Preparing For The Election Season

After last night’s debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden it seems pretty clear that the polarization, anger, and insults will continue to be with us for the next two months leading up the election on November 4th. As a pastor who loves his church family I don’t tell them (or anyone for that matter) how they should vote. But, it certainly is my responsibility to teach and model how we should live as Christians during a time such as this.

So, how should we respond in a way that honors God over the next few weeks? I have four suggestions:

Pray

Over the past few years I have heard people say on social media that we need to stop posting remarks about the fact that we are going to pray. And what they mean, I think, is that there are times when we should do more than pray. That we need to move into action and that saying we are going to pray is just a cop out for not really doing anything. Yes, there are times we need to roll up our sleeves and take some necessary action. No doubt about it. But Scripture is really clear that one of the most powerful things we can do, about any situation, is to pray. Let’s pray and ask God to be a work in a powerful way leading up to the election on November 4th.

Treat people on the other side of the political aisle with love

I am deeply saddened by the way that people who claim to be Christians treat people who have different political views than they do. Consider the words of Jesus for a moment, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Jesus taught us and demonstrated through his life that even our enemies should be treated with love. It does not mean we don’t disagree, but we should do it in such a way that they sense that we care about them and love them.

Make sure politics is not an idol in your life. How would you know if politics have become an idol in your life?

  • You watch the news more than you pray and read the bible
  • You are fearful
  • You are worried
  • You put more hope in politicians than you do in God
  • You don’t have any friends who think differently than you about politics (which is another way of saying that you live in an echo chamber).
  • You think and talk about politics too much
  • You lack grace, kindness, and compassion towards those who disagree with you
  • You have a really hard time admitting the weaknesses of your own political tribe. On the other side of the coin, you have a hard time admitting the strengths of the other political tribe.

You are active on social media but not your church, neighborhood, and city

I see this trend more and more. People greatly over value the impact they are making by sharing their opinions online. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the church is how God desires to change the world. Are you partnering with others in the church to make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20)? Are you building relationships with those who do not yet know Christ in your neighborhood and city?

The Dangers Of Living Inside An Echo Chamber

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” -Galatians 5:22-23

The first thing we need to do is define what an echo chamber is. Wikipedia defines an echo chamber like this:

“An echo chamber is a metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system. By visiting an echo chamber, people are able to seek out information which reinforces their existing views. This may increase political and social polarization and extremism. Another emerging term for this echoing and homogenizing effect on the internet within social communities is cultural tribalism.”

An echo chamber is what happens to a person when they only listen to people who already think the way they do. People stuck in an echo chamber rarely hear an argument from a different perspective (politics, religion, etc.) But this problem is much more insidious than most people are aware of. Did you know that Facebook is keenly aware of the kind of news and information that you like and they begin to highlight these stories and minimize anything that you might disagree with? Watch this brief video to see what I am talking about.

So the echo chamber exists. But is this echo chamber really all that bad for us? If so, how? Let me give you THREE EXAMPLES of how the echo chamber is hurting you (and others):

  • You never learn from anyone that sees the world from a different perspective. Hopefully we have not become so arrogant to believe that we no longer need to learn new things or new ideas. We need to remain humble enough to admit that we simply don’t know it all.
  • You begin to see people that you disagree with as your enemy. Ed Stetzer writes this, “Christians are too good at blurting out what we believe and yelling and people who don’t like it. We’re often too quick to jump to social media to punish our keyboard with our anger and scream at any disagreeing person in our path. Our social media world has this way of making those who disagree with us look like complete idiots.” If you doubt it just think of some of the terms that get frequently thrown around (libtard, conservitard, snowflake, deplorable, and the list just goes on and on). Scripture is clear that those who are on the other side of the political aisle are not our enemy. Paul writes this in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
  • You damage your witness before a watching world. Let’s turn to the apostle Paul one more time. In Romans 12:14 we read this, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” Imagine how different social media would feel if everyone obeyed this command? Too often instead of the world seeing the love of Christ in us they get the feeling that the Christian’s primary emotion is anger.

Social Media Echo Chamber

So what can we do about this? I certainly don’t think this is the complete solution, but it sure is an interesting idea. Knife Media is a news outlet that is trying hard to give just the basic facts when it comes to the news. They are trying to stay away from spinning a story in way that reflects their biases. Let me tell what I think will happen if you were to start reading your news from an outlet like Knife Media. You would find it either boring or disappointing. The reason this is true is that many times we are just looking to have our preconceived views about what is going on in the world validated by someone else. Is it possible that we have been so impacted by the echo chamber that we actually want to hear the spin?

Another suggestion is that we detox ourselves for a period of time from the news. (TV, iPhones, laptops, newspapers, social media, etc.) One writer stopped watching the news for a period of time and then recorded how it made her feel. Here are just a few of the changes that she experienced:

  • Had a greater sense of calm and peace
  • Felt closer to God
  • Less anger
  • Slept better

“Apparently studies have shown that the ratio of bad news to good news is about 17:1, which means that 95% of news is negative.” -Lisa Mainwaring

Perhaps the best idea is that we open ourselves up to people who think differently than we do. Listen more than we talk (or type). Try to see things from the another person’s perspective. This does not mean that we compromise the truth or that we become intellectually soft. No, it means that we humbly admit that we don’t have all the answers and we still want to learn and grow.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about how we can deal with the echo chamber that is closing in on us.

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This is crazy. You can go HERE and see your ad profile on Facebook. It will reveal to you how Facebook tailors ads based on their understanding of who you are. It will also show you if Facebook thinks you are liberal or conservative (or somewhere in-between) when it comes to politics. Facebook makes these types of determinations based on what you click on and what you ‘like.’ Fascinating and a bit frightening. Big brother is watching.

Above pic taken from feedingonchristdotcom

1 Samuel and Modern Day Politics

I will begin preaching from 1 Samuel in a couple weeks. As I was reading through the book today I had this strong sense that 1 Samuel has much to say when it comes our attempts to change the world and modern day politics.  I have made up a fictional account of 1 Samuel 8. Let’s call it the Uninspired Michael Edition.
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19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” -1 Samuel 8:19-20

The people were #outraged over the many problems they saw in the world. They came to Samuel and told him that the answer to all their problems was to find just the right leader. Not too liberal and not too conservative. Samuel knew this was a terrible idea. He warned them that any human leader they selected would be a raging sinner and would be unable to fix all their problems. They cried out to Samuel and explained that by their estimation there were 780,093,870 different #movements that they had felt strongly about for at least 3 hours. They concluded that it was only reasonable to expect the new leader to accomplish their agenda for them. Action must be taken.

Samuel sighed deeply. He reminded them that God was to be their only king and He had already given them the plan to change the world. He told them that the place to start was a deep love for God. Moses had been clear that love was the greatest of all commands. Samuel was concerned that their political anger could spill over into actual violence in the streets. Samuel then talked about the prophet Isaiah and how he taught them that it was their responsibility to be a light to the nations. This meant living differently then the culture around them. They were responsible to live out their faith in a manner that accurately reflected who Yahweh truly is.  Living as a light to the nations might even lead to the unthinkable, getting to know their Gentile neighbors who are lost in darkness. Samuel finally pointed out that the prophet Micah had commanded them to pursue justice.  This was a roll up your sleeves, leave the confines of your tent, and actually make a difference in the world kind of command.

The people enthusiastically nodded and said they knew all of those commands because they had studied them in their Synagogue Group.

Samuel felt a sense of hope as they recited the verses out loud. But hope quickly turned to despair as the people explained to him that they wanted to elect a leader so that he could do all the things the prophets had told them to do.

So God told Samuel to go ahead and do as the people had requested. A President was elected.

But the people began to wonder what in the world they would use so that they knew how to think, talk, act and live in this new kingdom. Samuel, again, reminded them that they had the all-powerful Word of God that was sufficient for all their needs.

The people patted ole Sam on the head but they knew better. Some suggested a golden calf. Most liked this idea, very retro. But they decided they had been there, done that. Some thought they should put together a book. But they agreed that everyone was just to busy to bother reading. Finally someone suggested that instead of a calf or a book that they create a box. But what kind of box? How about a box that talks to people. This box would serve as a mechanism that would grow their power and influence in the world. It would also be a great way to indoctrinate, incite and motivate the masses. Discipleship from a box.

Through this box came news programs, talk shows and a plethora of channels that could give them the daily wisdom they were so desperate for. They would know when they should get #outraged and when to form a new #movement. The kingdom of God was taking shape right in front of their very eyes. The people cheered.

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You’ll have to read the rest of 1 and 2 Samuel to see how it all turned out. Let’s just say not good.

Photo taken from historydotcom

The Devil and Politics

It’s good for Christians to speak their mind and to be involved with politics. But when does it go too far? I want to argue that it is possible to lose sight of our mission (Great Commission) as a church because we have been swept up in the political and cultural wars of our day.

C.S. Lewis is one of my all-time favorite writers. So much so that my oldest son is named after him (Justice Clive Wallenmeyer.) The following is from me, I just borrowed the idea from The Screwtape Letters. If you are not familiar with The Screwtape Letters it is important to know that it is an allegory. Screwtape is the devil and Wormwood is one of the devil’s demonic servants.

My dear Wormwood,

First of all I want to begin with sincere congratulations. You have exceeded my wildest expectations. One look at social media today makes it very clear that the followers of our enemy have given up the Great Commission so that they can be a part of a large number of “movements”. These Christians have figured out that the Great Commission is hard, tedious work. There is nothing flashy or sexy about it. Instead of spending time getting to know people in their neighborhoods and city they are trying to advance the enemy’s kingdom with hashtags and Facebook rants. Brilliant!  As you know by now, the key is to keep the hearts and minds of our enemies filled with deep angst. Cause them to focus on being right and winning arguments. Give them the delusion that the work they are now doing is a new expression of love.

You, my dear Wormwood, are due for a significant promotion.

In his grip,

Screwtape

 

Politics and Misplaced Hope

There were a few Jews in the 1st century who were waiting for a Messiah to deliver them from their sins (Matthew 1:21); but the vast majority were longing for a Messiah to come in political power and to end Roman domination.

That is why when Jesus was incarnated as a homeless baby so many Jews failed to grasp that the kingdom of God had arrived. Come on, how could this guy lead an organized rebellion against the forces of Rome?

politics.jpgI’m thinking we are not much different today from the majority of Jews in the 1st century. I listen to so many of my brothers and sisters who are outraged by what is going on in our world and shake their fist at D.C. It would seem, just like in the days of Jesus, Christians today are expecting the kingdom of God to advance through political means. As I reflect on all this anger it leaves me with this simple thought, many Christians today have misplaced their hope.

I firmly believe that Christians should be engaged in every arena of life, including politics. But the hope of the nations is the same today as it was in the 1st century, Jesus Christ. Lest we forget, we the church are the body of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27).

So maybe all this angry rhetoric and hand-wringing we do about politics is a big, colossal waste of time. Perhaps it reveals something even more insidious, we don’t truly understand the gospel.

“If you are devastated or irate over the outcome of a presidential election, relax. Things will be okay. We only need, and already have, one Messiah. And he did not lose this election. If you are ecstatic about an election outcome, relax. Take inventory. We only need, and already have, one Messiah. And he did not win this election.” -Scott Sauls

In the gospel we see Jesus humble himself through the incarnation, live as a blue-collar worker, become a friend of sinners, extend grace and mercy, enter into the brokenness of society to bring healing. How do we look at the life of Jesus then come to the conclusion that we should spend our time fighting a culture war? If we truly understood the gospel we would spend less time blaming Washington and more time walking in the ways of Jesus.

Above pic taken from DNews