A Week After the Election…Now What?

If you live in the United States and have been displeased about the direction of the country over the last eight years, then you probably voted for Donald Trump. If you’ve felt good about the last eight years and wanted many of the current policies to continue, then you most likely voted for Hillary Clinton.

Depending on who you voted for, you’ve either been excited and encouraged by the results of last week’s election or you’re dealing with shock, anger and fear…the same feelings many of the Trump voters experienced eight years ago and again four years ago.

The above map shows the results broken down by county with Trump in red and Clinton in blue. Obviously, Trump has support in more areas of the country and Clinton supporters are more concentrated in certain areas, but the bottom line is this: roughly half the population supported one candidate and half supported the other.

At this point, despite the riots in various parts of the country, the election is over…the results are final…and in 66 days, we’ll have a new president. So now what?

Well, regardless of who you voted for, if you are a follower of Jesus, let me offer a few reminders…

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus is still seated on His throne. That hasn’t changed. The American president is not sovereign. He’s not all-powerful.

Let me suggest that to the degree you’ve been overly happy or overly angry this last week…you’ve placed your hope in the wrong person. I will guarantee this: if you’re feeling afraid, then know that most of what you fear will not happen. And if you are hopeful that everything will be better now, then you will be disappointed.

Jesus said, “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness…” If God’s goal was to simply take us to heaven, He could have already done it. His desire is for His followers to live on earth, walk according to His ways and advance His Kingdom. And the Kingdom of God operates according to different principles than the world does.

We live by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We seek to give, not get (Acts 20:35). We don’t repay insults with insults, but with blessing (1 Peter 3:9). We don’t hate our enemies, we love them (Matthew 5:43-44). We don’t walk in fear and anxiety, but in peace (Philippians 4:6-7). We aren’t overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors…” (2 Corinthians 5:20) As a follower of Jesus, your primary identity is not Republican or Democrat. Your allegiance is not to a political party or ideology. Your king is Jesus. You are a citizen of the Kingdom of God. And you are given the responsibility of being an ambassador, of representing the king to those around you. Let’s choose to love others well.

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t care about government policies or who we elect, but those concerns should pale in comparison to what’s eternal…

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)

Where will you be fixing your eyes?

50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage (#9)

50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage Cover

From my eBook, “50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage”

Keep score of all the good things you do and all the bad things your spouse does.

There’s no way you’ll ever lose with this one. The scales will always be tipped in your favor!

It’s important to remember there’s nothing too big or too small to count. If you come home on time, score one for you. If you fold and put away the laundry—that’s a point for you. Maybe two points.

Now when it comes to weighing the bad things, it might be helpful to think about it like you’re scoring an Olympic gymnastics routine. Some offenses carry bigger deductions.

For example, if your spouse forgets to pick up something from the store—that might only be a small deduction. Refusing sex or yelling at you in front of the kids? That would be like falling off the balance beam. Major deduction.

You may be wondering what to do with the good things your spouse does. That’s easy! The good things your spouse does don’t count for anything! We’re only keeping score of the good things you do.

Get the complete book here.

The Zombie-Like Christian Life

Let’s be honest. How would you describe your Christian life?

Would you describe it as frustrating or fulfilling? Are you most often discouraged and defeated or joyful and hopeful? Do you feel like God is more disappointed or delighted in you?

If the Christian life hasn’t been working so well, take a moment and read the following three verses…

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

Kind of depressing, isn’t it? (I promise this will get better.)

Here are some of the key words:

  • dead
  • transgressions
  • sins
  • ruler of the kingdom of the air (referring to Satan)
  • disobedient
  • gratifying…our flesh
  • deserving of wrath

So who is Paul describing here?

You. Me. All of us.

Our bodies were alive, but we were dead. Like zombies.

We were living according to the ways of the world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air. And 1 John 5:19 tells us “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Satan is the one pulling the strings behind the world’s systems and values, so when we live according to the world’s principles, we’re living according to his principles.

And because we had no spiritual life in us, we naturally gratified the desires of the flesh and followed its desires and thoughts. We didn’t have anything else.

Again, kind of depressing. (It’s about to get better though.)

I don’t know about you, but before I placed my faith in Christ, I didn’t know any better. Living according to the world’s principles and gratifying my flesh was all I knew. I was concerned with making life work according to the only principles I knew (the world’s) and doing whatever I could to gratify the flesh.

Then something happened.

I met Jesus when I got to college. The God who’d previously been irrelevant, changed my life. Here’s how Paul describes it…

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

But. The whole passage hinges on that one word. But.

“But because of his great love for us…”

Rather than describing the wrath we deserved, the rest of the passage tells us what he did for us, how he did it, why he did it and what we have to look forward to. All because of His great love for us. It’s worth reading it again. And again. And again. Until it sinks in.

If it doesn’t sink in, then we naturally default back to living the way Paul describes in the first three verses. That’s when life gets frustrating. Here’s why…

Before we knew Christ, we only knew one way to do life–the world’s way. And so we followed the thoughts and desires of the flesh and did the best we could to get our needs met. Things didn’t always go our way, but there were no thoughts of an entirely different way of life. There was also no internal conflict. We didn’t have the flesh pulling us one way and the Spirit pulling us the other way. We only had the flesh.

But now when we choose to do life the old way, we have the pull and conviction of the Holy Spirit. He reminds us of the new life. The better life. The Christ life. He will not let us feel good about the old way of life.

When we’ve placed our faith in Jesus and then choose (intentionally or not) to live according to the ways of the world and we follow the thoughts and desires of the flesh, we don’t ever experience true life. What we get is a zombie-like Christian life. It’s like we’re alive, but not really. We’re not dead any more, but what we are sure isn’t pretty.

Are there areas of your life (work, money, food, sex, a relationship, etc.) you’re continuing to live according to the ways of the world? Has gratifying the flesh taken priority over pleasing God?

Give Him control. Seek Him through His word to discover His ways of handling those areas of your life.

It’s time to move from undead to fully alive.

The Healing

Every once in awhile I like to re-post this short story I wrote a number of years ago. It’s about legalism, grace and healing.

THE HEALING

Phil entered the restaurant, sat down in a booth and waited for his eyes to adjust to the dim light. The lone waitress approached and took his order. Water. No ice.

Phil watched her walk away—a little too closely—then quickly chastised himself. She was somebody’s daughter after all.

This had always been one of his favorite restaurants, although recently, he was having second thoughts. The surrounding neighborhood had declined and the resulting clientele reflected it. The rough looking guy at the bar was a perfect example. He watched him take a bite of his burger and drip ketchup on an already dirty t-shirt. Then he wiped his mouth with a hairy, muscular arm. Phil wondered why someone would order a hamburger in a Mexican restaurant.

The clock behind the bar said 5:01 p.m. He checked his watch just to be sure. His watch said 5:00, which he knew was correct. He was right on time. That was important. It was important to be faithful in little things, he reminded himself.

He glanced at the TV. He couldn’t hear, but could see a CNN reporter on the beach covering the latest hurricane. This one was bearing down on New Orleans. Phil couldn’t help thinking it was God’s judgment on an immoral city. He prayed this would be their wake-up call.

The sloppy guy at the bar took a swallow of his drink. He was wearing a red, rolled up bandanna around his head, which brought little control to his long, unwashed hair. His threadbare t-shirt and faded jeans with holes in the knees completed the look. If he even had a job, he was probably a day laborer at a construction site.

When the waitress brought his water, Phil noticed her eyes were red and puffy. He also couldn’t help noticing how low her shirt was cut. Entirely inappropriate, he thought. He probably ought to say something to the manager. He thought of his eight-year-old daughter, Emily, and how he and his wife, Jennifer, had stressed the importance of modesty to her. He knew she’d never wear a shirt like that.

“Can I get you anything besides water?” the waitress asked. “A glass of wine, maybe?”

“No,” Phil said. “I’m fine with water.” Phil didn’t drink. His wife, Jennifer, didn’t share his conviction though, which often concerned him.

Phil checked his watch again. 5:03 p.m. Jennifer was late. Why she couldn’t be on time escaped him. This was their standing date each month. Las Palmas, 5:00 p.m., first Friday of every month. It meant leaving work ten minutes early, but he was willing to make that sacrifice. He said a brief prayer asking the Lord to help Jennifer grow in the area of time management and consideration for other people’s time.

Phil picked up a menu out of habit, but he already knew what he wanted. The #5 dinner special was what he always ordered. A few months ago, he’d tried the #4, but he’d been disappointed. He decided it was better to go with the safe choice than try something different and not like it. “Better safe than sorry.” That’s what his mother always said.

Jennifer was always ordering new things. Half the time she didn’t like what she got. He often cautioned her on her selections, but she didn’t listen. It wasn’t that he cared about what she ordered—it just bothered him when she started picking off his plate because she didn’t like her meal. He said a quick prayer that she’d make a wise selection for dinner tonight.

Phil glanced at the guy at the bar and saw he was looking over at him. He turned back to his menu and decided it was time to find a better place for their monthly dates. This place had gone downhill.

Out of the corner of his eye, Phil saw the guy get up and start walking toward him. He hoped the guy was leaving, but he wasn’t—he was headed right for Phil.

He approached the table and asked if he could sit down. Phil tried to explain about the regular date night and how his wife was on her way and how he really didn’t think it was a good idea, but the guy only smiled and sat down anyway.

“Do you mind if we talk?” the stranger asked.

“Do I know you?” Phil replied.

“Not really,” the guy replied and then just sat there looking at Phil.

“Is there something I can do for you?” Phil asked. “Like I said, my wife is on her way to meet me for dinner.”

“I know. I heard what you said. I just want to talk for a few minutes.”

“About what?” Phil asked.

“You.”

“Well, not to be unkind or anything, but I don’t know you and I’m sure we wouldn’t have much to talk about.” It crossed his mind to just get up and wait for Jennifer outside, but he decided to stay. “So what’s on your mind?” Phil said with just a hint of superiority in his voice.

“Did you notice your waitress was crying?” the stranger asked.

“Well, I noticed her eyes were a little red.”

“Did it occur to you to ask her why she was crying?”

“No, it didn’t. It’s none of my business. If she wanted me to know, she would have told me,” Phil said.

“Would you like to know why she was crying?”

“Like I said, I really don’t think it’s any of my business, but if you feel the need—go ahead and tell me.”

“Before I tell you—let me ask you a question. Why do you think that her crying is not any of your business?”

“What do you mean? Of course it’s not any of my business. It’s not any of yours either.”

“Hmmm. So you see a young woman who’s obviously been crying and you assume it’s not any of your business.” The stranger looked past Phil for a moment and then continued. “Okay, let me tell you why she was crying. Brandy was upset because she received a phone call from the health clinic about an hour ago. The biopsy was positive. She has cancer. She also has a three-year-old daughter and she’s afraid of what will happen to her daughter if she dies.” After a moment he added, “And she doesn’t have medical insurance.”

Phil wasn’t sure what to say. He took a sip of his water and glanced at the door, hoping to see Jennifer walk in, but she didn’t.

“That’s a sad story, but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about it,” Phil said. “I guess her husband will take care of their daughter.”

The stranger just stared. Phil hoped he would leave or Jennifer would come quickly.

“She doesn’t have a husband. She’s never been married.”

Phil didn’t say it, but he couldn’t help thinking that you reap what you sow. If she hadn’t gotten herself pregnant then she wouldn’t be facing such a mess.

“She was raped one night after leaving work. Never told anyone. A few weeks later, she discovered she was pregnant. Now she works two jobs to support herself and her daughter.”

Phil felt bad for her, but still didn’t see how this was his problem. He had enough of his own problems to worry about. He’d just gotten the notice that Emily’s private school tuition was going up 15% next year. How was he supposed to pay for that?

The stranger interrupted Phil’s thoughts. “Would you like to pray?” he asked.

Phil was surprised by the question and for a moment said nothing. “Ah, no thanks. I’m good,” Phil said.

There was another moment of silence. Phil noticed how sad the stranger looked—almost like he was going to cry.

“Don’t you pray?” he asked.

Phil was starting to get annoyed. He’d come here for a nice meal with his wife—who was late again—and now he had to deal with some nut who wanted to pray. If there was a manager around, he’d complain. That reminded him that he was going to mention the inappropriate way the waitress was dressed. Of course, considering her situation, he decided to let it slide this time.

“Actually, I do believe in praying. I pray every morning. I’m also an elder at my church. Do you even go to church?” Phil asked.

“But you don’t want me to pray for you?” he asked, ignoring Phil’s question.

“No, like I said, I’m doing fine.”

“Yes, you did say that, didn’t you? May I ask you how you know you’re doing fine?”

Phil was surprised by the question and didn’t know quite what to say. He usually had a good, correct answer for most questions, but this one caught him off guard. The guy must have seen the puzzled look on Phil’s face because he asked the question again.

“What I mean is—how do you know how you’re doing? To whom are you comparing yourself?”

“Well, that’s really not what I meant,” Phil said. “I didn’t necessarily mean I was doing fine compared to other people.” Of course, he felt quite confident he was actually doing very well compared to others. “I just meant that my life is going well.”

“And what I’m wondering,” the stranger continued undeterred by Phil’s explanation, “is how you know. How do you know your life is going well? On what are you basing your assessment?”

Phil had never thought about it before. He was just—doing well. Life wasn’t perfect, but things were good. His job was good. His marriage was good. There was money in the bank. He, Jennifer, and Emily had their health. Things were good. The tuition bill was a concern, but not worth mentioning to a stranger.

“Well, like I told you—I’m an elder in my church, I’ve been married for 15 years, I’m doing well at work. Things are just…good.” Phil was now getting more irritated—at the stranger’s interrogation and Jennifer for being late. If she had been on time for once, he wouldn’t be stuck in this pointless conversation.

“It bothers you that your wife is late, doesn’t it?”

“What?” Phil asked. He must have had a startled look on his face, which he tried to hide by taking a long drink of water.

“Your wife. She’s late. That annoys you. If you’re honest, it makes you angry, doesn’t it?”

“Well, I don’t know that I’d go so far as saying I’m angry. Frustrated maybe. Look, it’s inconsiderate. If I’m on time, I expect others to be on time. I sacrifice by leaving work early, which means I need to go in early to make up for it.”

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” the stranger said softly to himself.

“What? Phil asked, unsure of what he’d heard.

“Phil, do you love your wife?”

“Of course I love my wife. What kind of a question is that?” Phil said.

“What does that mean, Phil? How do you love your wife?”

“What? How do I love my wife?” Phil replied. “Well, I just love her. She’s important to me and I care about her.”

“Do you put her needs before your own? Does she receive grace from you or does she feel like she must live up to your standards? Do you love her as your own body?”

“Do I love her as my own body? What’s that supposed to mean?”

Phil wanted to get up and leave, but he couldn’t. He thought about what to say, but had nothing. A minute passed. The stranger was content to just sit there in silence, looking at Phil.

“Phil, what if you’ve been using the wrong standard by which to measure your goodness? What if following your rules isn’t as important as loving your neighbor? What if the way someone looks, or dresses, isn’t as important as what’s in their heart? What if there’s nothing wrong with drinking a glass of wine, but there is with judging someone for doing it?”

Phil wished he could hide. It felt like his heart was being examined and it wasn’t going well.

“Who are you?” Phil said. “And by the way, how do you know my name?”

At that moment, the door opened, drenching the restaurant with the bright afternoon sun. Phil saw Jennifer enter and wave to him. He turned back to the stranger, but he was gone.

“Honey, I’m so sorry I’m late! Just as I was getting ready to leave, Emily spilled her juice and I…”

“Hey, slow down. It’s okay.”

“But I know how important it is to you for me to be on time and it’s almost 5:15.”

“Really, it’s okay. I’m just glad you’re here. Relax.”

Jennifer sat down and caught her breath. Phil looked over to see Brandy approaching the table. Her eyes were still red and swollen.

Before Brandy could ask for Jennifer’s drink order, Phil said, “I couldn’t help noticing you’ve been crying. Please sit down. Our order can wait.” Phil caught the look of surprise on Jennifer’s face.

Jennifer slid over and made room for her to sit. Brandy began to cry again.

Phil and Jennifer listened as Brandy shared her story. After she finished, Jennifer put her arm around Brandy and Phil took Brandy’s hands in his. His heart went out to her and he began to pray for her through his own tears.

***************************

On the first Friday of the next month, Phil and Jennifer walked in together, precisely at 5:47 p.m. Phil had gone home early that day and had lost track of time playing with Emily. Jennifer finally had to pull him away so they could eat.

Brandy ran to the door to meet them. She’d just gotten off the phone—the follow-up tests revealed the cancer was gone. The doctors had no explanation. Phil, Jennifer and Brandy hugged each other and cried tears of joy.

Brandy was healed.

And Phil was healed too.

What’s Your Plan to Get to Heaven?

Did you catch what Phil Robertson begins to say at the 3:49 mark? “If you’re not a believer and you don’t believe God exists at all then the only hope you have is that He not be there. That’s your hope. Maybe He’s not there. What we’re saying is, ‘We trust that He is.'”

If you do believe in God, then you really have one of two directions you can go. First, you can try your best to appease Him and hope your best is enough. Up until the age of 19, that was my plan. I believed the key that would unlock heaven’s door was my good behavior. Of course the all-important question is: How good do you have to be?

I distinctly remember thinking as a teenager that because I hadn’t killed anyone I was qualified to get into heaven. I guess I thought it was okay to lie, steal, cheat, treat people unkindly, ignore those in need and have very little room in my life for God, but as long as I wasn’t guilty of murder–I was fine. My view was that heaven was our default destination and you really had to screw up big (like commit murder) to not make it in.

The problem with this view is obviously found in the definition of “good.” If it’s true that God created me and He created heaven, then what would lead me to think that my definition of good is the right one, that I get to determine the entrance requirements for heaven? Stop and think about it for a minute. It’s a really arrogant perspective.

If you’re trusting in your good behavior to get into heaven, let me encourage you to first find out what your god requires. And then get hard at work following his commands. And hope you don’t slip up. Hope you don’t somehow commit an offense he’s not willing to forgive. Sadly, I think you’ll find you can never quite shake that feeling that maybe you haven’t done enough. And that should motivate you to keep trying harder. As far as ever experiencing genuine, lasting joy or peace–forget it. How could you never knowing if eternal bliss or eternal punishment awaits?

So you can choose to believe God does not exist and then hope you’ve guessed right. Or if you do believe God exists, you can try to be as good as possible as defined by whatever god you’re believing in. Remember, you don’t decide what’s good or bad. He does. If this is your belief system, then your only hope is that you do enough good to outweigh your bad. Good luck with that.

The other option is to believe in the God Phil Roberston spoke of, a God who created us to live in friendship with Him. But because the human race has rebelled, we stand guilty before Him with no hope of ever being good enough to earn forgiveness. So a loving and moral God took on flesh and bore our punishment on the cross. Jesus died in our place and offers us the gift of forgiveness.

But a gift must be received. Have you received the gift of Christ’s forgiveness?

If this whole thing about Jesus seems like a fairy tale to you, then you’re back to either one of the first two options. You can hope God isn’t there or you can hope you’re good enough to appease Him.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)