Election Reflections

Next Tuesday is the day people finally get to go to the polls and cast their ballots (although many people have already ready voted through early voting and absentee ballots). For many, election day can’t come any sooner. All the political banter and wrangling can take a toll on a person’s emotions. Simply put, the political season can be a bit…grueling.

I am deeply grateful that, by God’s grace and providence, we get to live in a country where citizens are allowed to participate in the political process. The ability to vote is an amazing honor. As Americans, we enjoy the freedom to express our opinions on how our nation is governed. Many nations of the world do not afford their citizenry the ability to engage in any debate or dissent.

On having a proper attitude toward voting, founding father Samuel Adams said:

Let each citizen remember at the moment he is
offering his vote…that he is executing one of the
most solemn trusts in human society for which
he is accountable to God and his country.”

If Adams is correct with this viewpoint, then it rests on the shoulders of every voting American to take to proper time to learn about the issues and the candidates. And even more important, it is vital that Americans pray about how to wisely cast their ballot.

For all my gratefulness to live in a country that allows its citizens to vote, I’m also keenly aware that having the privilege of voting doesn’t always guarantee people will make wise, thoughtful decisions. If a culture is marked by attitudes such as selfishness, pride. envy laziness or greed, those attitudes will likely be reflected in the people we elect to be in charge of our country. If we are ungodly, we probably won’t be anxious to have godly leadership ruling over us.

As you have likely noticed, our political seasons have a way of negatively charging people up as well as emotionally wearing them down. As we get closer to election day 2020, some of us perhaps have entertained the temptation to, morally speaking, let our guard down. Maybe some of us gave in. The result of such inattentiveness is that we likely found ourselves losing connection with what the Bible calls the fruit of the Spirit; those supernaturally-empowered, life-giving, God-honoring attitudes such as love, patience, kindness and self-control. Sadly, the political season seems much better at stirring up some very non-Christian attitudes, including slander, hate, fear, strife and rage.

Why does this happen? Well, just like anything else, our politics can become an idol. Make no mistake, idolatry is not limited to people who place a metal or wooden statue on an altar and light incense to it. An idol is anything we give the type of hope, trust and adoration that is reserved only for God. Political idolatry happens when we begin fixating on what a human leader or political party can do for us more than we focus our eyes on our Heavenly Father, our true provider who calls us to trust him and not worry (Matt. 6:25-34). Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton once opined:

“Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.”

Bottom line, we tread on thin ice when our engagement in politics motivates us to take our eyes of the providence and sovereignty of God To be able to participate in the political process is a wonderful privilege.

Thankfully, here in America we get to prolifically talk about our politics and freely cast our ballots. But, as followers of Jesus, we must also be careful to stay elevated above anything that might replace our trust in God or hinder our witness to the world.

Love it or loathe it, human governance will always be a part of life. (Chesterton mused, “Government is an ugly necessity.”) What we learn from the Bible is this: all government is instituted by God (Romans 13:1). Because of this reality, we as Christians are called upon by scripture to act as good, faithful, law-abiding citizens.

But the only government that deserves our complete, unwavering, undying devotion is the Kingdom of God, ruled by the King of Kings, Jesus. The apostle Paul held a proper perspective when he declared:

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we
await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:20)

No one rules better than Jesus. He is totally trustworthy in all his statutes and decrees. Isaiah 9:6 is usually viewed as a Christmas verse, but it really is a timeless pronouncement regarding Jesus incomparable ability to serve as the final authority in our lives:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name
shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God,
The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Human governments will always be flawed because human beings are flawed. But, thankfully, Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Which leads me to conclude with one more scripture:

To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord,
be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all
time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:25)

Spiritual Disciplines Prepare God’s People

But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness,  for the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. (1 Tim. 4:7-8 CSB)

I recently finished reading Kent Nerbern’s voluminous book, Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce.

If there’s anything the Nez Perce tribe is remembered for, its how over the course of almost 5 months they evaded being captured by U.S. soldiers. From mid June until October 5, 1877, this indomitable band of 700 men, women and children covered over 1000 miles while being hotly pursued by U.S. troops, settlers and Indian scouts.

While there were surely instances where luck played a part in the Nez Perce ability to elude capture, a lot of of what allowed them to dodge capture was their intelligence, skill, fitness and endurance. For example:

-Early in the book, the author wrote about how warriors would swim in icy waters every single day of the year. This practice was meant to build mental toughness and physical endurance.

-Nez Perce warriors also constantly worked on their skills as horsemaen, seeking to reach the point where horse and rider acted as one unit. They trained themselves to be able to shoot with accuracy while hanging under the neck of their mount.

-Lastly, Nez Perce warriors practiced fasting, teaching their bodies to go days without food without losing much vigor. It was revealed that one of the reasons the Nez Perce could outrun the soldiers was because the soldiers were conditioned to eat three meals a day. All those stops for food meant the Nez Perce could put a lot of mileage between them and their pursuers.

The bottom line is this: the Nez Perce practiced rugged self-discipline in order to be better prepared for a variety of challenges they might face. Rather than reacting weakly in the moment, they sought to be of strong mind and body before difficulties came their way.

The wise and growing Christian understands that the same holds true for how we approach the Christian life. An undisciplined spiritual life is a life that will often not show itself ready for the challenges life dishes out.

Legendary Dallas Cowboy’s coach said:

“The job of a football coach is to make men do what they don’t want to do in order to achieve what they’ve always wanted to be.”

In much the same way, Christians are called to make themselves, by the Spirit’s power, do what they would not naturally do—practice spiritual disciplines—in order to experience what the Spirit gives them a desire to be, that is, to be with Christ and like Christ.

Sometimes the disciplines call us to dive into kinetic activities such as reading and studying our Bible, praying and serving. Joining in corporate worship is another way we tend to our spiritual development.

Other times we learn discipline by slowing down and/or doing without. Things like fasting, being quiet or practicing sabbath are what help us develop endurance and grow closer to God.

Spiritual disciplines aren’t a means of earning God’s favor. We aren’t redeemed by God by what we do. Ephesians 2:8-9 says clearly, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.” Dallas Willard affirmed this sentiment when he said, “Spiritual disciplines are wisdom, not righteousness.”

No, spiritual disciplines are God’s ways to help us grow in faith and fruitfulness. D.A. Carson offered this reflection:

“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”

It is an undeniable fact that we will never get anywhere in life without discipline – especially in spiritual matters.

There may be some who have innate athletic or musical advantages. But none of us can claim an innate spiritual advantage.

None of us are inherently righteous, none of us naturally seek God or are reflexively good. Therefore, as saved children by grace, our grace-empowered spiritual disciplines are vital toward our being well-prepared as believers.

Discipline is all about being ready. It’s about awakening and strengthening the soul, spirit, eyes, ears and heart so we can see what’s always happening right in front of us.