"A Bad Joke."
These are just some of the terms I've heard (or read) to describe #Election2016. For almost two years, we have been inundated with campaign news, speeches, debates, commentary, and scandals. And it's not just in the TV news, it's in the social sphere as well. I have limited myself on Facebook and Twitter because after a while it's not longer educational or informational, it's just tiring and depressing.
These candidates have slung the mud, have serious credibility issues, and aren't the most popular potential candidate in their own party. Yet, after today, one or the other will be elected Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful nation in the world.
I've had friends tell me that this time around they are just going to "hold their nose and vote." I've heard that before--four years ago... and eight years ago...
Actually, that got me thinking: What's really different about this election cycle? And the answer is, not much that I can tell. As I write this, I'm sitting in a waiting room that has a TV on in the corner. It's airing the "Today Show" that just took a look back at the last 40 years of elections. Do you know what they ALL had in common? The commentators called every election the "most hotly contested election in recent history." Whether it was Carter/Ford in 1976, Reagan/Carter in 1980, or Gore/Bush in 2000, they were all hotly contested.
So I did some research and discovered that almost every Presidential Election has been hotly contested going back to John Adams versus Thomas Jefferson in 1796, which ironically, was the first contested election in U.S. history. In fact, the election of 1800 (again between Adams and Jefferson) was the first election in which negative campaigning emerged.
For those interested in history, here are just a couple of contested elections in our history that literally had thoughtful citizens wondering what the world was coming to. (If you're not interested in history, skip down below to the point.)
What is the point?
New candidates. Same news. We're discussing policy and trustworthiness. Republican or Democrat. It's really and truly nothing new. Yet, somehow, the nation has continued--sometimes up, sometimes down. I guess the point is, does it really matter?
As a Christian pastor, I have come to conclusion that Satan is playing both sides of the political arena. I have watched as the ideology between Democrats and Republicans continues to move further and further apart. Partisanship drives votes. And the resulting effects of polarization in society is unmistakable. Just look at social media and count the number of posts of individuals claiming to have been "unfriended" because of political difference. Satan is having his way in the political arena. The division is growing.
Maybe it's over-simplification, but I'm just not losing sleep over who the next POTUS will be. Sure I've got my opinions just like everyone else. But as a student of Scripture, I know that the stuff happening now is small compared to what's coming. Revelation 13 speaks of a time of coerced religion and worship. It tells us of laws pertaining to religion. And it speaks of economic collapse.
Even though I believe Satan has been playing both sides, I also believe that at some point God is going to stand up and say, "Enough is enough." Daniel 2:21 reminds us that God sets up kings and dethrones them--or in this case, I believe, sets up Presidents and removes them.
So what do we do in the mean time? I say prayerfully vote your conscience today, if you are so inclined. Keep your eyes open and be a people of prayer. But don't lose friendships over it. That is of Satan--not God. Is one candidate better for the immediate future than the other? Perhaps, but we won't really know that answer for some time.
Therefore, I'm keeping my eyes heavenward. I believe God will have His way today. And ultimately, I believe, Jesus will win.
I looked down at my on board fuel calculator this week. It said I could drive seven more miles before the engine would quit. I immediately chose the next gas station—ignoring the price—and filled up. I paid $2.59 a gallon. Not the most expensive, and certainly not the cheapest around, but I remember back when fuel was less than a dollar per gallon. In fact, some of my readers are remembering 25¢ per gallon! How far will that $2.59 in fuel take you? Just for fun, here’s some perspective:
Perspective: It seems to change with time and context. As the dimensions of life change, so also does our visual reality. Think about it this way, it takes more than 1,000 gallons of fuel per second for 8.5 minutes, to get the space shuttle into space, but once there, it change travel tens of thousands of miles with very little.
Which leads me to a heavenly perspective. God’s perspective is to be able to see the end from the beginning. He see it all!
Sometimes I find myself wishing I could see the way God sees it. But just like our perspective changes when we move around, side to side, up or down, so to our spiritual perspective changes as we study Scripture and get to know Jesus. So the reality is: maybe I can one day see things differently…by faith in Jesus.
Last year on this day, I was struggling. I was a pastor in between churches. It was a dark and uncertain time for not just me, but my wife and kids. We all felt alone and alienated. I started claiming these two promises that I posted today, one year ago on my Facebook page--and I am still, claiming them--every day.
Reflecting back I realize just how much support there really was. My conference admin was excellent to me with regular calls from my president, VP, and ministerial director to visit, always praying with/for me/us. How many friends called or stopped by. And how many of my pastor friends were praying for us, calling us, or texting us. Looking back at a dark time in life, I realize just how close God was through such friends and colleagues.
Today, one year later, I'm pastoring in a church that is excited about what the future holds. They are excited to work for Jesus. They love my family. And my family feels accepted. We can see how God has led. It so miraculous--it's exciting to think that God cared THAT much.
I totally resonate with this statement: "Satan's efforts to hinder the work and to destroy the workmen have not ceased; but God has had a care for His servants and for His work. In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what the Lord has wrought, I am filled with astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history" (Life Sketches, 196)
I write this Sabbath morning as an encouragement for any of my friends or colleagues who are struggling. Jesus is there. It may not feel like it. And the feelings you may have may not be pleasant, leaving you feeling deserted and distant. But keep praying. Keep holding on. You're not alone.
If you'd like, I'll pray with you too.
I am finally publishing the results of my own, unscientific survey on reasons why the Adventist church sometimes feels less evangelistic today. The history of this comes from reading an article from Thom Rainier where he asked why churches aren't as evangelistic as they once were. I wanted to know what Adventists thought about these responses and others. At the bottom are 14 of the top reasons Rainier got in his Twitter survey, and how they resonated with those who follow my blog. I've taken four of the statements that stood out to me and highlighted them first. While some results didn't surprise me, others were rather astonishing. I'd be interested in your thoughts and comments after reading them.