Tulsi Gabbard’s announcement and the death of “American Idol” runner-up Willie Spence at 23

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Tulsi Gabbard’s announcement and the death of “American Idol” runner-up Willie Spence at 23

October 13, 2022 - Jim Denison, PhD

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, listens to a question during a campaign stop in Londonderry, N.H., Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

A closeup of Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard wearing a white suit in front of an American flag in 2019

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, listens to a question during a campaign stop in Londonderry, N.H., Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Former Hawaii Representative and 2020 presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard is leaving the Democratic Party, which she denounced as an “elitist cabal of warmongers.” Her announcement reminds us of Ronald Reagan’s famous statement, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.”

As the leader of a nonpartisan ministry, my intention today is not to criticize the Democratic Party. To the contrary, politicians leaving the Republican Party would make the same point I wish to emphasize: in the eyes of the world, we are what we do. George Eliot was right: “Just as we define our actions, our actions define us.”

What politicians and political parties do over time defines them far more effectively than platforms adopted at conventions or speeches made at rallies. The same principle applies to the rest of us, as Michael J. Fox noted: “Our challenges don’t define us, our actions do.”

This fact was reinforced for me when I saw the tragic news that American Idol Season 19 runner-up Willie Spence died Tuesday in a car accident at the age of twenty-three. Just hours before the fatal crash, he posted a video of himself singing a worship song.

When I read the story, this question came to mind: Would you do what you are about to do if you knew it would be the last thing you would do?

Do Christians only care about stopping abortions?

You may have seen ads created by the “He Gets Us” campaign, a $100 million effort to bridge the gap between the story of Jesus and the public perception of his followers. The campaign is based on market research showing that while many Americans like Jesus, they are skeptical of his followers.

The research split Americans into four categories: non-Christians (16 percent of the sample), people who are “spiritually open” (20 percent), “Jesus followers” (34 percent), and “engaged Christians” (30 percent). It revealed a large gap between the first three groups and the last.

For example, more than two-thirds of those in the first three categories agreed when asked: “Followers of Jesus say one thing, but do not follow those things in practice.” Only 5 percent of the “engaged Christians” agreed. Most in the first three categories also agreed that Christians only care about stopping abortions rather than caring for moms and their children; only 6 percent of the “engaged Christians” agreed.

Mayor helps family escape before train hits vehicle

We have focused this week on our status as the children of God and its implications for our lives and faith. Today, let’s consider this fact: people judge our Father by his children. When we are loving, kind, and compassionate, they are more likely to think the same of our Lord. When we are hateful and condemning, they are likely to see our Lord in the same way.

God’s word is clear: “Whoever says he abides in [Christ] ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). Jesus taught us: “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8).

This is because we were “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). As a result, we are instructed, “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Paul warned of those who “profess to know God, but they deny him by their works” (Titus 1:16). Conversely, Scripture admonishes us, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).

Let’s consider an example.

Eddie Daniels is the mayor of Vienna, Georgia, a town of four thousand residents. He was on his way to work Saturday morning when he saw an SUV stalled on railroad tracks with a train fast approaching.

“I couldn’t let those babies sit there and get slaughtered by a train,” he told reporters later. He helped the mom out of the vehicle, then rescued a three-year-old and a one-year-old from the back seat. He was helping a six-year-old when the train hit the vehicle.

He managed to get the child out, but Daniels has a broken ankle and eight stitches in his head as a result. “I’m out here just doing God’s work,” he said. “That’s what we’re supposed to do. And they told me I was a hero. I said I don’t feel like a hero, just feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, what the people elected me to do.”

Would you predict he’ll be elected again?

“You are my hiding place”

The British explorer Freya Stark observed, “There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do.” She was right, not only about us but about those we influence as well.

As the children of God, our every word and action reflect on our Father for good or for ill. Jesus told his followers, “You will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8); some of us are effective witnesses, some of us are not, but each of us is called to the stand every day.

A postmodern culture that measures truth by relevance will measure the truth of our faith by the relevance of our lives. So I’ll ask again, for God’s glory and the advancement of his kingdom: Would you do what you are about to do if you knew it would be the last thing you would do?

I suspect Willie Spence’s answer on Tuesday would have been yes. Here are the lyrics he sang for the world before he left it for his home in heaven:

You are my hiding place
You always fill my heart
With songs of deliverance
Whenever I am afraid.

I will trust in You
I will trust in You
Let the weak say I am strong
In the strength of the Lord
I will trust in You.

What song will you sing for God’s glory today?

NOTE: Two of our Denison Forum books seem particularly relevant as the midterms approach. Consequently, we’re offering the updated print version of How Does God See America? and an ebook version of Respectfully, I Disagree for your donation of $50 or more. We’re calling it the “Let’s be civil” book bundle because our divisive culture could benefit from more civility as modeled by Christians. Request your two-book bundle today.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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