What Are You Looking At?

5kidsComedian Jim Gaffigan says, “You know what it’s like having five kids? Imagine you’re drowning. And someone hands you a baby.” Today I brought home my own 5th child and I’m sure that those moments where I feel like I’m drowning will come. But today? Today I feel nothing but joy as I consider the many blessings that God has given to me. Five healthy kids, four of whom already show interest in following Jesus. An amazing wife that does an incredible job taking care of all of us. Wonderful friends who have sacrificed to be a blessing and help to us and a church family that truly cares about living out the love of Jesus in their lives. I have a job I love, a comfortable house to come home to and more than I need in terms of stuff. I am truly a blessed man.

Despite all the blessings in my life, I can be tempted to look past the blessings and see only the negative. Even during such a special weekend as this one has been it would be easy to focus on the sleepless nights, the hard chairs, bad hospital food and the stress of finding people to watch our kids. Isn’t it amazing how we can do that? Despite tremendous blessings, all we see are the problems. Sometimes all I see are the messes my kids make and the things they break. It’s easy to focus on the bills that have to be paid, the projects yet undone and the things I think I need to buy or do.

When this is what I see, the joy and gratitude give way to stress and frustration. This undoubtedly has an affect not only on me, but on those around me. The longer I focus on the difficulties, the more critical, negative, and stressed out I become. Before long, my personal attitude begins working against the blessings I do have as relationships deteriorate and consequences take effect. The saddest thing about this process is that it is nothing more than the consequence of a simple choice.

I’m not saying that you can choose the difficulties of life any more than you can choose the blessings. The reality is that much of life is simply beyond our control. However, what is within your control is the perspective you will have. Consider the instruction of the Apostle Paul – “Rejoice in the Lord always… (Philippians 4:4).” You can choose to focus on the negatives and difficulties of your life or you can focus on all of the blessings God has given you. Even in the most difficult of circumstances you can turn your eyes to Jesus and rejoice in Him. I urge you to take a moment to evaluate your life and consider this question: What are you looking at? May you find great joy and peace as you look at Jesus and all the blessings he has placed in your life.

Vote Biblically

While temperatures are cooling off around the country, political drama is steadily rising in anticipation of Election Day just around the corner. With another presidential debate in the books and less than 30 days until the big day, many voters still find themselves undecided if not outright conflicted over the choice that is facing them. Certainly there are some on both sides of the political aisle who are pleased with their party’s mainstream candidate and are excited to cast a vote in their favor. Likewise, there are some who don’t really care about the individual candidate, but are merely determined to cast their vote for the party of their preference. However, in this election perhaps more than any other, I sense that there are people with genuine interest in improving their world through the political system who feel absolutely confused and overwhelmed by the process of determining who to vote for.

It is to this group that I would like to offer a bit of guidance. I have no desire to tell you who specifically to vote for nor do I have any particular interest in changing the mind of a determined voter. Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I am not even close to a political expert. In fact, I have very little interest in politics. What I do care about, however, is people; and right now I see many of my fellow believers in Jesus who love both their country and their God conflicted as to how to reconcile the two in regard to their vote. My desire is not to provide political council, but simply to provide some biblical perspective as it may apply to one’s decision in the voting booth.

  • Do not make a decision out of fear. In recent days I have seen and heard so many good Christian people saying, doing, defending and supporting things that are unchristian because they are overcome with fear. I repeatedly hear the justification that “we have to vote for ‘candidate B’ because we just can’t let ‘candidate A’ become president. That would destroy our nation.” As a child of God and follower of Jesus, you should not be making any decision out of fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Tim 1:7) and we must resist the urge to cast a vote based on fear of the consequence of not doing so. Set your mind to do what is right and let God worry about the consequences.
  • Make your choice out of love. In 1 Cor 16:14 we are told to “do everything in love.” That doesn’t mean loving a particular candidate. It means that the love God has for us and the love we ought to have for him should always be a factor in every decision we make. Rather than disapproval and hatred guiding our choice, we must let God’s love lead us as we choose how to vote. That means considering whether a particular candidate loves and promotes the things that God loves: humility, honesty, justice for the innocent and less fortunate, good and righteous actions, peace, reverence and obedience (Malachi 2, Proverbs 6:16).
  • Make a decision that is consistent with the pursuit and promotion of holiness. God’s desire for us as His children is that we mimic His holy character. This should be far more important to us than any political or social issues. When considering who to vote for, do not compromise personal morality or holiness for the sake of a desired outcome. It is deplorable that many Christians and even prominent evangelical leaders are rationalizing away despicable behavior and all manner of evil “for the sake of the greater good.” A candidate who flaunts immorality or unholy principles and beliefs is not an acceptable option for a follower of Christ.
  • Make a decision that elevates justice and mercy. These are two issues that lie close to the heart of God and are central to our interpersonal relationships (Micah 6:8). Though there are a variety of issues and interests affected by a presidency, we must carefully consider how an individual’s election will impact justice and mercy in our world. We have reached a critical point in regard to race relations and poverty in our nation and we need to choose a leader who is willing to fight for justice for all. There is no room for the promotion of racism, bigotry and plutocracy.
  • Make a choice that prioritizes kingdom values. As we evaluate a candidate’s qualifications and worthiness, we will inevitably have to prioritize these principles in some way. Jesus said to seek “first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33)” and this is how we must approach every decision, but especially the decision of how to vote. We cannot prioritize our own desires, comforts and rights above God’s Kingdom and His standards. Many Christians have aggressively voiced a willingness to sacrifice Kingdom values such as holiness, decency , justice, mercy, love and peace for the sake of maintaining freedoms and rights such as fire arms and religious liberty. While there may be nothing wrong with some of these social issues, they cannot supersede kingdom values in your decision.
  • Make a decision that manifests trust in God. This is ultimately the crux of the matter. It is not, after all, a vote that is going to decide our next election: it is God. “For there is no authority except that which God has established (Romans 13:1)” and it is “He who removes kings and establishes kings (Daniel 2:21).” Yet many evangelicals are prepared to walk into the voting booth and demonstrate a total lack of faith because they believe that God needs them to be ok with the “lesser evil”. We have rationalized away despicable character and behavior because we believe a certain outcome is best. This kind of compromise is nothing more than a lack of trust that God can and will accomplish his purposes. It is the logic of Sarah who told Abraham that God must need his help to fulfill his promise, thus promoting an adulterous relationship for the sake of producing a child. God does not work that way. He will not ask you to sin and violate your faith, conscience and morals to accomplish His plan. He will not ask you to vote against His principles and values to achieve His plan. Instead, we must cast a vote that reflects total trust in Him. That just might mean voting for a candidate who statistically cannot win or even not voting at all. We must obediently do what is right and trust Him for the outcome.

As you prepare to vote next month, I hope that you will take these biblical principles to heart. It is my sincerest desire that you will arrive at a decision that you can be at peace with and that is in harmony with your commitment to follow Christ. Additionally, I hope you will remember that your true citizenship as a child of God is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). You are merely passing through this earthly kingdom and should not let its cares drag you down. Keep looking up and live your life in a manner that will bring glory to God. In the words of Paul, “Respect everyone, and love your Christian brothers and sisters. Fear God, and respect the king (1 Peter 2:17).”

Disagreement Is Not Hatred

As father to 4 young children, it should come as no surprise that I often find occasion to discipline one of them. Not infrequently, one of them will respond by trying to turn the tables and accuse me of “being mean.” They will angrily scream things like “You don’t like me; you hate me. You’re so mean.” Now as a parent of small children, I don’t take these remarks personally. I merely take them as an indication that repentance hasn’t occurred and proceed to work toward that end.

These kinds of remarks, though, are also a reflection of the culture in which we are currently living. We are living in a culture in which no one can offer correction or criticism without being considered mean; a culture in which you cannot disagree without being intolerant and unloving.

We see this mentality play out in current events on a daily basis. Christians cannot teach that homosexuality is a sin without being called hateful. Law abiding citizens are unable to criticize violent protests and mob riots without being considered a racist. Concerned minorities cannot criticize the actions of law enforcement without getting called anti-police. Athletes cannot peacefully protest without being called un-American. Good people cannot disagree over politics and presidential candidates without calling each other names and questioning their spirituality or patriotism or both. It is time that we addressed this wrong perspective.

Contrary to current popular opinion, it is possible to love someone and disagree with them. There is indeed a proper place to lovingly correct someone. Now correction and disagreement can certainly be done in unloving or hateful ways, but the correction or disagreement itself is not unloving. In fact, sometimes the most loving thing we can do is point out to someone that they are wrong. In Proverbs 3:11-12, the Bible offers this advice: “My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD or loathe His reproof, for whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” These verses are speaking specifically of God’s correction, but I think they provide some insight into how we should view criticism. We should not reject it or resent it. We should accept it as an expression of love.

When done in the proper way, criticism or correction and disagreement can be a very loving thing. While we may not be able to change the world’s perspective on this, I hope that the church can learn to view correction and disagreement in a more biblical way. We must stop the name calling and accusations every time that someone disagrees with us and we truly need to learn to accept correction. We must endeavor to live out the truth of God’s Word while also accepting the differences in those around us. As important as it is that we demonstrate love in our actions, we must now also strive to manifest love in the way that we accept correction, criticism and disagreements.

 

Photo via Wikimedia Commons