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What is trending, and what matters most.


Asking the right questions may be the life lesson of this election season that we can filter into every other avenue of our lives. Our responses to the times are often distorted because we've brought the wrong questions to the discussion table. This has been a significant learning theme for me in almost 67 years. With the strengths of "deliberative" and "analytical" at the bottom of my thirty-four personal strengths, I'm prone to rash considerations and quick answers. This often translates to wrong questions. When that happens and I miss the mark on something, I have to find a back-story to justify my action or decisions.

This was made evident to me the week of our son Brian's murder in 2011. This sudden tragedy threw Harriet and me into a downward spiral of grief and sorrow. We were overrun with questions. Several mornings later I read a Tweet that startled me into a more strategic consideration of the horrors surrounding us. It was posted by Florida Pastor Ken Whitten. It went something like this---

In crisis we ask, "How did I get out of this?". We should ask, "What do I get out of

this?"

it was a reminder that God is always working and that he will teach us much as we encounter the hard moments of life.

In these days leading up to November 8 I'm praying for humility and spiritual wisdom and knowledge. Like most of us I've been overwhelmed by a long list of questions about the five candidates, their party platforms, the state of our nation, the condition of our government, and thirty eleven other considerations thought to be important in deciding my own vote. And, in the process there's been a god bit of trending data in the mainline media, social media, and among the political talking heads. Theological and denominational leaders have been very vocal too. So, in the prayer closet I've had to settle some of these faddish conclusions in my own spirit, and finally identify the one single most important question about this election. Here are some thoughts, hopefully gathered with a humble heart and administered with spiritual wisdom and knowledge---

1. God is in control and Jesus is on his throne.

Well yes, he is, in all things. And, Jesus will be on his throne on November 9.

These biblical truths are trending among those seeking to minimize the

impact of their votes. Just the same, God placed us right here right now to

influence our world in his name. Therefore, we can't use sovereignty of God

arguments to relieve our own personal Christian responsibility to be good

citizens and do what is best for his kingdom even in the short haul. Many

evangelical voters have invoked his control as an excuse for our flimsy voting

plans. He is in control and we must trust his sovereign leadership in any event.

But, that doesn't excuse us to be cavalier in our politics.

2. We aren't electing a preacher, priest, rabbi, or imam.

Once again, that is true. We're electing the President of the United States,

Commander in Chief of our armed forces, spokesman for the nation, and in

most circles, the most powerful person in the world. But, character does

matter and we should elect a person who can represent us with honor and

respect. There are no religious qualifications for this exalted office. We

shouldn't however, write-off every character consideration, nor expect the

candidates character to be a reflection of our own religious views.

3. No candidate can save us.

This adage is correct as well. No elected official is a savior, messiah, or

redeemer. Let me add that In all the partisan rhetoric I honestly haven't heard

a single soul on either side mention their candidate as a national redeemer. All

five of the national candidates are flawed humans. But, like it or not, one of

them will be President of these United States. We should vote for the one

that, in our opinion, will best guide the nation for the next four years. In my

mind, that includes returning us to the representative republic our founders

envisioned.

4. A third party vote won't affect the outcome of the election.

Many evangelicals are opting for third party candidates because they cannot,

in what they refer to as good conscience, vote for the two major party choices.

Over and over many of these deny the influence of their third party vote on the

final outcome. A survey of past elections will quickly disqualify this thought.

For example, review the vote totals for the 1992 Presidential election. Please

note how the votes for Ross Perot shifted the election results. Many political

observers conclude that the Perot vote was the difference in this election. I'm

asking God to give me a reality check while I'm in the prayer closet these next

17 days.

5. You've got to vote your own conscience.

Of course, this is also a basically accurate observation. In the final analysis each

of us must vote according to our own deep beliefs and values. There's a

troubling element here, however. it is the centrality of self in this formula. For

many voters the ideal of voting your own conscience translates to doing what

is best in our own eyes, a self-absorbed voting strategy that ignores the greater

good and counsels of heaven. Evangelicals would broadly agree that voting

your own conscience involves prayer, counsel, deep thought, and biblical

guidance. Yet, many voters will elevate self or conscience to a place of

reverence and idolatry without any other discipline.

Several years ago author and pastor Richard Foster wrote, "Superficiality is the curse of our age" (Celebration of Discipline, Harper Collins, 3rd edition, 2009). That assessment may be more true today than when he originally penned those words. The need now, perhaps more than ever in modern American life, is for humble, serious citizens, especially in the Christian community, to express deep thought about our national process.

Which leads to the question of the hour. Oh, there are many questions about this election, the candidates, the governmental processes of our nation, the condition of Washington, the shifting demographics of our population, and the future. So, what is question one? For me it is this: which of the two major party candidates can lead this nation most effectively?

The prayer?

Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.

Psalm 119:66, ESV


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