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Your Vote. Just One More Test

Your Vote. Just One More Test

All of life is a test. From the first moments of creation, God gave Adam an infinite number of wholesome choices, and only one restriction: “you shall not eat…” This was man’s first test. Likewise, today you and I face numerous choices that confirm that God still uses tests. These tests prove to us, to others, and to Him, what it is we believe, we trust, and we value. Will we choose right?  And how do we even know what is right?  Read on… 

As we approach another election season, there perhaps is no greater encapsulation of what you and I value, what we embrace, and what we trust, than how we will vote, or whether we will even vote at all. This is the subject I’d like to briefly address via four biblical principles.  

🔹God Elevates 

— “God controls the course of world events; He removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars.” Daniel 2:21 

— “It is God alone who judges; He decides who will rise and who will fall.” Psalms 75:7

No political leader/ruler is ever elevated to their position unless God desires or allows for him/her to be. There is nothing any voter can do, or not do, that can thwart God’s will in this regard. The Bible is abundantly clear about this truth. It is God that elevated Obama as well as Trump, and every President before them.  Once we understand this truth we’ll understand that it was not any one person’s vote for, or against, Trump (as I did by selecting a third party four years ago) that was the ultimate reason for the outcome in 2016.  Your vote will not thwart God’s preordained plan, and the man He will place in the Oval Office in 2021.  

🔹”We the People” are not sovereign  

— “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:21 

Sadly, Americans have come to believe the deception that we are our own sovereign masters and that it is “we the people” who control elections and our destiny. This has led to a grossly mistaken belief system, particularly amongst those who claim to be followers of Jesus and the Bible. It has led us to believe that we can know God’s political will, and that God is just waiting on us to determine the outcome of an election. So it leads activists to embrace political activism because, without such, they believe their future is dire.  

But as the verse above affirms, you can make all sorts of plans, and you could even rally millions to vote for your preferred candidate, but there is no overriding God’s purpose. It will prevail. Does this mean you should not vote?  That’s up to you to decide, based on what Scripture informs. But should you obsess over a political campaign?  Absolutely not. Sadly though, we only need to peruse the headlines, the rallies, and social media, to see that millions of professing followers of Jesus are in fact obsessing over this current political season and their preferred candidate, whether Trump or Biden.  

🔹The “Vote” test  

— “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31 

At the end of the day, our singular vote is not about “electing” someone but more importantly it reveals what is in our hearts and what we value the most. I have come to understand that our vote is merely a test, nothing more and nothing less. It’s highly possible one might be led to refrain from voting, whether for a season, or even permanently. But, if you feel led to vote, will your vote honor God, and the values He teaches, or will your vote value something lesser, even if the end which your vote seems to achieve might appear to justify the means?   

This I believe is the greatest test for believers living in a system that lures them to believe that they are in control. Nothing could be further from the Truth. The enemy is a master of deception and he has done one of his best con jobs when it comes to the role evangelicals believe they are to play in any election.  Does our vote honor Jesus?  Do we glorify God in the way we vote or do we simply achieve a short term win? Further, do we believe we can bend what we claim to believe, in order to “help” God gain a “victory.”   

🔹The “End Justifies the Means” Deception 

As short-sighted, temporal minded creatures, it’s easy to justify our actions, regardless of how contrary to God and His clear principles they might be. Sadly, we can seldom see when we have succumbed to an “end justifies the means” philosophy. But the approach to voting and elections by many Christians in America is a prime example of such a philosophy.  

There is a story in 1 Samuel 15 about the first king of Israel that reveals how wrong it is to justify bad choices based on a self-determined “good” outcome that might be orchestrated. King Saul had been commanded to utterly destroy the nation of Amalek, including not just the people, but also the “cattle, sheep, goats, camels and donkeys.”  

But Saul did not completely obey God. While he destroyed the people, note that the king preserved what he deemed would benefit himself and his people: 

— “Saul and his men spared (King) Agag’s life and kept the best of the sheep and goats, the cattle, the fat calves, and the lambs—everything, in fact, that appealed to them. They destroyed only what was worthless or of poor quality.” 1 Samuel 15:9

But when the prophet Samuel confronted the King about his obvious disobedience to God’s command, Saul easily justified his actions as follows: 

— “When Samuel finally found him, Saul greeted him cheerfully. “May the Lord bless you,” he said. “I have carried out the Lord’s command!” “Then what is all the bleating of sheep and goats and the lowing of cattle I hear?” Samuel demanded. “It’s true that the army spared the best of the sheep, goats, and cattle,” Saul admitted. “But they are going to sacrifice them to the Lord your God. We have destroyed everything else.”” 1 Samuel 15:13-15 

So Saul blatantly disobeyed God, and was even proud of it. When confronted about it, Saul justified his disobedience by suggesting He was honoring God with his rebellious actions. Samuel however did not accept Saul’s flimsy excuse for his disobedience. Rather, the godly prophet had this to say: 

— “But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”” 1 Samuel 15:22-23

Finally, only after Samuel’s bold reproof did King Saul admit the following:  

— “Yes, I have sinned. I have disobeyed your instructions and the Lord’s command, for I was afraid of the people and did what they demanded.” 1 Samuel 15:24 

So clearly, while Saul would have achieved what he believed to be a “good” outcome through his disobedience (sacrifices to God), God was testing Saul to see if the king would simply obey God.  Sadly Saul failed the test, and Samuel called his disobedience rebellion and stubbornness, suggesting his sin was as bad as witchcraft and worshipping idols.  Clearly an “end justifies the means” mentality was not only wrong, it ultimately cost Saul the kingdom, and his life. 

🔹Conclusion 

There is much more we could write and learn from Scripture relating to our vote, but I hope the above four principles are thought provoking as you mail in your ballot, or walk into the voting booth during this election season.   

So remember, God does not need your vote or mine. Rather, He wants us to simply obey clear Scriptural principles rather than our trying to “help” Him.  When we obey God, even when it contradicts our “common sense” and peers, we demonstrate our trust in God and His sovereignty.  But to obey Him requires that we study His Word, to discover what it has to say about what we should value, and how we should or should not vote. Rather than preserving a temporal nation with our vote, we are called to glorify God, not align with evil, and trust God above all else, even when following God might result in a short term political “loss.” 

— “Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.” Ephesians 5:10-11 

— “Don’t put your trust in mere humans. They are as frail as breath. What good are they?” Isaiah 2:22  

— “What sorrow awaits those who look to Egypt for help, trusting their horses, chariots, and charioteers and depending on the strength of human armies instead of looking to the Lord, the Holy One of Israel.” Isaiah 31:1 

— “He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 

— “But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!” 2 Chronicles 20:15, 17 NLT 

— “Whether we like it or not, we will obey the Lord our God to whom we are sending you with our plea. For if we obey him, everything will turn out well for us.” Jeremiah 42:6 

Hagerty v Sethi:  Who to Vote For?

Hagerty v Sethi: Who to Vote For?

Once again election season is upon us.  While America is already deeply divided between blue and red, democrats and republicans, Trump and non-Trumpers, these various factions are finding themselves even further divided as they squabble over who to vote for in the upcoming the primaries. 

As has been the case for more than a decade, I’ve been getting asked about who I might recommend in some of the races.  In the past, I tended to have strong opinions about who was the “better” or “right” candidate and I was never hesitant to share when asked.  This year is different, for a number of reasons.  But that’s for a separate and upcoming post. 

In Tennessee there are a couple men who are running to replace Senator Lamar Alexander:  Bill Hagerty and Manni Sethi.  I have many good friends who are staunch Hagerty supporters. And perhaps an equal number of vocal supporters for Sethi.  There are no doubt points that each group of supporters could make to elevate their guy and throw stones at his opponent.   

When I see people do this though, I’m completely turned off.  So many politicians, and their supporters as well, act as if the only way to win is to trash not only the other guy, but they also must lob bombs at the supporters of the guy as well.  We’ve all heard the saying that we should  disagree without being disagreeable.  If there was a time when we need to show mercy and grace to others, it’s today. 

In most primaries, while the candidates may attempt to illustrate the differences between themselves, at the end of the day, when they go to Washington, it’s unlikely they will vote that much differently from each other, particularly these days.  As the battle lines have drawn deeper and deeper in our nation, and between democrats and republicans, we have seen that both parties more often than not vote as a bloc.  It’s as if there is little to no individuality.   

Washington is basically just two big machines.  A blue one.  And a red one.  And those machines gobble up the members of their party, demanding absolute fidelity.   

So, if you are listening to the policy differences of Hagerty and Sethi, it’s unlikely anything they say will matter, since the party will ultimately dictate how they vote.  I know even as I write this that many will want to take issue with my perspective here.  And if so, that’s fine.  This is the conclusion I have come to after a couple of decades of political activism and engagement.  Of course there are exceptions, but as a rule, this is the case.   

So, if you’re asking me who you should vote for, Hagerty or Sethi, my answer may surprise you.  I have personal feelings about both men, and have found myself leaning in one direction.  But at the end of the day, and after much study and writing on the topic of voting, there is a greater principle at play than simply who I will vote for.  While you and I may vote for a candidate, there is a greater Power who holds the final sway in who will win.  Yes, God ultimately will determine who will win, since His Word is clear in passage after passage, and story and story, that God: 

“… controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings.” Daniel 2:21 

Interestingly enough, Jesus affirmed this same principle moments before His crucifixion when He declared to Pilate, the appointed Roman ruler, that: 

“You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above.” John 19:11 

Notice that Jesus said that Pilate’s power, his position, was not given to him by Rome, but rather from above.  So likewise, while you may think that your vote is effectively electing the next Senator of Tennessee, there is a greater One who holds sway over the outcome.  While you and I may not fully understand this concept, it is true nonetheless.   

So you may ask, then what’s the use in voting if God’s going to decide?  I believe there are several reasons we should vote, which I intend to answer before the November election via a separate article. But one reason is simply because we are called to be stewards of the resources God gives us.  So when you vote, it’s not about electing someone, but it’s about honoring God and trusting Him with the outcome.  Truthfully, if you fully understand and embrace this Truth, it will totally free and transform your mind, and you’ll no longer fret over the outcome of an election.  

So vote your conscience.  Vote for the guy you feel led to.  But respect the other guy who will vote for your guy’s opponent.  And don’t sweat the outcome.  There’s Someone who can see the heart of both men, He knows the end from the beginning, and every day in between, and He knows the right guy to elevate at this time.  Trust Him, even when you may not understand, or agree, with Him. 

Your Vote Counts… But Not For the Reasons You Think

Your Vote Counts… But Not For the Reasons You Think

Erdogan, Hussein. Trump, Obama. 

What do all the above men have in common?  They were all elected rulers of their nations. And the citizens of their nations (Turkey, Iraq, USA) all went to the polls to cast their votes for their choice for their highest leader. 

But, there are several deep truths that are often lost when we think about elections for any public office, particularly in America.  So with Election Day around the corner, let’s explore these truths and why your vote counts… but for very different reasons than you think. 

Your Vote Does NOT Ultimately Decide the Election

Sometimes a negative example can help us illustrate a positive truth. So let me try to do so. 

Saddam Hussein, the former President of Iraq, seemed to always win, regardless of his devious nature and evil pursuits. His citizens voted, but their vote did not ultimately decide the election.  Saddam Hussein always determined the outcome. This same reality could be said for many evil dictators. 

While there is no comparing Saddam Hussein with God, there is a lesson to learn here. God allows you and me to vote freely, but ultimately it is His sovereign, just, and perfect will that determines the outcome.  This truth is affirmed throughout Scripture, but here is just one verse that teaches this truth:

“He (God) removes kings and sets up other kings…” (Daniel 2:21)

So if you’ve thought your vote for or against a particular candidate was the reason he or she won or lost, think again… unless you think you can outvote God. 

Voting is Your Obligation

So if God choses our rulers, is there really any reason to vote?  If His will is going to prevail, what’s the use in my even going to the polls?

We have been given not only a right to vote in America, but more importantly an obligation has been entrusted to us by God. So when it comes to voting, I’m reminded of the verse, “To whom much is given, much is required.”  (Luke 12:48)

In Matthew 25, there is a story told by Jesus about three servants to whom their master gave varying resources to manage. They were each rewarded, or punished, based on how they stewarded the resources they were given.  Likewise, God has granted to us the obligation to select those who would seek to rule over us.  Failing to vote is shirking an obligation that God has provided to you.  Just as the servants received a reward or punishment based on their choices, likewise our vote will carry with it a similar response from God.

Do You Pass the Test?

So far we have established that 1) God, for His own particular reasons, has already determined the outcome of each election, and 2) We should still vote to fulfill our obligation. So if these are both true, does it matter who I vote for?

Absolutely. And here’s why. 

Each time you cast a vote for anyone, you are revealing what is in your heart. Your vote for a politician is just like a politician’s vote for a piece of legislation. His vote and yours, reveal what you both value and prioritize. 

When we vote, we have the opportunity to affirm good and reject or expose evil as we see in Ephesians 5:10-11:

“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.”

If a would be elected official is known by his “worthless deeds of evil or darkness,” then our vote will either reject or affirm such.

So every time we vote, we are actually being tested by God Himself.  We either pass or fail, and there’s no grading on a curve.

When we enter the voting booth, we reveal our priorities.  But are our priorities God’s priorities?  Are our values His values?  Do we honestly seek to align what we are prioritizing with what Scripture instructs us to affirm or reject?  

I can personally attest to the fact that as one spends more and more time seeking God’s instruction and direction, many of the issues that seemed to be priorities, as a Republican, Independent, Conservative, or even Liberal, will begin to crumble under the scrutiny of Scripture. 

Voting for the “Lesser of Two Evils”

Over the years, I, and many others, sadly defaulted to voting for a candidate we had serious issues with, simply because we disliked his opponent even more. So we succumb to selecting the “lesser of two evils.” But when we do so, we invariably reveal that we do not believe God when He said that “He removes kings and raises up kings.”  Or we question God when He affirms that,

“The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; He guides it wherever He pleases.”  (Proverbs 21:1)

Invariably, when we vote for the “lesser of two evils” we sacrifice values that we claim are important to us. In so doing we attempt to play “god” with our “lesser evil” choice, even though such candidate likely has positions or values that are at odds with God’s values. 

Such approach demonstrates a lack of trust in God, in His ability to elevate, or put down a king, and direct the heart of the ruler. But a vote for a “lesser evil” also reveals that we are willing to prefer the temporal (winning an election to advance some political agenda) over the eternal of affirming God’s principles. 

So at the end of the day, it’s critical that you vote. But hopefully you’ve been challenged to reconsider why, how, and for whom you vote. The ultimate Judge is keeping score. You and I can pass the test if we seek His ways versus our own.

“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

No, Your Civil Duty is Not Complete on November 8

No, Your Civil Duty is Not Complete on November 8

civil-duty-is-not-complete

So you’ll go to the polls on November 8, (or perhaps you’ve already voted). You will reject the lesser of two evils. Or vote your principles. Or support your party. Or affirm its platform. Or vote 3rd party.

Check that off. You did or will do what every patriotic American does.  Right?

And then you can sit back down. Phew!  That’s behind you. Election 2016 will be over. 

Sure, there are real consequences to what will happen on November 8. But you will have voted. You’ll be back in four years. Or maybe even in two years if you’re a real radical.  So let’s move on.

It’s time to get on with life.  

Being a Parent

If you’re a parent you’ll recall those nine months leading up to the big day. Before ultrasounds it was kind of like an election. You know that the big day is coming. You may have your preference as to a boy or girl. But you wouldn’t know which it would be until Election Day, umm, I mean Delivery Day. Boy or girl?

But then that little girl appears. She’s been your focus for nine months.  But why worry yourself with the next years of her life?  You did your job. You played your part. You became a parent. Time to go back to your busy life. You had plenty on your plate before little Emma showed up. How could you add anything else?

Yet, you realize that being a responsible parent does not afford you the option of simply sitting back down and expecting that little Emma will be self-accountable, self-ruling, or self-sustaining. 

Rather, you know intuitively that Emma has no chance of surviving, much less flourishing, without you. Her entire being is dependent on you and the commitment you will make to her (and to be certain God’s guiding and sustaining hand).

So, why is it that you know these things about being a parent or nearly every other discipline in life?  But when it comes to sustaining one of the most precious gifts you and I have been given, our blessed America, you act as if your vote is enough?  

Voting is not Enough

Surely, deep inside, you know your vote cannot be enough. Yet on November 9th, over 100 million Americans will repeat what they’ve done for the past century or two. Like Rip Van Winkle, they will slumber for another electoral cycle, leaving the Republic in the hands of broken, self-interested and, in too many instances, corrupt people.  

America, our ship of state, owned by you and me, will be left with an unaccountable captain and crew to guide it, likely on a course you and the majority of America reject. Yet, rather than stepping up and holding the captain and crew accountable, will you wash your hands, turn on your favorite TV programs or engage in your favorite hobby, and then wonder why our future is so dire?  This is unquestionably a formula for failure.

One Reason America is Failing Politically

We know, instinctively and experientially, that people, left to their own devices, and with little to no accountability, will degenerate rapidly.  But add in the opportunity to enrich oneself, with prestige, fame and even wealth, and the likelihood of self-interest and corruption skyrockets.  Too often we elect good men and women to a political office and then walk away, assuming that they will not change.  But they do.  In overwhelmingly large numbers.  

But the fault lies at our feet.  We expect too much while inspecting too little.  If we desire to see change in Washington, our state capitol, county commission or city council, then it’s incumbent on you and me to change our course.  Voting has never been enough.  In fact, it’s almost meaningless if you are unwilling to show up the other 1459 days before the next 4 year election cycle.  

Birthing and guiding a nation, like parenting a child, is a thankless and unending job.  It requires day after day, and year after year, engagement.  Anything less will ensure that the two main options offered today, Hillary and Donald, will look like saints in four years, as a lesser of two evils philosophy will continue to degenerate further into the abyss.

Is it too late to change our nation, state or community?  Only time will tell.  But act as if November 8th completes your civic duty until the next election cycle, and I assure you, our Republic will fail to recover from our current tailspin.

So, for the sake of your family, your offspring, and your fellow citizens, step up on November 9th and commit to the battle for your nation, state and local municipalities.  Future generations will either thank or curse you based on your response.

And if you’re not quite sure what to do, then reach out and let’s talk, regardless of your political persuasion.  Together we can make a meaningful difference.

Mark