Sunday, November 30, 2014

Boycott Black Friday? Really?

“It is easier to cry against one-thousand sins of others than to kill one of your own.” John Flavel

  Okay, please don’t tell! I mean what we say here, stays here…right? I might as well fess up. Last year, I went shopping (now don’t be a hater) on Thanksgiving Day. Somehow we’d run out of some item to finish preparing for our Thanksgiving Dinner. I’m going to pull an Adam. “It was the woman that I’m married to…” I would never have committed such a heinous, gauche act if it weren’t for Jane’s influence. To be candid, it was a pretty terrible experience. Already, they were blocking off aisles and setting up displays getting ready for Black Friday. I had to go to the back of the store for something. So many aisles were blocked off, I wasn’t sure I was going to ever get out of there. It was not a good experience.
  Boycott Black Friday is a reaction against some of the craziness of recent Black Fridays and that more stores, to gain that extra bottom line edge, are not just opening up at insane hours on Friday, they’re even opening on Thanksgiving Day. More than 40,000 people have joined the “Boycott Black Friday” Facebook group to demonstrate against any store that opens on Thanksgiving.
  Personally, I’ve never shopped on Black Friday and other than that one time excursion for a few missing ingredients, I don’t remember ever shopping on Thanksgiving. But I don’t think that there is anything wrong with it. I have a hard time finding a moral right or wrong there.
  Do I believe that people ought to be able to celebrate Thanksgiving together? Sure. Do I think that families should have the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving together? Absolutely. Yet, if their employer decides to open up on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas or any other holiday, it’s not wrong.
  For years, our family made an annual trek from Wisconsin to Michigan to celebrate Thanksgiving. I’ve driven through more snow and ice storms than I want to ever recount. Looking back, I’m so thankful that salt truck drivers had to work. I’m glad police, fire, rescue and even wreckers were available. I’m sure they all wanted to be home with their families, too. I was also very thankful for those few “greedy” gas station operators open on Thanksgiving Day.
  Yes, those are all either emergency or needed services. While some might disagree with me, I think you’d have a hard time justifying football as an emergency or needed service. But I don’t remember anyone complaining that the players, coaches, not to mention all of the concession staff have to work. Can you imagine Thanksgiving though without football? Did you know that the NFL tradition of playing games on Thanksgiving goes all the way back to the league’s inception in 1920. It’s not some recent greedy  development? And what about Thanksgiving Day parades? Some churches actually have Thanksgiving Day Services (try to do that here and I’ll have file a union grievance J).
  Being an avid bargain hunter, I have difficulty finding fault with those who are willing to stand in line a few hours to save money or obtain that special item their child has his or her heart set on. Nearly all of us have  things we’d stand in line for hours for, it just has to be the right thing. For you, it might be to purchase tickets to a playoff or championship game, or a concert by your favorite musician. It could be to have a chance to see some celebrity or famous person. It might even to be one of the first through the doors of a book sale (not that I actually know someone who’s done that…)
  My point is that the human heart loves to feel good about itself, about the “sins” it doesn’t commit. Mine does. All of us have a little Pharisee in our souls. It can be anything from behaviors or addictions, to spending habits or political positions. We tend to look down our self-righteous noses at those who don’t live “righteously” like us.
  Please understand. I’m not suggesting that we rationalize or close our eyes to real sin. Yet, I find that the “sins” most of us get all bent out of shape about are more behavioral and lifestyle choices than what the Bible would call “sin.” Then, when we are bothered about what’s truly a sin, we tend to be more concerned about sins of the flesh than sins of the spirit. Sins of the flesh would be behaviors like immorality, drunkenness, idolatry, rage, profanity, etc. Yet, we’re apt to overlook the sins of the spirit like envy, pride, bitterness, hatred, greed, etc. Most of us have an internal scale of what we consider a “big” sin and what we consider “little” ones. While homosexuality is a big sin, lust or even sharing dirty jokes isn’t. Profanity is a biggie, yet gossip or complaining are small ones. Stealing is detestable, yet a little selfishness is just normal. We all too quickly succumb to the sin of self-righteousness.
  John Calvin insightfully observed, “The human heart is an idol factory... Every one of us from our mothers womb is an expert in inventing idols.” The idol that we all find most tempting to worship – is me! Those of us who are most fervent for the truth and righteousness often mistake self-righteous pride for godly zeal. We convince ourselves we’re fighting for godliness and faithfulness, but in subtle ways our passion becomes about our identity, our rightness, our purity, our truth. It becomes less and less about who God is, His glory and His name, and more about us and our reputation, even good feelings that we’re the “holy ones.”  
  We must get a firm grip on this spiritual reality – true godliness always results in great humility. The closer you draw to the Lord, the more you realize how much God loves you even though He knows every dark corner of your soul. The more you see who you really are, the more that you throw yourself on His mercy and grace. We are not good people. Most of the time, we’re not even nice. Romans 3 is sadly an honest diagnosis of who and what we are: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God…no one does good.”
  It is God’s mercy alone—not our intellect, background, personal righteousness, good works, or any other factor. That’s the reason why we’ve embraced Christ. And it’s only the indwelling Holy Spirit in our hearts that produces any true goodness. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” Galatians 5:22-23). It’s totally Him, His fruit and work, not ours.
  Regularly returning to this foundational truth should make us the most humble and the most grateful people. We know that all that we are is because of Him and His grace. It is truly all of grace. That continual realization is so liberating as it executes pride and cultivates true humility.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Moral Insanity of a Kim Kardashian 50 Shades of Grey World

   If you’re unaware of Kim Kardashian’s most recent exhibitionism, count your blessings. That she’s famous at all is an indictment of our dumpster diving culture, yet, it’s not a real surprise. Her “career” has been built on manipulating the media to garner attention for the salacious and perverse.  
  Personally, I feel tremendous pity for her. When her 15 minutes are finally up, she’ll be discarded by a heartless world like innumerable sexpots before her. The countdown has started. Kim is already 34. Even the beautiful people can’t escape the ramifications of a sin cursed world. They, too, must submit to physical atrophy. Exercise gurus, diets and plastic surgeons can only postpone it, yet all wave the white flag in the end. That’s not even considering the potentiality of a debilitating disease. Her father, Robert, succumbed at 59 to cancer. A few cells amiss and it’s game over.
  Kim Kardashian’s super star status is but another example of the bipolar values of contemporary culture. She’s now on husband #3 and is the fodder of late night TV comedians, ridiculed for her wanton lifestyle. But the Duggars and the Robertsons of Duck Dynasty are also mocked for their morality. While I’m not suggesting the Duggars or Robertsons are models of normalcy, it’d be more edifying to watch their reality shows rather than Keeping up with the Kardashians. It reveals our bipolar values that Kim Kardashian is somehow famous and yet disdained for her lack of morals, yet the Robertsons and Duggars are also famous yet scorned because they do have morals. It’s moral bipolarism.
  Our irrational world fails to connect the dots – you can’t have your cake and eat it too. It’s commonly known that our culture has a problem with obesity. Can you imagine how much worse it would be if there was no discouragement to overeating? What if there was a Krispy Kreme on every corner? Not only that, every time that you turned on the TV, a half dozen glazed donuts popped out on the coffee table next to you. You turn on your computer, start surfing the Net and Hershey’s Kisses, Mounds Bars and Reese’s Peanut Butter cups magically appear. Every song on the radio is about steak, lobster, pasta, beer and brats. Everywhere you went you’re ambushed with tantalizing free food. If that were the case, Butterball wouldn’t just be a brand of turkey. It’d be descriptive of nearly everyone, with a few exceptions.  
  So where do you not find porn and graphic sex today? The sad reality is that Kim Kardashian’s escapades are what’s labeled “soft porn” in an insanely eroticized world. Consider though the bipolar rational of all this. When sex is everywhere, should we really be shocked that there are sex addicts? Please understand, I’m not rationalizing or justifying sex crimes. Yet, isn’t it hypocritical to have graphic, sexualized images everywhere, available 24/7 but then feign surprise that some have no control. There are so many cases today of child porn and/or molestation, we’re becoming desensitized to it. Do you want a registered sex criminal in your neighborhood or near your child’s school? Go online. You’ll be appalled at how many are in your neighborhood. If the trend continues, (there’s no reason to think it won’t), where are we going to put them all? In light of that problem and our cultures increasing acceptance of deviant behavior, it’s not shocking that there’s a growing movement to decriminalize sex crimes with minors. Incest is now legal in Switzerland.
  Another example of bipolar values is that natural marriage is constantly belittled while cohabitation is increasingly valued and consequently, is on the rise. Yet, it’s rare that anyone talks about the increase of child molestation and abuse in cohabitation relationships. Social workers who monitor America’s families see the abusive-boyfriend syndrome as part of a broader, deeply worrisome trend. As more children grow up in homes without both biological parents, the risk of crimes against children is markedly higher in these nontraditional family structures. University of Virginia sociologist, Brad Wilcox, says, “This is the dark underbelly of cohabitation…Most people think, 'What's the harm?' The harm is we're increasing a pattern of relationships that's not good for children.”
  One more example – this coming Valentine’s Day, the film version of 50 Shades of Grey is to be released. That in itself is nauseating. The book has nothing to do with either romance or love. Personally, I thought April 1st would be more apropos. Someone is probably asking, “Have you read it?” No, but I’ve never sipped Draino either but I know it’s deadly. This book and now film, are just another example of our bipolar values.
  There’s continual rhetoric about the glass ceiling, that women are underpaid and don’t have opportunities of advancement that men do. Yet, some of the same women who’d rightfully decry this double standard, think that 50 Shades is a wonderful love story. If you’re a feminist, how can you rationalize that a wealthy pervert physically dominating a woman is somehow considered acceptable? In a world concerned about the rights of women, how can trash like 50 Shades even be published, much less become a bestseller? Only a morally vacuous person could think it’s somehow acceptable for a woman to be manhandled and abused by an emotionally stunted perverse playboy.
  Space keeps me from pointing out the bipolar values of a nation obsessed with health care, yet will set few limits on pornography. How can there even be a debate about teaching teens abstinence and to wait until marriage because such teaching is somehow “religious”? The eroticization of a culture carries a steep healthcare price – teenage pregnancies and an increase in STDs that’s astronomical. Just a few years ago do you think anyone thought that there would be commercials about medications to counter the effects of genital herpes on primetime television?
  Let me end though with hope. When it comes to sex, a biblical worldview is the only place of safety and sanity. That means we must know what the Bible teaches about sexuality. It means that we must love and be committed to natural marriage and our spouses. It means we must teach and model for our own children a healthy view of sexual intimacy from a biblical grid. We’re not the human animal driven by bestial drives; we’re image bearers of God. Sex is a wonderful gift from God that’s to be celebrated in a committed, natural marriage. It’s an act of love, an act of giving, to be shared after vows of lifelong commitment have been made before a loving God. Sexual temptation, like all temptation, is to be resisted and can be defeated by the power of God’s grace. And wonderfully, no sin or failure is beyond the healing power and restoration of the Cross.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Called to be a "loser"?

“Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.” Vince Lombardi

  Okay, I’ll confess, it was a little too hard to not tease friends who are Bear fans last week. Even the sportscaster on WBBM joked, “The Chicago Bears won...the coin toss” after last Sunday night’s 55 to 14 shellacking by the Packers. Of course, it could be worse. At least the Bears are 3 and 6. You could be a Tampa Bay fan at 1 and 8. Even the Detroit Lions are more popular than the Bears right now, though both cities are very familiar with mediocre teams. And while I’m a lifelong Atlanta Falcons fan, with a 3-6 record, a Falcons’ jersey isn’t on my Christmas list.
  Americans love winners and so does the Church. We’re attracted to the successful, trendy, hip and cool. It’s hard not to be. After all, it’s the message we’re weaned on – winners win, losers just lose.
  While the media’s caricature of Christians being oddballs really bothers me, I have to admit that there’s some truth to it. Have you ever noticed that churches seem to attract more than their fair share of odd people and odd pastors, too? So have you ever wished that Christianity could be cooler, have a better image, and perhaps even wondered why it wasn’t and didn’t?
  Why aren’t churches seen as exciting, happening places where normal people would want to be seen hanging out? Why is it so much easier to post on Facebook that we’re at the gym or some swanky restaurant? How often do you see someone post that they’re at church? Ever notice it’s easier to post a selfie with a beer in your hand than a Bible? Why is that? Most of us are more comfortable videoing our bad karaoke (is there such a thing as good karaoke?) rather than singing in church? Many of us sing so softly in church that unless you’re within our personal space, you can’t even hear us. Maybe it’s whisper praise instead of a joyful noise?
  Even when we talk about our faith, it’s usually with a “getting” focus rather than a “losing” one. Much of our Christian talk revolves around “gaining.” God gave me this…He gave me that. Much of our Christian life is focused on what we’ve received: freedom, hope, peace, a future, etc.
  Don’t get me wrong. All of those are worth being excited about, yet the Christian life is also about giving up things. It has a Cross as well as a crown. That’s the part most of us are a lot slower to talk about. Yet, as we read the Gospels, we quickly discover Jesus talked much more about losing than winning. He calls us to “lose our life.” If you call yourself a Christ-follower, you must be prepared to call yourself a loser. The Cross means losing. The Cross isn’t only about gaining a new life in Christ, it’s also about losing your life to find it. Every believer has things that we had to lose in order to follow Christ. We lose our past, complete with our sin and guilt. Oftentimes, though that also includes friends, family members, memories, even a spouse. We lose our security, as Christ draws us into unfamiliar territory and calls us to walk by faith. The talkative, assertive person must lose and learn to be quiet and listen. The quiet, shy person must lose and speak up even when it’s tough. We all lose our “rights.” We’re to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). A Christian wife must lose what the world calls her “right” when she submits to her husband. A Christian husband must lose himself, his desires and agendas, when he yields to the Lord and leads his family. He’s to love his wife sacrificially. The motivated, driven person loses when God says “wait…be still.” The pensive, cautious person loses when God says, “Go now. Act.”
  The Gospels make it clear that Jesus was never concerned about His image. He never felt the need to associate with the cool people or do cool things. He was completely free of such worries and had a very different set of criteria for what was worthy of admiration. He wasn’t interested in or impressed by human posturing, presentation, play-acting or power-plays. He was more interested in humility, integrity, kindness, compassion, contrite hearts and merciful attitudes.
  Let’s be honest. All of us are to some extent misfits and oddballs deep down. Some of us are just better at covering it up than others. 
  Jesus had great compassion for those who were looked down on by society for being uncool, weird or odd; those who didn’t fit in. He didn’t exclude them and won’t tolerate our exclusion of them. His Church is to be open for the least, the unlovely, the social outcast and outsider. If we can’t accept them, we’ve failed His mission. And we need to be reminded of this because it’s tempting to try to sweep embarrassing people under the carpet and out of sight. We must not forget that we’re all image-bearers, even those who seem a bit odd.   
  Jesus doesn’t just want symbolism or mere conformity to social conventions and norms. His ways and will are far bigger and better – and much more freeing – than that. For that very reason, those we see as embarrassing can sometimes be far freer and far more likely to take risks to do things God asks, regardless of whether they might be humiliating. The biblical prophets, John the Baptist, even some of Jesus’ disciples, all had some traits which probably didn’t make them great guests at most dinner parties. To be frank, they were a bit weird, even a bit ridiculous. But they were chosen by God and He was pleased to work through them.
  Of course, I still cringe when I see a nut job preaching on a street corner. Personally, I don’t think it’s the best way to share Christ. Yet, I need to remind myself that God chooses the weak things of this world to shame the strong; the foolish things to shame the wise. God’s foolishness is greater than human wisdom. Even Jesus wasn’t cool in any worldly sense. This world still thinks of Him as a loser and His followers as losers, too.
  I’m not saying that Christians can’t be cool or that Jesus loves you more if you’re a weirdo. We don’t need to deliberately make church embarrassing or uncool, any more than we need to deliberately go out seeking to suffer. What I am saying though is that Jesus is for losers. If we want to walk the way of Christ, we need to get used to that and we’d better make sure our churches aren’t too cool or uppity to include weirdoes, saddoes, oddballs and the socially awkward.
  Ted Turner, was right, “Christianity is a religion for losers.” Being a Christian follower is a call to be a loser. That’s because our Lord was the biggest loser of all. He sacrificed His life for each of us who were losers, that we might be losers in Him and gain everything. Yet, being a Christian carries much more shame than being a Bear’s fan. In January the football season is over and they can start talking about “next year.” For the believer, it’s a lifetime calling. The world won’t know the score and that Jesus wins until the end of the age. Until then, from a lost world’s perspective, we’re on the losing team.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

“This is what I was made for.” Nik Wallenda

“Don't let the fear of striking out hold you back.” Babe Ruth

Did you watch Nik Wallenda last Sunday night walk between two skyscrapers 600 feet above downtown Chicago? Then, he did his second tightrope walk blindfolded. Wow! 600 feet up without a net or safety straps. I love what he said during his tightrope walk, “I'm so blessed for these opportunities. You guys watching think I'm crazy, but this is what I was made for.” It’s estimated that 50,000 came to watch him accomplish this death defying feat.
  “This is what I was made for.” Those words really convict me. Too often I forget “what I was made for.” We were made to glorify God! We have a mission! It’s found in Jesus’ last words before He went Home, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). The truth is that I can easily get distracted and focused on nearly everything else but “what I was made for.” Can you relate? Yet, most of the stuff that can absorb my focus is so temporary.
  I wonder if believers in other ages had our struggles, particularly with our specific struggles. For example, I have to work to not be absorbed with politics. I know better. I know it’s all very temporal. I’m not sure why. I think that part of it is that we’re inundated with it. Part of it is that my friends are nearly always talking about it. Part of it is that I am so grieved to see the country I love degenerating and moving toward a moral collapse. Part of it is the lack of critical thinking, not to mention comprehension of the long term effect of an antichristian worldview generationally. Yet, I know that politics is not the solution. I know that those who hold views that are anti-Christian are not the enemy. And I know that I’m to love, pray and reach out to leaders who despise Christianity, but I still struggle to not be distracted by something that makes little difference in eternity.
  Then, I struggle with being a workaholic. I love to work…always have. Now some of you are probably thinking, “Well, you’re in the ministry…isn’t the ‘mission’ part of your work?” Yes, but there are many things that I can focus on that are non-mission oriented. This will probably surprise some of you, I tend to be an introvert. I could easily hide out in my office and go weeks without any human contact. I’m sure that I have enough work to keep me busy for several decades. That’s part of why I’m part of organizations that have a lot of unchurched people or those from other faiths. It pressures me to be mission focused. Because when I’m with those who don’t know the Lord, my heart breaks. It weighs on me that so many that I love and care about don’t know Jesus.
  Then, I love creature comforts. It’s easy to be distracted with ME. I can convince myself I deserve this, that I need a break, that I owe it to myself. While there is a time or place for that, I have to work to keep it all in balance. Now I don’t have the sports bug, but I have my own obsessions of entertainment. I love reading. I could easily keep my nose in a book 24/7. Then, I enjoy good drama. I’m also a news junkie. And I love to spend time with my wife and my family.
  My point is that though our distractions may be different, it’s easy and tempting to be absorbed with that which is good, that’s not evil or bad, yet it’s not “what we were made for.” I’m sure that if you took some time and prayed about this and did some reflecting, you’d find your own list of distractions that can easily absorb all your time and totally distract you from “what you were made for.”
  Have you ever noticed how easy it is to talk about everything else, nearly anything else, BUT the Gospel? We can even talk about the Bible, spiritual truths, even church…yet never get around to the Gospel. We make ourselves feel good that we’re having a lot of “spiritual talks,” yet we’re often neglecting the greatest need of the person we’re conversing with – the Gospel.
  Some of us just need to get out more. We’re so trapped in our safe Christian bubbles that we really don’t have deep relationships with any lost people. Maybe you need to join a group that has some common interests  but that’s NOT a church group or Bible study, so that it opens opportunities to befriend unbelievers and share the Gospel.
  Yet, for most of us, that’s not the problem. We’re inundated with lost people. We work with them, play with them, and have good relationships with our neighbors. For some, a large percentage, even the majority of our relatives, don’t know the Lord. And we will talk about anything and everything else, but that which really matters, that which is our mission, “what we were made for.”
  The next several weeks are literally filled with Gospel opportunities. Take the Thanksgiving Season. It’s not “turkey day,” it’s Thanksgiving. But who are we thanking? Who has ultimately given us everything that we’re thankful for? Our loving Heavenly Father. What a great opportunity to segue a conversation to the Gospel.
  Next Sunday night we’re even serving an opportunity up for you to reach out to a lost person that the Lord has brought into your life on a “silver platter” with our Harvest Celebration. What an easy opportunity to build a Gospel bridge. Just inviting someone to be your guest can open a conversation about the Gospel.
  During the Christmas Season, they are truly singing our songs. For over a month, great songs about the Incarnation and God’s great plan of salvation will be heard everywhere. Even atheists will be singing Silent Night. What an opportunity for a Philip and the Ethiopian moment, “Do you understand what you are ‘singing’?” (Acts 8:30).
  So why don’t we share the Gospel? Think about this. If I told you that I loved my wife, Jane, yet I never talked about her. If I never wanted to be seen with her in public and didn’t introduce her to any of my friends, would you believe that I really loved Jane? If I flirted with other women, if I talked about other women, if talked about and obviously enjoyed everything else, but the one who I said was the love of my life, would you believe that I really loved Jane?
  The point is obvious. If we believe that sharing the Gospel, sharing the One that we say that we love is “what we were made for,” you couldn’t shut us up. So take a small risk, not a Nik Wallenda risk, and share the Gospel, share the old, old story about the One who is the only hope for this world, for your world, for you lost loved ones and friends.

Monday, November 3, 2014

In God we trust...Really???

“Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong.”  Richard Armour

  A few months back I was having a good natured debate with a friend on whether we should still have, “In God we trust” on our money. To be candid, I have mixed emotions. First, it’s just not true. Our country doesn’t look to God as the ultimate authority. We simply don’t trust Him, often we don’t even acknowledge Him. In my mind, it tends to be hypocritical.
  Yet, on the other hand, at one time the vast majority in our country did believe in God, held to moral absolutes and looked to God as the final authority…even those who were “non-believers.” “In God we trust” has the value then of reminding us of our heritage and what our country was founded on. While I don’t personally believe our country was ever a “Christian” nation, our forefathers did have a Judeo-Christian worldview.
  That’s not the case today. Rapidly, we are devolving into the indictment of the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness…Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” (5:20-21).
  You may not know this but “In God we trust” is relatively new as our national motto. Though it’s appeared and disappeared on our money almost since our nation’s conception, it wasn’t until 1956, at a particularly tense time in the Cold War, that it became law. The United States wanted to distinguish itself from the Soviet Union, which promoted state atheism. As a result, the 84th Congress passed a joint resolution “declaring IN GOD WE TRUST the national motto of the United States.” That law was signed by President Eisenhower on July 30, 1956 and the motto was progressively added to all of our money.
  So who or what do we trust in? For the past few months, I’ve been musing over this and I’m still thinking it through. Typically, I share what I’m fairly conclusive about here – this is not one of those times. So can I challenge you to mull this over with me?
  Basically, I believe that there are two political worldviews in America on what we trust. Our worldview then determines where our political alliance is, how we vote and who we vote for.
  First, I think there are those who’d be honest if they acknowledged, “In government we trust.” Essentially, it’s the deification of the state. There are many in our country who look to the government to resolve every problem and to care for the populace from the cradle to the grave. They are willing to surrender personal liberty for the greater good of the State. Since the establishment of government, governmental leaders have continually been tempted to play the role of parents to their people. These “parents” aren’t just the symbol of authority, they seek to be the source of every provision. A parental state feeds its children, nurtures, educates, comforts, counsels, disciplines and provides for all of their needs for security. Ultimately, it even directs their end of life decisions and is sometimes responsible for their burial. Citizens are seen as children who don’t know what’s best for them, which is a terribly insulting way to treat adults. There’s a tendency to place political leaders on a super-human pedestal that they can’t fulfill. Ultimately, it transforms government from being a gift from God, given to protect us from violence, into an idol. We look to government to meet every need. A deified state thrives on dependency. Interestingly, it become parasitic on the very ones whom it’s turned into parasites. For the Christian, the State is not who we trust, nor is the State our final authority, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Our final authority is God. It’s our Almighty God that we trust and depend on.
  Then, I think that there are those who would be honest if they acknowledged, “In gold we trust.” Essentially, it’s the deification of money. It sees whatever governmental system or leader who benefits us the most economically as the best choice and the greatest good. It overlooks the moral reality that that while true needs can be satisfied—food, drink, companionship—when our highest motivation is economic, it opens us up to illegitimate wants that are insatiable—pride, envy, greed—to name a few. Materialism becomes the opium of the people, yet enough is never enough. It’s the horror of the wicked witch in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Tales who gives her victims food that only causes greater hunger. It degenerates into worshiping the almighty dollar rather than the Almighty God. When our political motivations are economic, we become like the rich man of Luke 12 who believes that money and possessions make life. Yet, Jesus reminds us that possessions not only don’t give life, they don’t even give existence. Ultimately, death separates us from all our possessions, anything and everything we think we own. When we deify economic benefit, we forget Jesus’ words, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
  It’s my opinion, too, that sometimes Christians are a bit simplistic in the candidates they support. For example, in recent years, the plumb line for evangelicals has been whether a candidate is pro-life and pro-marriage. While those are very important distinctions, I don’t think that they should be the final consideration. Some who are pro-life and pro-marriage are also incompetent and would make terrible leaders. For example, though Pat Robertson is pro-life, personally, I could never vote for him.
  Then, we forget that politicians for the most part are primarily pragmatic. Many will essentially do whatever it takes to get or stay in power. One of my heroes and my favorite President of recent history was Ronald Reagan. President Reagan was unashamedly pro-life, yet his most influential political advisor, Nancy Reagan, was pro-choice. While I would hope not, yet I’m not totally confident that if his bid for the White House had been in jeopardy, that he wouldn’t have compromised his “values” to gain the Presidency. Fortunately, we will never know.
  How then should a Christian vote? First, we need to pray for wisdom, James 1:5. In today’s culture, sometimes voting is not choosing the greatest good, it’s voting for the lesser evil. If Jesus Christ is Lord, then we must vote with Kingdom values. We must not vote for who will take care of us (in government we trust) or who will potentially benefit us economically (in gold we trust), we must vote for the candidate who we believe has the greatest potential to bring glory to God and will allow us as Christians to advance Christ’s Kingdom. Our allegiance must be to King Jesus and His desires first. Sometimes that choice may hurt us or make our lives more difficult, yet helps the cause of Christ. As Christians, our first loyalty must always be to our Savior and Lord.