The 2016 National Election: Some Theological Underpinnings

October 31st, 2016 1 comment

Presidential-Election-Predictions-2016

The following are some helpful reminders as we approach this election.

1. Don’t make an idol out of the State.
I refuse to frame this election in a way that exalts one man or woman above the King of kings and Lord of lords. Christ alone is the hope for America or any other nation. God alone has the power to make America great. God alone is the source of hope and prosperity. God alone is our refuge and strength. God’s purposes and God’s people will prevail. We must not make an idol out of people or the political parties they represent.

2. It’s time to look in the mirror!
It has been said that politics is downstream of culture, and culture is downstream from the Church. We have two remarkably flawed candidates for the most powerful position on planet earth. How did this happen? It’s rather simple. Because each represent the least common denominator of the desires of the American people. They, unfortunately, are a mirror image of our “collective selves” as Americans. When the people had a choice between Jesus, the sinless Son of God, and Barabbas, a hardened, vile criminal (Mt. 27:17), they sided with the “candidate” with whom they felt most comfortable – the scoundrel. The sad truth is the candidates we have are the ones who most accurately reflect the soul of our nation.

3. We must own the problem.
We are witnessing the fruit of a very long pattern of civil disengagement by those who profess to be followers of Jesus. As Christ’s Church, the ones called to be the salt and light in the culture, we have failed in reaching lost people and discipling them to think, act and lead, like Jesus in our culture. This is why we have lost our influence in the larger culture and why we have no good options to choose from in this election cycle. Our disengagement from public life has created a tremendous vacuum that is currently being filled with those who are passionate about their vision for America.

4. We have a much larger problem on our hands.

This distasteful election is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We are a nation that has abandoned God and we are now reaping what we have sown. God says, “If you abandon me, I will abandon you (2 Chr. 15:2).” We are essentially “on our own” right now as a nation. We are getting the leaders we deserve. We are eating the fruit of a nation that has for decades rejected God from our public affairs. Chaos, contention, corruption and confusion abound. We must repent and turn away from our many sins. We must return to the Lord. Our fear of the Lord and His righteous judgment should be much greater than our fear of either candidate being elected into office.

In my next blog I’ll address some principles for the polling booth.

The 2016 National Election: Politicians, Principles and Public Policy

October 30th, 2016 2 comments

Presidential-Election-Predictions-2016

As a pastor and community leader, I have often been asked to share my perspective on perhaps the most perplexing and pugilistic national election cycle in the history of the American political landscape.

Never before have we been so politically polarized. The candidates who remain standing in this protracted and bloody battle for the highest office in our land, and the world for that matter, leave most of us staring with a stunned look of disgust and utter amazement. We are left with what is best described as an “anyone but” position where large segments of our society are not voting for a candidate but against the one they find most abhorrent.

While we all realize this is not the way the political process is supposed to operate, nevertheless, another election rapidly closes in upon us demanding our response as voters.

So what are we to do?

First, let’s discuss some things NOT to do.

What Not to Do

1] Don’t let this election drive a wedge between you and your brothers and sisters in Christ. Our identity as followers of Christ trumps (no pun intended) all political affiliations. We must continue to love and respect family members who land in a different place during this most contentious of all election cycles. The last thing we need is more disunity, anger and criticism in the Body of Christ.

2] Don’t let this election drive a wedge between you and the people we are called to reach with the gospel. Our Christian Worldview gives us the totally unfair advantage of knowing the big picture. Jesus Christ is Lord of history, including election cycles! Our mandate is to make disciples of all nations (Mt. 28) by leading them into a personal relationship with Christ and teaching them to obey everything Jesus taught. We must violently oppose every wicked idea that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5) while we passionately love the people who hold these bad ideas! Our mission does not change. So let’s stay full of grace and joy as we fight for biblical principles to be expressed in our public arena and in the lives of the candidates. Hate bad ideas – love the people who hold them!

I’ll pick this up again in my next blog.

Christian Political Involvement: Striking the Balance Without Falling into the Ditch

March 24th, 2016 5 comments

balance

Martin Luther once likened fallen human nature to a drunkard trying to ride a horse. He mounts the horse only to fall off on the right side. He mounts from the right side only to land on the left. You get the picture.

I’m afraid the same analogy could be made for Christians trying to successfully ride the cultural engagement horse through yet another election cycle. I find my fellow believers falling off the horse from both directions. Let me explain.

On one side of the horse we have those who, like a pastor friend of mine, argue for staying out of politics altogether. He recently made the argument that “the Christian conservative political movement is a distraction to the Church.” He suggests Christians need to return to prayer and focus on developing greater intimacy with Christ. He admonished us to avoid “getting caught up in the frenzy” and to direct our focus to prayer.

On the other side of the horse are those who really do place their faith in electing the right people to office. If we have Christian leaders in our nation’s highest places of government, order and sanity can be restored to America and we will live happily ever after.

May I suggest that those who hold both of these positions will find themselves falling headlong into the same ditch!

First of all, Christians must be reminded that they have a sacred duty to choose those who will govern us. Government is not a wicked, self-serving, carnal pursuit simply to be left to those who have an aversion to prayer meetings. Government is an institution created by God and it exists for His glory and for the good of the people. As Americans, we have the incredible privilege of choosing those who will lead us. For government to fulfill its God-ordained purpose, Christians must be involved in selecting good men and women to serve. This means some of us will actually embrace the sacred call to public service and others will roll up their sleeves and do whatever is necessary to get our brothers and sisters elected. This is not a distraction. To the contrary, this is both a sacred duty and a civic obligation. The Scriptures proclaim, “When the righteous rule, the people rejoice.” (Proverbs 29:2) Our sacred duty before God is to make sure we elect righteous people. This demands our cultural engagement as people of faith.

We must strenuously avoid the false dualism and compartmentalization so prevalent in the Church today. The good news is comprehensive in nature – Jesus is Lord of all. Pastors from an earlier time clearly understood this. It was a regular practice for pastors to preach election sermons to train their congregations in godly civil involvement. Here’s an excerpt from one such sermon by Pastor Chandler Robbins in 1791:

“Nothing will so surely, so rapidly bring on the dissolution of society, and the loss of the liberties of a people, as a want of virtue and integrity in their rulers.”

Pastor Chandler understood the tremendous loss of liberty that occurs when ungodly people are placed into positions of authority. Government was instituted by God to restrain evil and to punish wickedness. When the wicked rule, evil is celebrated and the righteous suffer. We must not take a pietistic retreat into our prayer closets while our nation our nation is in such desperate need of our courageous leadership. Yes pray, and then get off your knees and put you hand to the plow. Offer yourself as the answer to your prayers.

Finally, we must avoid the other equally devastating extreme of engaging in an activism that is both Christ-less and prayer-less. A change of political parties or a new face in the White House will not magically solve the magnitude of problems we are currently facing as Americans. Government was never designed to do so. In our desire for reformation, we must never make a golden calf of civil government. Biblical civil government has an important, yet very narrow role to play. As believers, we understand the heart of the problem is spiritual – we have turned our back on God. We need revival in the church and spiritual awakening in our nation. This is why our weapons must be spiritual in nature, and reveals why prayer must forever remain our weapon of choice.

Our cultural engagement must start in our closets of prayer. This is fundamental. Prayer is an act which visibly demonstrates our deep dependence upon the Lord. Prayer seeks God’s heart and God’s power. But prayer alone is always incomplete. Biblical prayer is always accompanied by faith-filled action. Perhaps we need to heed the wise council of those, like St. Augustine, who have successfully navigated the art of cultural horseback riding. His advice remains timeless:

“Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended upon you.”

When the Church does her job in leading men to Christ and teaching them to obey the Lord in all things, it will most necessarily be reflected in the quality of choices we have during our election season. Bad choices at the ballot box are a sure sign the Church is still trying to get out of the ditch.