What if I don’t like our president?

At the end of eight years, the general population is almost always ready for a change.  In the history of our country, it has only happened a couple of times that one political party was able to see their candidate take office after eight years.  We see ourselves getting too progressive and long to return to our heritage and then we feel so stuck in our ways that we need some serious change.  New generations rise up and consider their values earth-shattering and they rock the country, only to get bogged down in the mundane and a new generation rises up.

For the next month and a half we are in a unique situation where we still have an acting president but the next one has already been chosen.  This means something profoundly true:  almost everyone very strongly dislikes one of the two men.  The voting world who chose President Elect Donald Trump is sick and tired of Barack Obama, while many others still consider him to be one of the best presidents our country has known and fear that Trump is going to single handedly destroy our nation and “undo all the progress we have seen” these past eight years.  In short, if you are neutral about both men – or possibly even like both men, you are probably very far removed from politics.

One of the attributes that makes our nation unique and great in many people’s eyes is our first amendment:  our freedom of speech.  We can say whatever we darn well feel like saying and no one can harm us for it – or judge us, as the culture now states.  There are some tricky aspects to that as we can still be legally protected from slander and harassment, but none of us lives in fear that our daily conversation, our social media posts or even our blog posts will land us in jail.  We have an inalienable right to our opinions and we will make them known.

God, however, has a different opinion about all of that.  Slander, gossip and disrespect are all sins – which are fundamentally rooted in pride, arrogance and selfishness.

“Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure.”

– Ps 101.5

“The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.”

– Prov 10.18

“Speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”

– Titus 3.2

God simply and profoundly commands us to speak evil of no one.  Not only that,  he clearly and profoundly commands us to respect our leaders:

“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”

– 1 Peter 2.17

One might object to this commandment because of how wicked our current or upcoming president is.  We simply cannot respect or honor a man who (fill in the blank).  But Peter was writing to the early church who was being persecuted and murdered.  The people were “scattered” across the known world – they were running for their lives.  And Peter’s command was to honor the king:  the king who would murder them for loving and serving Jesus.  Is Obama murdering us?  Is Trump threatening to murder us?  Are we running for our lives?  Even if this were the case we would still be commanded to honor the president.

One may object further and cite our form of government which allows us a voice in choosing our leadership and laws.  “We must speak out and help others make informed decisions.”  “It is our civic duty to have a strong opinion and to play our role.”  Yes, I whole-heartedly agree that we live in a unique and wonderful country whereby we are granted a part (albeit a very small part) of the decision making process.  This is why presidential candidates spend months and millions of dollars campaigning:  they must win our vote!

I would also argue, however, that there is a good and right way to make informed decisions and even to disagree with the values and positions a candidate would take while still respecting and honoring him (or her).  There is even a godly way to recognize a candidate’s moral failures, sin and perceived lack of qualification without slander, gossip and sin.

The reality is simple.  We live in a fallen world.  We are functioning in a fallen and broken system.  Democracy is not God’s form of government!  We are allowing ourselves to be governed by fallen and broken people.  Even if our president were the most mature and godly man to walk the face of the Earth, he would still be a sinner and a man.  He would make mistakes and we would disagree with him on something.  And each of us are fallen and broken people.  Imperfect people will choose imperfect leaders and mistakes will be made.  Period.  And yet we are commanded to respect and honor one another, and we are commanded to respect and honor our leadership.

Scripture does clearly command us to fight sin and pursue holiness.  Thus we see the example of Jesus, the apostles and many others to disobey the leadership when they would have us sin or not follow God (Acts 4.19. 5.29).  We also have the example of some of the greatest forefathers in our faith standing up against political sin, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the abundance of people who fought against the slaughter of the Jews and non-Arians in WWII.  We must never follow blindly, we must always evaluate our own actions and our government by Scripture, and we must refuse to sin even when we would be commanded to by men.  And we are fortunate enough to live in a society where we might be able to make an impact and bring about change!

But this in no way changes God’s expectation of us that we love all men and that we honor the position of king (or president in our nation).

So let me simply ask you this question:  Are your facebook posts and your political conversations Biblically loving, respecting and honoring the president?  Have you slandered Trump, Hillary or Obama?  Sure, you might do a better job.  Sure, you might know better.  But God does not give us a pass to disrespect or not love someone just because we know better.  He sovereignly and intentionally places every king and president in power.  Do you trust Him for that?  Do you follow His leadership when He gives you an opportunity to make a positive change?  Do you obey Him and respect authority?

You do not have to like your leader.  You do not have to agree with him either.  In fact, you are expected to weigh your actions and obedience against Scripture an never sin in the things that you do – therefore you should intensely evaluate your leadership  But you must love him.  And you must respect him.  Otherwise, we bring the condemnation of God upon ourselves:

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”

– Rom 13.1-2

Slander is still slander when spoken against our leadership.  Gossip is still gossip when spoken against our leadership.  Whether you distrust or dislike our current president or our future one.  Let us examine ourselves and remember our tongues.

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”

– James 1.26

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What is the answer?

Image result for Jesus is the answer

This past weekend has left the United States in a tiff.  Ok, maybe more like a blood feud.  A video was released of presidential hopeful Donald Trump demeaning women at best, condoning sexual assault at worst; the presidential debate was a joke; and completely ignored by mainstream news coverage is the report that eleven Christians were murdered by ISIS in Syria because they had converted from Islam and refused to denounce Christ.  Included in this number was a 12 year old boy whom the terrorists tortured by cutting off his fingertips in front of his father with the hopes of convincing them to convert, and two women who were publicly raped and tortured.  Many of those who have heard of this tragedy return to the conversation about the election chanting, “We must stop ISIS” and then proclaim their presidential choice as the answer.  Trump will squash ISIS.  Hillary has more experience and a real plan for our foreign affairs.  But you know what folks?  The president of the United States is not the answer.

Jesus is the answer.

I know it sounds cliche.  I grew up singing the song, “Jesus is the answer for the world today, above Him there’s no other, Jesus is the way!”  And while it sounds so simple and childlike, it is the profound truth.  No governmental leadership will provide a solution by which every worldview will be appeased.  No amount of force or murder will eradicate evil from the Middle East or the United States.  Even if we could convince our general population that love is the answer, we would all have different opinions about what love is and what love means.  Should we openly accept, condone and affirm every decision and worldview, or should we seek one another’s best by helping each other make wise decisions, even if that means we encourage change?

Our politicians, ISIS, and each of us individually, however, simply need Jesus.  We are wicked.  We are sinners.  Yes, Donald Trump tried to get a married woman to sleep with him and bragged about his ability to do whatever he wants to with women because he is “a star”.  Yes, ISIS beheaded, tortured and crucified eleven Christians.  Yes, we have treated one another with disrespect and hatred because of our individual political affiliations and choices.  And all of that is nothing more than wicked people doing wicked things – to various extents.  The Bible teaches us that we were born in iniquity (Ps 51.5), and that we are by nature children of wrath (Eph 2.3).  This means that apart from Jesus, all we can do is sin.  We are destined and doomed to evil deeds.

Along these lines, the Bible teaches us some pretty hard truths.  Apart from Jesus we are:
Dead in sin (Eph 2.3).
Lovers of darkness (John 3.19-20)
Haters of light (John 3.19-20)
Hard like stone (Ez 36.26, Eph 4.18)
Unable to love or submit to God (Rom 8.7-8)

What does all of that mean?  We might look pretty on the outside – like white washed tombs (Matt 23.27-28).  We might put on a good, moralistic act, but it is with wicked and selfish motives.  We all sin, and we will all continue to sin because it is our nature (1 John 1.8).

We all need Jesus.  I need Jesus.  You need Jesus.  Trump and Hillary need Jesus.  ISIS needs Jesus.  The answer is not to go in and wipe “them” out.  There is always someone else who is wicked to replace “them”.  But to see “them” fundamentally changed will save their souls and change their impact on their worlds.

Jesus found Paul – the foremost persecutor (read:  murderer) of the Church and changed him from the core, making him into the world’s most dynamic missionary and teacher.  If God can change and use Paul, He can change and use ISIS.  He can change and use Hillary.  He can change and use Trump.  He can change and use you and me.  There are, in fact, fairly regular reports of Muslims and radical extremists coming to faith and proclaiming Jesus.  Such are those who were murdered this weekend.

We spend so much time trying to separate our church and state, but the reality is that Jesus is the only hope for the state.  Even if we solve immigration, balance out our taxes and health care, and live at peace with the world, we are all still sinners and headed to an eternity of judgment and damnation.  If we, however, confess our sins and turn to God for salvation through Jesus, we will be saved eternally and enabled to die to our sins and our love one another.  We will be able to put one another first and see true and real peace.  We will be able to love.  Jesus is the answer.

For Whom Should a Christian Vote?

2016 election

The election of 2016 has proven to be a circus of extreme personalities and worldviews thus far.  For months, much of the western world considered Donald Trump’s run for the republican nomination to be a joke and we all waited with semi-bated breath to see how the proverbial chips would fall.  Suddenly, we are left with two primary nominees that much of the United States would prefer to not endorse, and Christians are entering the fray to seek and offer advice on “the right” or “the Christian” thing to do.  Up until now most conservatives have suggested writing in a candidate and seeking some moral high ground that would absolve them from responsibility when Trump or Hillary is elected but yet still fulfill their privilege and right as an American to vote.  Over the weekend, however, one of the most respected theologians amongst reformed and conservative evangelicals, Wayne Grudem, wrote a polarizing article with his explanation for why voting for Trump is the morally right thing to do.  People are writing open response letters, evangelicals are taking a hit, more conservatives are coming out of the Trump-supportive closet, and Millennials are promising to leave the church.

In short, we have a mess.

Here’s the deal, folks.  There is not now, nor has there ever been a perfect candidate for the office of President of the United States.  Democracy is not God’s form of government, and even though we live in a privileged nation with a unique opportunity to be a part of the decision making process, your vote (or lack thereof) is one hundred percent between you and God.

God’s form of government.

Americans like to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, and that we are God’s country and chosen people.  We are not, in fact, God’s chosen people.  Israel was the only nation to hold that unique and precious title, and when God set up their government and nation in the way He deemed best, He established Himself as the King.  They had a theocracy.  This simply means there was no human king, president or leader, only priests and judges who had the Law of God and communicated His will and rulings to the people.  When the Israelites desired a king, it was only because they saw what the pagan nations around them had, and God sternly rebuked them for sinning against Him.  Not only that, He promised that it would be their downfall and after only three kings the nation was divided, and ultimately fell and the people were exiled.

“But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’  And Samuel prayed to the Lord.  The Lord said to Samuel, ‘Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.'”

 – 1 Sam 8.6-7

Is democracy a good form of government?  Yes.  We have been blessed to have a system in place which maintains some semblance of order and balance whereby one person or group cannot rule sovereignly over another.  It is the best system?  No.  God’s system of Theocracy is best, and all others are man-made.  We could – and many have – spent hours debating the best forms of government, social systems, and politics, but there is currently no existing system that is determined by and governed by God and Scripture.  Therefore we cannot claim God’s authority in determining our self-government, and we are constrained to apply God’s moral and ethical principles within a broken and worldly system.

Our Hope in a Broken System

Because we are seeking to honor God in a broken system, we must always remember that God is in sovereign control.  He alone establishes kings, governments and systems and the person who is elected next to the office of President of the United States will be stationed there by God and God alone (Dan 2.21).  He works out those plans in mysterious ways, and we would be wise to remember that there are times when He works the miraculous completely outside of our input and there are times that He utilizes our efforts towards His ends.

When the Philistines were attacking Israel and Goliath challenged any single warrior to a duel, David stood up to him.  After David defeated Goliath, the Philistines were “thrown into a confusion” and they killed themselves (1 Sam 14.20).  There are other examples of kings uniting to fight together against Israel, and God sent them into a confusion whereby they killed each other and Israel never even entered the battle (2 Chro 20).

God did not always keep the Hebrew people from battle, however.  We also see that God gave David success in numerous battles and wars, as long as he followed the direction and leadership of God.  There was never a time when the battle plan was the same and God provided success to Moses, Joshua, Saul, David and all other leaders who followed His lead.

God is unpredictable and He uses people in very different ways to accomplish His ends.  Sometimes, in fact, He tells different people different things in order to fulfill His plan.  Paul was the first and arguably most successful missionary to reach out to the Gentiles and the known world.  He made it his goal to take the Gospel everywhere.  Towards the end of his ministry the Holy Spirit began to lead Paul and tell him to go to Jerusalem:

“And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.  But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.”

 – Acts 20.22-24

However, the Holy Spirit instructed other believers to tell Paul to not go to Jerusalem:

“After looking up the disciples, we stayed there seven days; and they kept telling Paul through the Spirit not to set foot in Jerusalem.”

 – Acts 21.4

Not only that, God sent a prophet to warn Paul of what would happen if and when he went to Jerusalem:

“As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.  And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, ‘This is what the Holy Spirit says: “In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.”‘  When we had heard this, we as well as the local residents began begging him not to go up to Jerusalem.”

 – Acts 21.10-12

All in all, it was the plan of God for Paul to go to Jerusalem.  God was indeed telling Paul to go, and it was His plan for Paul to suffer there, and part of the preparation God utilized for Paul’s heart was the warning of other believers.  By the time Agabus  prophesied about his imprisonment and torture, Paul knew that he was ready and willing to die for the Gospel.

Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?  For I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”  And since he would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, “The will of the Lord be done!”

 – Acts 21.13-14

We also see clearly that God used Judas as an integral and prophesied part of Jesus’ very own death.  It was foretold hundreds of years before hand that Jesus would be sold for thirty pieces of silver (Zech 11.12-13, Matt 26.15, Matt 27.3-5), and that by a friend (Ps 41.9).  Not only was Judas’ specific role predestined and foretold, the entirety of the crucifixion of Jesus was God’s plan from the beginning of time (Gen 3.15, Rev 13.8, 1 Peter 1.20).

Sometimes God’s plans do not make sense to us.  Sometimes God tells different people different things in order to bring about His end.  Sometimes God even utilizes sin to accomplish His goals – such as the murder of Jesus.

We Must Act Under Conviction

Because of these realities, we can only weigh our decisions against Scripture and against the personal direction of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Our conscience will bear witness against us if we disobey the direct commands of Scripture or His personal instruction, and the Holy Spirit will never instruct believers to do something contrary to Scripture.  It is His specific and clear purpose to teach and direct believers in righteousness:

“And [the Spirit], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”

– John 16.8

God is working in and through us to develop Spiritual maturity and growth.  He is working out our salvation, and helping us die to flesh and to sin.  He has given us the Spirit to convict us of sin – to remind us of what Jesus has taught us and what God defines as sin throughout Scripture, and to push us on to righteousness.  He will therefore never contradict God or His ordinances in Scripture.

There are times and circumstances, however, that are morally neutral and require personal and direct leadership from the Spirit.  This is where the Spirit can and may tell two different people two different things – like Paul and the disciples.  For us, then, we are bound to follow the conviction of the Spirit we have personally:

We will know by this that we are of the truth, and will assure our heart before Him in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.  Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.

– 1 John 3.19-22

Our conscience will bear witness against us or for us on these issues.  It is under this reality where we find beliefs on drinking alcohol (not unto drunkenness of course), politics, professions, hobbies, etc.  These are extremely sensitive topics because very real sin issues can and do enter into the conversation as defined by Scripture, but not always.

As this relates directly to the election, we will find a variety of consciences and convictions.  There are some issues that are discussed in the election which are directly sinful or weighable against Scripture.  When these issues single handedly remove a candidate from our list of possibilities we call them “Single Issue Dispositive” issues.  For most Christians, abortion is a single-issue dispositive.  Most Christians will not vote for or endorse any candidate that would murder an unborn baby.  The opposite would be “Single Issue Sufficient” whereby a candidate’s stance on any one issue would outweigh any other position he would take.  Does Trump’s pro-life position justify every other position he holds?  To some it might, to some it might not.

The big conversation, however, is about character.  Some would argue that since the Christian community by-in-large called for Bill Clinton’s resignation after having an affair, that it would be hypocritical to vote for Trump because he has been married three times and divorced two.  Some would argue that his affiliation with playboy and the corporate success ladder, his explosive personality, and his racist disposition would all be enough to make his character wicked enough to make him non-viable as a candidate.  Unfortunately, as Albert Mohler stated so eloquently:

“We have always voted in a fallen world for fallen candidates in a fallen political construct and done the best we could.”

When evaluating character as means by which to judge a candidate, we will all have different requirements and varying opinions.  Both candidates verbally affirm a Christian faith, neither are perfect in character and neither uphold fully Biblical values.  Hillary is comfortable with abortion, Trump is racist.

Some have responded that it is better to not vote at all or to write in another option, citing the Scripture:

“…and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”

– Rom 1.32

It is true that we will give an account to God for every decision we make, including giving approval to wicked men.  It is also true that we are not appointing a man (or woman) to spiritual leadership when choosing a president and choosing a candidate who we believe is better suited for the job may not necessarily be someone with whom we align on all moral or Biblical issues.

In short, if you cannot vote for one candidate or another by your conscience, then for you it is sin to vote against your conscience.  If you cannot vote at all because of your conscience, then by all means do not vote because for you it is sin.  If you can vote for one candidate over the other, by the direction of the Holy Spirit and in light of Biblical truths, then by all means vote for that candidate.  The Holy Spirit might be telling you one thing and another person another thing in order to achieve His end of the next president (whom He has already chosen and appointed, by the way).  What is critical is that you have examined the facts, laid the issue before God and Scripture, and are acting under the guidance of the Spirit.

In all of this, let us not sin.

We must be keenly aware of the conversations and difficulties that arise when discussing politics.  Some people are highly educated and skilled in the art of political science and social reform.  Some people are not.  Within the moral grey-realm of Biblical application, some people might be convicted strongly on one side of an argument while others are convicted strongly on the other side.  For instance, does the dignity of human life require that we welcome all would-be refugees into our country?  Even though my conscience may not allow me to turn away someone who is suffering and looking for hope, I cannot condemn someone else’s conscience who would seek the safety of the nation and his family first and refuse that person.  This is not a moral absolute, and we must all turn to and submit to the direction of the Holy Spirit in our personal lives.  With that understanding, we must also recognize God’s authority and direction in other believer’s lives and never condemn them by our own conscience alone.  They must be condemned or justified by their own conscience and walk with God.

And this, friends, is the beauty of the democracy:  we are free to do just that.

So no, I will no tell you who is the morally right or “Christian” choice.  Because God might be up to something way bigger than anything we can imagine.  He might also be convicting your conscience differently than He is convicting mine – and it is all to same end.  If we trust God, His sovereignty and His plan, then we will never judge one another and we will never sin against one another for having a different opinion than our own, but will encourage one another to contemplate the Scriptures, to seek out the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and act (vote) in a way that falls in line with our beliefs and walk with God.