Heads You Live, Tails You Die? Lessons from Indy 500

Heads You Live, Tails You Die? Lessons from Indy 500

The Indy 500. Daytona 500. Monaco Grand Prix. 24 Hours of Le Mans. These are just a view of the world’s iconic motorsport races. 

For me there’s not much more thrilling in sporting events than the combination of horsepower, speed, technology, competition, and fans.  And for fans, there’s not much they enjoy more than a good crash.  Although a good crash, like beauty, is a matter of perspective.  

Strap yourself into a car with the engine revving, tires screeching, and the speedometer in the three digit zone, and there’s no such thing as a GOOD crash.  The fact is, if you’re inside the race car, any crash is a bad crash.  (I know, I’ve been in a couple of my own three digit racing crashes which you can view here and here.)  But sit back in your favorite La-Z-Boy recliner, or better yet, at the Indy 500 between Turns 1 and 2, as I was this week, at the 101st running of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” and a crash is an added “bonus” to the fans.  

Sitting in the stands on Sunday at the Indy 500, I could not have anticipated viewing one of the most jaw-dropping crashes I’ve ever witnessed.  It was lap 53 of 200 laps.  The race had been perfect so far.  There had been no yellow, or caution flags.  The drivers were at their best.  The cars were nearly a blur as they flew around the track, 40 seconds per lap, at an average speed of 220 miles per hour.  My favorite driver in the race, Fernando Alonso from Spain, a two time world champion in Formula 1, but a rookie to the Indy 500, had worked himself into the lead.  

A pack of cars came down the front stretch and slowed just slightly as they maneuvered through turn 1.  As I sat there, the “bonus” happened, directly in front of me. Jay Howard lost control and hit the outside wall.  As he slid back across the track, Scott Dixon, the pole winner, had no place to go and rammed into the back of Jay’s car.  The thud we heard was unmistakable, and we watched in disbelief as the next several seconds unfolded. Immediately Dixon’s car was catapulted high into the air and the four time IndyCar champion was simply along for the ride. His years of experience and success provided no advantage. 

As Scott’s car careened through the air, his life literally hung in the balance. How would his car land as he flipped towards the wall and catch fence?  Would he survive such a horrific crash?  Could he, like many of his fellow racers in the past, skirt death?  

As the crash video reveals, Dixon’s aerial flight came to an abrupt and violent impact with the inside wall on the right side of his car.  The impact caused massive damage with the #9 car disintegrating into a thousands pieces.  As the car continued to twist and turn, it flipped upside down and then back over, sliding to a stop with only one of the four wheels left intact, and half the car missing.  Miraculously, Scott climbed out of the car, unhurt and waving to the crowd.  

But… what if?   

What if Dixon’s car had rotated just a quarter turn more and instead of landing on its side, it had landed driver first, into the wall?  I shudder to think what the outcome would have been.  But it’s not too far fetched to consider.  The fact is, something very similar happened six years earlier at another IndyCar race in Las Vegas when a massive crash launched former champion and Indy 500 race winner, Dan Wheldon, into the air.  As I watched the race live, the driver would suffer blunt force trauma to his head.  And Wheldon, whose career would likely have seen many more wins and successes, breathed his last that day, at age 33.  He left behind a beautiful wife and two young boys. 

Following the race at Indy last Sunday, the thought occurred to me just how fragile life is. One driver dies. The other lives. Some might suggest luck plays a part in the outcome, as if it’s merely a flip of a coin to determine whether it’s heads you live, or tails you die.  

But ultimately no amount of skill, preparation, goodwill or luck will prevent our taking our final breath.  Rather, death is something that will come to us all, sooner or later, as the Bible affirms:  

“Each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment.”

Death. It’s a sobering thought that most of us avoid and refuse to consider.  Yet it will happen to all of us, without a doubt.  

So, the real question is how will we live our lives until the figurative coin lands on tails?  But even more importantly, will we be prepared for that moment when the inevitable occurs? For as we just read, we will all be judged, not only for how we have lived our lives, but more importantly in whom and what we trusted for our eternal future.  

I don’t know what your personal standing is with God but here’s is the truth of God’s Word – the Bible.  In Romans 3:23 we are told “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  In other words we have all fallen short of God’s standard of perfection.  Because of this fact, we learn in Romans 6:23 that “the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  God is clear that without His Son we can expect death eternally. 

The eternal life offered by God is as a result of His Son’s death and resurrection as we see in Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Finally, while God did this for us, we must accept His gift of salvation.  Romans 10:9 tells us “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  This is the road to true peace and freedom… and assurance of your eternal future, once that final moment comes for you and me.  

If you want to pursue this matter further, here is a relevant website that deals further with life, death, and eternity:  http://www.areyouagoodperson.org/  Or send me an email and let’s grab coffee and talk.

Whether you are a motorsports fan or not, we all share the common need to prepare for what lies ahead.  I hope and pray you have done so, or if not, you will do so today. 

Should a Christian Vote for the Lesser Evil?

Should a Christian Vote for the Lesser Evil?

christian-vote-lesser-evil

Over the course of my years of engaging in politics, I have often heard the phrase “the lesser of two evils” used about the choices offered up to voters.  But never has that phrase been used more than in the 2016 election.  One wonders if all the “lesser evil” choices of prior elections have ultimately culminated in the two worst choices of our lifetimes?  Time will certainly tell.

As I’ve witnessed the ongoing debate on the Republican side of the discussion over Donald Trump, supposedly the lesser evil, I have seen two arguments arise.  The #NeverTrump side asserts that they must follow their conscience, drawn from a biblical/absolute moral standard.  The other side argues that in doing so, one would invariably allow a greater evil, in this case Hillary Clinton, to prevail in our nation.  This second group asserts that selecting the “lesser evil,” in this case Trump, is a better choice, even a good choice, because it would lessen or slow the advance of evil.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that under a Trump administration, evil would in fact advance at a slower pace. If that were true, then is a vote for someone who has a lifetime of the behavior below someone a Christian should vote for, regardless of the evil character of the other option?

Three wives

Serial adulterer

Affiliated with Strip clubs

Rejects his need of God

Utilizes racial and misogynist slurs routinely

Acknowledged his propensity to prey on women, including those married

Routinely defrauded individuals out of monetary claims

Pride, arrogance and greed are prominent character flaws

And so much more…

To be clear, as I enumerated Donald Trump’s behavior, lifestyle and choices, I struggled doing so.  The struggle was not because I was unsure as to whether those things are morally reprehensible.  Rather, I struggled because I too am a sinner and were my life laid bare, there would no doubt be many choices of which I would be ashamed.  So I do not enumerate Trump’s choices and lifestyle to suggest I am better.  However, there is a distinct difference between Trump and someone who embraces the Christian message.  

A true Christian acknowledges his sinful choices and routinely seeks God’s forgiveness for his actions that violate God’s standard.  And because his faith rests in the shed blood of Jesus Christ, he has forgiveness from God, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God.  So repentance and forgiveness are key to a Christian’s relationship with God.

When Trump was asked in 2015 about whether he had ever asked God for forgiveness, he stated the following:

“I am not sure I have.  I just go on and try to do a better job from there.  I don’t think so. I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right.  I don’t bring God into that picture.  I don’t.”

I do not share this to condemn Trump but merely to explain the man.  With a philosophy as Donald revealed, it is no wonder that so many of his choices are immoral.  But worse, it does not appear that Trump sees any need to correct or improve on his degenerate behavior. To be fair, in the last few months, there have been unsubstantiated reports that perhaps Donald has turned to God.  I can only hope and pray that this has in fact occurred.  If so, it would be an earth shattering development that could at the very minimum eternally secure the soul of Donald Trump.  

But back to the original discussion.  Is Donald Trump someone a Christian should vote for, simply because he is the “lesser of two evils” in the minds of some?

In tandem with that question though, and perhaps of greater importance, is this question:

In a world of lesser evils, are God’s principals universal?  

We can no doubt find countless examples of choices that are both evil, but one is lesser.  So what should a Christian do in these instances?  

In America we are sheltered and removed from the reality of the rest of the world.  But for too many Christians around the world, the lesser of two evils is a dramatic reality, and results in their rejecting both options. 

Christians & The Egyptian Election

Take for instance the runoff election in 2012 in Egypt that pitted the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi against Ahmed Shafik, a holdover from the former strong-armed President Hosni Mubarak.  If one delves into the backgrounds of both of these men, and what they supported, there can be no doubt that their views, values and track records were at extreme odds with biblical values.  So in that instance, should an Egyptian Christian have selected a Muslim, tied to a former dictator, or should the Christian have chosen the second candidate, someone who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a known terrorist group?  Neither choice is a good one.  Truthfully, they are both evil.

God’s standards and principles must be universal and timeless or they are not of God. 

If one must resort to solely human logic, reasoning or even situational ethics, that should be the first clue that the conclusion one is coming to is likely not of God.  Secondly, if the conclusion one is coming to would not work in another place or in another era, then that conclusion must also be suspect.  

As Americans, and Christians specifically, have continued to chose “the lesser of two evils” over the years, we have seen the quality of the candidates continue to degenerate.  This approach has led us to the point where in 2016, the two major options presented to Americans are the two most debased and immoral options perhaps our nation has ever seen.  But rest assured, if Americans willingly, and in many cases gleefully, select one of the two options, you can be confident that the choices that will presented in 2020 and beyond will be even worse.  Contrary to the theory of evolution, things do not naturally get better.  Rather, it’s clear that the world is continuously devolving, absent God’s intervention through spiritual revivals.

Consider this truth.  If we continue to follow the path of the “lesser of two evils” where might that lead us in the future? There will always be a lesser of two evils, no matter how low on the scale the candidates descend.  We could one day be faced with voting for one candidate that believes in abortion while the other believes in euthanasia, or both could believe in such.  So it should be clear that at some point the “lesser of two evils” falls apart.

So, what should you do if you are a person that has a gnawing feeling that something is not right? Or perhaps you have a quiet voice pricking your conscience to reject both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, even though your human logic or friends suggest that Trump would be better because he will do this or do that.

If this is you, then I would encourage you to turn to God.  As a believer, every consequential decision in your life should have a foundation in and be supported by God’s Word.  If not, then question that decision.  So if you are a follower of Christ, consider these passages, pray earnestly and seek God’s direction on November 8.

“Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”  Ephesians 5:11

“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, have a form of godliness but denying its power.  And from such people turn away!  2 Peter 3:1-5

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.”  Philippians 4:8

I believe that fear is one of the greatest motivators of this election.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of Hillary.  Fear of the Supreme Court.  Fear of our borders opening up further.  Fear of increased corruption.  Fear.  Fear.  Fear.  But consider this:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  2 Timothy 1:7

Do you feel powerless?  Do you feel anger and even hatred perhaps?  Is your mind clouded?  If you answered yes to any of those questions, then perhaps fear is motivating you.  Turn your attention back to God, particularly in this election cycle.  Trust Him.  Refuse to succumb to your own logic.  And God will direct you to the proper choice in just a few days.  

It may be that God is leading you to reject both candidates and to either not vote, or to select one of the 3rd party or independent candidates.  Life is not about winning, in a worldly sense, but about doing what is right from a divine perspective.  Personally I find both Trump and Clinton objectionable, one perhaps more than the other, but both a shame for a country that was founded upon biblical principles.  So I have been challenged to pray for Trump and Clinton.  That I can do.

Next Blog Post: Voting Recommendations

In my next blog post later this week, I will provide my thoughts on what to do if, like me,  you cannot vote for Trump or Hillary.  Rest assured there are other candidates that, while they will not win politically, they will provide you with the option to follow your conscience in a way that reconciles with Scripture.  And when you do this, I would suggest that you have won in a manner that trumps any American political battle.  (Here’s the post:  If You Reject Hillary & Trump, Here are Some Options)

Obviously, my thoughts  are not the “final word” on this subject matter.  I continue to seek out God and the spiritual perspectives of others.  So if you disagree with my thoughts or have some other ideas about this, please email me, or comment on social media.  I relish your input.

Mark

To Judge or Not to Judge?

To Judge or Not to Judge?

To Judge or Not to Judge

 

In this day in time, there’s hardly a week that passes where some major moral issue isn’t being debated in the court of public opinion.  Whether it’s via the courts, primetime TV or social media, it seems more and more of the values that many of us and our parents and grandparents grew up with are now on trial and under full attack.  From marriage and abortion, to homosexuality and transgender facilities, the standards that have been in place for generations are now being undermined in an ever more intense manner.

At the same time as these cultural and political battles are taking place, there is an effort by the same elite to stamp out all dissent, whether via political correctness, so-called tolerance, or even through courts, legislation and government regulation. One other popular method that those attacking our most fundamental values are fond to employ is by using the Bible itself to silence Christians.  In particular, those who frequently despise the Holy Book, are all too eager to use select passages to either advance their agenda or hush poorly informed Christians, who may not dust their Bible off that often. 

A passage that is continuously misquoted, perhaps more than any other in the Bible, is in Matthew 7 where we read, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  And so it would seem that with one short verse, the entire Christian argument on any of today’s difficult issues is silenced.  As the passage goes on to say, “why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

No one wants to be a hypocrite, even though, if we are honest with ourselves, there are areas in our lives where we all say one thing and sadly live another.  So doesn’t this passage clearly say we must remove the plank out of our eye before we can remove the speck out of someone else’s eye?  So how can we ever speak out or “judge” any matters of any importance that involve our “brothers” or even our friends or neighbors?  

The truth is that if you and I are the judge and it’s our own law, then we clearly cannot judge others.  If the standard by which we evaluate others and their actions is a subjective, personal standard, then who are we to tell someone else what is right or wrong?  In fact, if the standard is my own, and thus subjective, then you likely have your own as well.  And so then there is no objective, absolute standard, and thus no right or wrong.

But there are in fact absolutes, contrary to today’s prevailing philosophy.  We all know this both inherently and because we have experienced these absolutes.  The law and even nature are both quick to remind us of them.  Break the speed limit, and blue lights will remind you of certain absolutes.  Leave a few dollars off your tax return, and the nation’s favorite governmental agency will send you a bill with interest and penalties for forgetting that income.  Strike someone with malice, and a man in a black robe may sentence you to years behind bars.  Walk off a building, and you’ll quickly learn that nature itself attests to absolutes.  So it’s clear we live accountable to absolutes all the time, whether we like them or not.  

But back to the “judge not” passage.  The Bible is a book of history, prophecy, morality and spirituality, but it is ultimately God’s message to mankind.  The Bible instructs mankind on matters of morality and from those precepts, man is then able to discern right and wrong.  He is not the judge, as God established the law.  Man is simply one who discerns right from wrong, good from evil, based on God’s absolute standard.  So God judges.  Man discerns.

When you or I speak out on a moral issue that is delineated in Scripture, the judgment being made is not merely our own, but it is one based on a moral standard that supersedes our own.  In this case, it is God’s.  The Bible is clear in its admonition to reject evil, embrace good and expose darkness, as these passages clearly illustrate:

Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”  Ephesians 5:11

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.”  Isaiah 5:20

Depart from evil and do good.”  Psalm 37:27

Putting away lying, let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor.”  Ephesians 4:25

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Romans 12:21

Finally, we are called in John 7:24 (just a few verses after the “judge not” passage) to actually “judge with righteous judgment.”  This passage clearly suggests that when “judging” is done righteously, meaning according to God’s perfect standard, then that judgment is not only appropriate but it is commanded.

So the next time you hear someone misquote Matthew 7:1 by telling you to stop judging, consider that they are doing so out of either ignorance, or worse, they seek to simply silence you.  But now you know better.