“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
If you’re alive, troubles will come. If you’ve been alive long, you’ve seen a lot of troubles. Some are our own doing and some are simply a part of life, and may be completely unrelated to anything you or I have done. How you or I prepare for and respond to those troubles though, can make all the difference in the world.
Do you just float along, and deal with troubles as they come?
Do you dread troubles, fearing them, as a howling storm headed your way?
Or do you understand that troubles, like the setting sun, will come? If so, you prepare yourself properly; building your character; developing relationships; drawing close to God; cultivating that one-on-one time with the One who sustains everything by His very Word.
If you do prepare for life’s storms, you will be like majestic hardwood trees that stand strong and erect, driving their roots deep into the soil, finding the water far below. It’s a known fact that as the wind blows against a tree, the tree responds by driving its roots deeper into the soil.
Because of their years of preparation, these trees can and will withstand the storms that will undoubtedly come their way; winds, rain, storms, lightning. Sure, they may bend during their times of trouble. They may sway. They may even lose branches. But if they are tied into the very foundation that enables their strength, they will stand to see another sunny day, and grow even stronger from these storms, preparing them for the next trials that will certainly come.
Are you and I going deep in our relationship with God? Do we seek the “living water” that God offers through His Son, Jesus Christ? Are we tied into Him daily? Do we drink the nutrition that only He can give us, that will strengthen us like only God can do?
When we do this, we will be prepared to not only withstand the trials that come our way, but we will thrive in the midst of life’s storms. And as we do so, we will not only grow stronger for the next storm, but we will also be an encouragement to those around us who may not be preparing as they ought.
Go deep. Grow strong. Don’t fear. Drink Him in. God is your Hope and Confidence.
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?
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.
In life, there are choices we make and habits we form that either produce happiness and success or regret and failure. One such choice is whether to walk with integrity or not. And that choice begins in the smallest of decisions.
Recently, I had an interaction with a business owner that demonstrated this principle of integrity. My HVAC unit at our farmhouse had developed a water leak and while we attempted to fix the problem ourselves, it continued to leak. So I put a call into my HVAC contractor and the office manager, Nancy, setup an appointment for a service call. However, I suggested I would like to text a video of the leak to the owner, Kim, for him to review and Nancy encouraged me to do so. Within 5 minutes of texting the video of the leak, I received a call back with a suggestion from Kim on what I could try to perhaps solve the problem. With the help of our farm foreman, we tried what was suggested and, voila! The problem was fixed.
The response from Kim, the owner of the HVAC company, resulted in a couple hundred dollars of lost revenue. But that decision, while it may seem like a small thing, had the effect of growing his integrity in at least a couple of ways.
While employees are frequently encouraged to increase a company’s revenue, the decision by Kim served as an example to Nancy, his office manager, that there are things that trump revenue or profit. When Kim provided me with the solution to my problem over the phone, he elevated integrity over profit. He communicated to his employees that where you can provide a simple solution that requires little to no effort, then one should do so. Earning a buck is not the supreme or only goal. And so Nancy had that behavior modeled to her by her boss. Can there be any stronger way to teach a value than to live it?
When the solution that Kim provided to me over the phone worked, and he lost a service call in the process, I was convinced that Kim’s company was one that I could trust. Because Kim was willing to give up the service call revenue, and elevate integrity over profit, my confidence in his company skyrocketed. I knew that were he to do any additional work for me in the future, I could trust him without reservation. So his faithfulness in a small issue grew my trust exponentially.
What about you? Are you ever tempted to bypass integrity? Do you ever rationalize small, seemingly insignificant, compromises of truth or honesty? You’ve heard the saying, “Sow a thought and you reap an action, sow an action and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
Do you desire a destiny of happiness, success and fulfillment? It begins with integrity in the little things. Commit yourself today to doing so and not only will you be thankful you did, you’ll also be pleased with where you end up.
“He who walks with integrity walks securely…”
I find it very curious that so many folks have enthusiastically thrown their support behind Donald Trump in 2016. But I’m particularly amazed at evangelicals who have fallen head over heels for Trump, both those in the pews, as well as noted evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell, Jr., Robert Jeffress and more. As I’ve listened to these men trumpet their praise for Donald, much of their rationale is based on the billionaire’s perceived business acumen and his supposed fiscal credentials.
In his statement endorsing Donald Trump, Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr, called Trump, “a successful executive and entrepreneur.” And Dr. Robert Jeffress, pastor of 11,000 member First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX, stated on FoxNews that evangelical pragmatists say, “Let’s find the most conservative person we can. Let him concentrate on fixing the economy… pragmatists are basically going towards Donald Trump.”
The sentiments by Falwell, Jeffers and millions of other “pragmatic” evangelicals prioritizing the economy and fiscal matters is quite puzzling and got me wondering whether other values of an individual should be ignored? Do a candidate’s positions on other issues matter? What about his personal behavior and life — is that fair game? Or should we simply remain focused on fiscal issues, as if strengthening the almighty dollar should be our nation’s singular priority?
Let’s consider another businessman who, by any measure of economic standards, has achieved extraordinary business success. In 1953, a 27-year-old entrepreneur, struggling to find his place in the world, invested $600 of his limited capital to launch a monthly periodical. The first issue was an instant success, selling out all 53,991 copies at 50 cents per copy. Over the next several years, the magazine’s circulation grew to over 1 million by 1960, and it continued on a rapid upward trend, peaking at over 5 million copies monthly in 1975.
Boosted by his rapid success, the young entrepreneur ventured into a number of related business ventures, including casinos and night clubs. With his growing success, the periodical he founded attracted mainstream authors and secured interviews with noted personalities, including presidential candidate Jimmy Carter and even Donald Trump.
Despite falling on hard times in the 80’s, the following decade the business regrouped under the leadership of his daughter. As a result, the enterprise that began as a men’s magazine nearly 40 years earlier successfully launched a TV channel and soon after that a membership only website. Fast forward to 2015 and the founder of that first fledgling periodical in 1953 now boasts a multi-billion dollar global operation. And this entrepreneur’s own personal net worth is estimated at $50 million… which all started with a $600 investment.
Obviously, from the title of my article you can already surmise our mystery entrepreneur is none other than Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy, one of the most economically successful men’s magazines of all time. Yet, by any measure of wholesome and upright values, Hugh Hefner is someone who has preyed on women and capitalized on the sexually degenerate appetites of men. Hefner is a man whose values have served to hasten our nation’s slide into the abyss of moral degradation and depravity. The door Hefner’s Playboy dared to crack open has ultimately served to proliferate an industry that has become so mainstream that many simply shrug their shoulders as it leads millions of young men down a dead end trail of remorse and regret.
Like Hugh Hefner, Donald Trump has achieved extraordinary business success and it’s this success that he touts when he claims, “I’m running for office in a country that’s essentially bankrupt, and it needs a successful businessman.” There is no doubt that America’s fiscal condition is dire with up to 40% of all federal expenditures being funded through increasing our national debt as it bursts through the $20 trillion mark. But driving this fiscal threat is our bankruptcy as a nation relative to our adherence to the Constitution and the principles of our founding fathers, including those Judeo-Christian values upon which America was founded.
Given these truths, we are faced with a chicken and egg type dilemma. Do economics drive a person’s values or do a person’s values drive their economics?
I believe all that we do flows from our core values so while evangelical leaders like Falwell and Jeffress appear to base their endorsement of Trump on his fiscal prowess, I believe one cannot and should not ignore the values behind Trump’s financial successes. So, let’s look very briefly at just a few of Trump’s “values” that would be at odds with the values many evangelicals and conservatives claim as their own:
- Trump boasts in his book “The Art of the Comeback” about his numerous extra-marital exploits: “If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller.“
- Trump said in 1999 “I am very pro-choice” and he would not ban partial birth abortion. He claims to have changed his views in recent years.
- Trump said he is open to the idea of continuing federal funding of Planned Parenthood for their “good aspects… and the things they do properly and good” but he would not fund the abortion part of their business.
- Trump supports ethanol subsidies.
- Trump supported President Obama’s Stimulus plan in 2009.
- Trump supported the 2005 Supreme Court Kelo vs City of London dealing with eminent domain that authorized public authorities to seize private property for economic development by investors.
- Trump supported TARP
- Trump supports a universal healthcare system similar to Canada’s government-run system and the government would foot the bill for those who could not pay.
These are just a few highlights of Trump’s views that clearly conflict with conservative values. To find out more about the issues Trump supports, that should concern conservatives, go to Conservative Review here and here. Additionally, for evangelical conservatives, these articles by CNN and The Daily Beast provide additional areas of concern.
At the end of the day, I believe that one’s core values will ultimately influence every other decision a person makes. And while our nation certainly requires some drastic fiscal reforms, there are still matters that should trump the dollar, even when it comes to Donald Trump. And finally, we should all remember the words of Jesus when He said, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” At this crucial time in our nation’s history, are we more concerned in gaining the world or losing our souls?
As my fellow evangelicals head to the polls, I pray they will not only ponder their answer to this question, but I encourage them to read the Resolution on Moral Character of Public Officials.
Boom! As I sat staring out the window of our twin engine plane, I could hardly believe my eyes. The engine just feet from my window had exploded, with parts and fluids blowing through the cowling (cover) of the engine. The plane began to veer hard to the right and was losing altitude. I looked around at the other passengers, some of my closest friends and employees, and I saw a look of fear, concern and perhaps even panic by some. Could this really be happening to us?
But let me back up and start at the beginning. In the mid-1990’s my business partner and I had decided to purchase an airplane to get around to the properties we owned and managed in a more efficient manner. When we began discussing which plane to purchase we quickly determined it must be a twin engine plane, for the simple reason that if we were to ever lose one engine, we’d still have a second one with which to try to make a controlled landing.
We had purchased our plane, a Cessna 421B Golden Eagle, three years earlier from Burt Reynolds when he and his wife, Lonnie Anderson, were going through a divorce. There was no mistaking the plane due to its Florida State Seminoles colors, with the entire fuselage painted garnet and accentuated with gold arrows painted down the side.
On the day of our “incident” we had fully loaded our eight-passenger plane, including 2 pilots. Technically we only had seven people on board but we also had quite a bit of cargo. We took off from Chattanooga Lovell Field headed towards Birmingham and everyone was cutting up but looking forward to a productive day. We had just cleared Lookout Mountain when our right seat pilot turned around and blurted out, “Guys, we’ve got a problem and we’re going to have to cut off our right engine.”
No sooner had those words left his mouth than the engine exploded right next to me. Our two regular pilots, both close friends, began to deal with the repercussions of flying a maxed-out plane on one engine. As they turned the plane back towards Chattanooga they radioed our emergency situation to the Chattanooga tower. While the plane continued to fly on the one remaining engine, it was clear that we were not maintaining altitude. As I looked at the terrain below, it seemed to me that the obvious choice would be to simply land on any empty road below. But the pilots thought otherwise and as we returned to the airport we had just left 20 minutes earlier, we could see emergency vehicles lining the runway.
Thankfully, our two pilots did a masterful job of not only flying a wounded airplane back to base but they also touched the plane down as smoothly as if we had both engines functioning. Needless to say, the moment that our wheels touched the runway, all of us breathed a heavy sigh of relief and we openly thanked God for the safety He had offered to us that day.
Loading up our Cessna 421B Golden Eagle
The interesting part of this whole story though is that the engine that blew up had just been overhauled and had less than 33 hours on it. Over time, and following a lawsuit with the company that refurbished the engine, we were able to determine that the cause for the catastrophic engine failure was due to the re-installation of a questionable reconditioned cylinder. So, had things not turned out so well that day, seven lives might have been lost due to that flawed part.
Flaws. We see them in airplanes, automobiles, computers and pretty much anything that is man-made. It’s also not unusual to see public figures, whether religious, political or entertainment personalities, destroy their lives because of a “flaw” that was ignored.
But truthfully, when you and I look in the mirror, we also see a flawed person. Some flaws can be rather minor, not resulting in life-shattering consequences. Yet other flaws can cause catastrophic results in one’s life or the lives of those we love.
If we are honest with ourselves, we typically know our own flaws, from the “little” ones to the big, ugly ones. We don’t really need someone to enlighten us about them. In fact, oftentimes these flaws have been with us for years. It might be that we have simply accepted the flaw because we just don’t know how to overcome or conquer it.
But here’s the reality. Sooner or later, that big ugly flaw will take you and me down. Just as our airplane’s engine revealed its flaw, our lives will sooner or later reveal ours to us and then to others. So the first step in addressing the flaws in our lives is to simply recognize they are there.
Iron Sharpens Iron
There is a passage in Proverbs that states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” There are several conclusions we can derive from this passage but one is that we must invite other people into our lives. As we engage with them many of our rough edges can be honed and even eliminated. Clearly, we were not meant to be alone so it is critical that we walk through life with other trusted individuals who can be there for us as we need them. Two are better than one, and if you or I have a flaw that is simply overwhelming us, it’s critical that we enlist a trusted person to help us in addressing that flaw before we see our life crumbling around us.
Confess your faults
In addition to the idea of iron sharpening iron, there’s also another parallel principle that suggests that we should “confess our faults one to another.” As we acknowledge the faults we have in our lives and share them with others we trust, we create a system of accountability. And through that accountability as well as the prayers of our others, we find the healing that enables us to overcome the faults with which we struggle.
While the concepts we’ve addressed here can be deeply personal, we should not forget that our personal lives also influence our businesses and work environment. So those flaws that seem to be simply “personal” in nature will ultimately surface in a way that they can do serious damage to our businesses.
So now is the time to deal with that nagging fault that you know is there. Ignoring it will ultimately allow it to surface at the most inopportune time, and can cause catastrophic damage to your business, your family and ultimately you.