith of George W. Bush” and “The Faith of Barack Obama.” The appendix provides the text of three political speeches which Mansfield presents as the best modern examples of the intersection between religious faith and the presidency. One is from John F. Kennedy, one from Ronald Reagan, and one from Obama. It’s hard to see any bias other than the fact that religious convictions matter. They matter in determining how a president will govern. And I have to be honest, even though its hard to admit as a conservative evangelical: Mansfield makes a compelling case for why Mitt Romney would have been a great President, not in spite of his Mormon faith, but because of it. His chapter on Mormonism as a uniquely American religion convinced me that Mormon values would make a positive contribution to the character of a President, regardless of whether or not I believe Mormons are going to heaven.

The book was published in 2016, and has nothing to say about Donald Trump. It seems to anticipate Hillary’s candidacy, because it devotes an entire chapter to how she was shaped by her religious convictions. I wonder what he would have to say about Trump’s acceptance by the religious right, despite the fact that he is utterly unable to articulate any religious worldview whatsoever. Or maybe I don’t have to wonder. A quick search told me that he has written about Trump. I’ll have to check that out.

What was most interesting to me was the argument that a President doesn’t just need to articulate a religious viewpoint; he or she needs to have a grasp on what other religions believe, and how those beliefs shape geopolitics. Because no matter how much Trump tried to make it so, it is impossible for America to be isolationist. And because religion matters even more to our enemies than it does to our allies, it is crucial that American voters “Ask the question” to any aspirants to the highest office: What do you believe, and how will that impact how you lead?

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Planted in Babylon

Every year, I try to read the Bible all the way through. And every year, I learn something new. On this journey through the Old Testament, I realized for the first time that Zerubbabel, mentioned in Ezra and in Haggai, is a direct ancestor of Jesus. (See Matthew 1:13).

Zerubbabel led the first delegation of exiles back from Babylon to Jerusalem. He oversaw the re-building of the Temple. His name literally means “Planted in Babylon.” So the future Messiah came from one who was born in Babylon.

Do you remember when Jeremiah contradicted all the false prophets who were telling the people that the exile would be over before they knew it? God told Jeremiah to tell the people:

“Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:4-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

I am so thankful that Zerubbabel’s parents were obedient to God’s command to be fruitful even in a hard season. It is a challenge to all of us during this time in our own history.

Beloved, God made Zerubbabel— planted in Babylon— the great-times-eleven grandfather of Jesus! The Lord grew something beautiful from what was planted during a difficult season. And He still does that today!

Living in the Wild

vbs logoI love Vacation Bible School! There’s an excitement and an energy around the church that simply cannot be duplicated any other time of the year. And I am so thankful for the countless hours of preparation that go into every facet of it. Leslie Whaley, you are a rock star leading rock stars, and I appreciate you and your team so much.

I’m loving this years VBS theme, In the Wild. That’s pretty descriptive of a typical VBS classroom, right?! But in his recent book Letters to the Church, Francis Chan talks about how it ought to be descriptive of the church as well. He talks about the animated movie Madagascar that came out a few years ago, about a group of animals at the Central Park Zoo. The animals have a cushy life, and most of the animals love it. As Francis describes it,

They’re extremely well cared for. Trainers wait on them hand and foot, bringing them everything they need and ensuring that their habitats, which are carefully designed to look like “the wild” are safe and comfortable for the animals.

But the zebra finds himself dreaming about the wild. He can’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t made to live in a zoo. He was made to roam free…


41tg9kr35pl._sx329_bo1204203200_Francis Chan wonders if that can describe people in the church as well. We can get very comfortable in our church habitat, especially when there are so many hardworking staff and volunteers who work to make sure our needs are met. But were we made for something more? Every once in a while we get a taste of it. Maybe on a mission trip, or when we reach out to a neighbor or coworker and share the gospel with them. There’s risk, unpredictability, danger, the thrill of the hunt—in short, everything we don’t get when we are safely behind the walls of your habitat.

Glynwood, let’s get back in the wild! Jesus envisioned a church that would not be held back by any cages, walls, or fences. Not even the gates of hell could prevail against the church Jesus envisioned (Matthew 16:18)! I challenge you to take a step toward what we were created for. Step out of your comfort zone, and begin a conversation with a lost friend. Volunteer in our Matthew 25 ministry. Get trained as a Disaster Relief Worker. Go on a mission trip. Walk across the street and welcome someone to the neighborhood.


It’ll be wild!


Joy in the Journey!


Reflections on “Holy Justice” (from RC Sproul’s “The Holiness of God”)


holiness of god

I discovered R.C. Sproul fairly recently– last year I read Chosen by God as the first book I had read by him, and I felt like I was reading an American CS Lewis. This week, thanks to my friend Mark Knight trying to consolidate his library, I started reading Sproul’s The Holiness of God. And it is a fantastic book.

Chapter Six is called “Holy Justice,” and it deals with the harsh stories of God’s judgment against Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10); Uzzah (1 Chronicles 13-15), the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the Canaanite nations that were driven out before the Israelites when they entered the Promised Land. As Sproul says in the opening paragraph, these are not stories for the faint or faint of heart.

It’s admittedly hard to square our “God is love” understanding from the New Testament with the God who put Nadab and Abihu to death for experimenting with the rituals of sacrifice. It’s even harder to think about Uzzah, whose only offense (if you could even call it an offense) was trying to keep the ark from falling into the mud when the oxen stumbled who were pulling the oxcart it was sitting on. But Sproul makes some great observations which help us understand this story:

  1. The ark should never have been on an oxcart in the first place. God’s law was clear that it was to be carried on poles inserted through rings (see Ex. 25:10-16).
  2. Uzzah should never have been in a position to touch the ark in the first place. Only the Levites were authorized to approach the ark, and even then, not all of them could. Sproul suggests that Uzzah might have been a Koathite, which would have allowed him to carry the ark in the prescribed manner (see the above point). But even if he was (and I think this is a big if. I’m not sure how Sproul comes to this conclusion); the Koathites absolutely couldn’t touch the holy things, or they would die (Numbers 4:17-20). David apparently learned from the mistake, because 1 Chronicles 15 is very clear that Obed Edom, who has been housing the ark, is among the Levites who ultimately transport the ark to the City of David.
  3. It was presumptuous for Uzzah to assume his hands were holier than the ground. Uzzah did what any devout Jew would do–he reflexively reached out to steady the ark. But who are we to believe our hands, attached to our bodies, which rebel against God time and time again, are holier than the God-created ground, which never disobeys God? Sproul writes “Uzzah assumed his hand was less polluted than the earth. But it wasn’t the ground or the mud that would have polluted the ark; it was the touch of man” (Holiness of God, p. 108).

As I was journaling on this today, it came together in a poem. I wrote the last stanza several years ago, but this expands on that one stanza. You can kind of sort of sing it to “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Enjoy.


Look at God’s ark, on an ox-cart.

That’s a bad start, ain’t it?

Where’s the long poles that the priests hold

So their hands won’t taint it?

Oxen stumble, Uzzah fumbled,

Put out his hand and grabbed it.

The deadly lesson–don’t go messin’

With holy things, like Nadab did.

Why should we who are sinful all through

Think our hands are cleaner

Than the mud that blooms and buds at

God’s word, and earth made greener?

Obed-Edom, how we need him

To handle the ark safely

He’s a Levite; he’s got the right.

But Uzzah wasn’t, was he?


Revelation 7: The Seals, Part Two

It’s the end of the world as we know it. But we’ll be fine.

March 31, 2019, Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL

James Jackson, Lead Pastor

Click here for manuscript: Revelation 7 Manuscript

61liz79yq4l._sx345_bo1204203200_There have been two super helpful resources I’ve been using for this teaching series. The first is Revelation: Four Views–A Parallel Commentary by Steve Gregg. What I love about this one is that it takes each passage of Revelation and presents the four classic interpretations (historicist, preterist, futurist, spiritual) in parallel columns). A word of warning, though: as I learned last week, trying to present all four interpretations in a teaching time is overwhelming. This week, I tried to just cover the two I thought were most relevant for our discussion.

496826The second is the volume on Revelation in the Christ Centered Exposition series. I can’t say enough good things about this commentary. It is thorough, well-written, inexpensive, and practical. If you are using The Gospel Project or a similar curriculum that shows how all Scripture points to Jesus, you won’t find a better resource.

Four Questions, Four Cups (A Communion Service)

How the Gospel is revealed in the Passover Seder

March 31, 2019, Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL
James Jackson, Lead Pastor
Text: Luke 22:7-21

Click here for Manuscript: 4 Questions, 4 Cups Manuscript

Just to give you some context, I preached this after the platform of our sanctuary had already been converted into the set for our Easter production. It was the perfect opportunity to link the story of the Passover to the Passover meal Jesus shared with his disciples. I toyed with the idea of preaching the entire message from the “Upper Room” that was constructed as part of the set. But I was afraid the people on the front row would get cricks in their neck from looking up there the whole time!


In the sermon, I explained the elements that are on the Passover Seder Plate. Here is a great diagram that explains each one.


I had found an interpretation of the egg that connected it to the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart, instead of the new life after Egypt, so my explanation was a little different from this diagram.

(For what its worth, last week I ordered a Seder plate from an online Judaica store, but it didn’t arrive on time. Keep in mind, it took the Israelites forty years to get to the Promised Land, so I guess it was unrealistic to expect two day shipping).

christ in the passoverThere are many great resources for explaining the Seder from a Christian perspective. The most helpful to me as I was preparing this message was this pamphlet from Rose Publishing. You can click on the image if you’d like to order one from



Philippians #3: Striving Together, On Our Own

Is our Christian life a team sport or an individual pursuit? Paul’s answer to the Philippians: yes.

March 17, 2019, Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL
James Jackson, Lead Pastor
Text: Philippians 1:27-2:13

Click Here for Manuscript: 3. Striving Together On Our Own Manuscript

The Throne Room: Revelation 4-5

One Throne. Two Chapters. God in Three Persons. One response: WORSHIP.

March 17, 2019, Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL

James Jackson, Lead Pastor

Text: Revelation 4-5

Click Here for Manuscript: Revelation 4-5 manuscript

We ended our time of study with a time of worship. While a video of Kari Jobe’s Revelation Song played, we read and prayed aloud the five songs of Revelation 4-5. Because of copyright restrictions, I didn’t put the song in the video. But you can watch the video here as you meditate on Revelation 4-5.  Blessings!