How to Vote as a Christian this November? (UPDATED)

THIS POST HAS NOW BEEN UPDATED

What am I supposed to do as an American Christian during this voting season? Miroslav Wolf says we should vote for Hillary Clinton, while Wayne Grudem says we should vote for Donald Trump. (UPDATE: But then he changed his support after the video was updated.) And these Christian voices are not the only ones speaking out for one candidate over the other. And then there are other Christian leaders imploring Christian voters to pray before casting their ballots, but giving no opinion into the matter at hand.

Tragedy sucks. Normally, we think of tragedy as when we go from something great to something terrible. Many are saying that they are not happy with either candidate, and they make Obama look saintly. In this case, no matter what, we are facing a tragedy. However, there is a greater tragedy during this election season, the tragedy of having to choose between two bad things, or people in this case.

Clinton vs Trump...

Clinton vs Trump…

What confuses me to no end during this election season is the overwhelming percentage (78%) of evangelical Christians that are purposefully supporting Donald Trump. If the percentage was more 50/50, I could conclude that evangelicals were voting based on different moral issues they find more deplorable. For instance, to stand:

  • against Clinton for her stance on abortion
  • against Trump because of racism/immigration/Islamophobia
  • against Clinton because of email scandals
  • against Trump because of sexism/misogyny
  • against Clinton because her involvement in middle east wars
  • against Trump because of his business ethics; etc.

Both candidates are reprehensible, but again, what confuses me to no end is the overwhelming support Trump receives from evangelicals. Trump is becoming a poster-child for American evangelicalism, where time and again, evangelicals are defending him, saying that we are all sinners and God forgives us/him. Yes, God does forgive, but he forgives the repentant.

Trump has not confessed, apologized or repented. In fact, all he has done is pathologically lie by declaring that he has not done the misdeeds or give fake apologies, which actually end up piling more guilt upon the victim.

If we back up a little bit and look at Christ, we see that Christ was a leader, in fact, the perfect embodiment of leadership. After all, he is the King of kings and Lord of lords. However, when we look at how Jesus led, we see that he led by example. He led with humility. He never forced his way upon anyone. He gave of himself. He even gave himself on the cross. He defeated death by death.

His victory was hidden in defeat. His glory was hidden in humility.

The church is the body of Christ, and the church is no greater than the master. This means that when we follow Christ, we too will encounter the cross, every single day. The church, like Christ, should never use force to win over the world. When we do, we have become focused on victory, glory, and triumph. The Bible tells us again and again that these things will come, but that we need to patiently wait for them. For now, it is the time of light momentary affliction, and the triumph will come.

Trump is all about triumph–right now. No waiting. It is even in his name: Tr(i)ump(h). His slogan is to Make America Great Again. Mike Pence has repeatedly said how much of a “broad shouldered” leader he is, and that America needs “broad shouldered” leadership. From watching The Apprentice, we all know how much he runs his business like a “broad shouldered” dictator, and not like a servant.

Why do American evangelicals think we need a style of leadership which is completely contrary to the humility we find in the Gospel? Trump does not embody what it means to be a follower of Christ, and yet, evangelicals are supporting him as their poster child. This is the true tragedy in my opinion.

I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. (UPDATE: NO. I can’t.)

I’m voting for Hillary (UPDATE: No. I’m not.). not simply because she is the lesser of two evils. But also because of policies. (Granted, I do not like her stance on abortion, but I also know that if Trump becomes President, abortion laws will not change.) She wants to have better world relations, she wants to improve the American education system, and she has a reasonable taxation proposal.

(UPDATE: I can’t vote for her because of abortion. When it came down to it, it was impossible for me to fill in that bubble next to her name because of the abortion issue.)

She sees that a “Trumped-Up Trickle-Down” economics would be disastrous. If you haven’t seen Requim For the American Dream, narrated by Noam Chomsky, you should probably do that now. Rather than showing partiality to the already privileged, she will try to help the middle and lower classes–which is far more Biblical. You don’t need to be a Christian to help perform the will of God.

She humbles herself when she is wrong. For instance, she admitted her failure with the email scandal. (UPDATE: Well, not exactly.) And frankly, I think it would be pretty cool if my daughter could live in a world where a woman could be the POTUS if she proved herself worthy of the office. (UPDATE: Yes…but I don’t think Hillary is worthy of the office….but neither is Trump!)

I understand if you can’t vote for Hillary because of moral dilemmas–such as abortion–but I pray that you do not vote for Trump because you think he embodies the principles of evangelical Christianity. If you vote for him because of some other issue, fine, just don’t do it because you label him the “Christian” or “more Christian” in this political game.

UPDATE: I VOTED 3rd PARTY. THE TWO PARTY SYSTEM NEEDS TO CHANGE. Supposedly, John Quincy Adams said, “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone–you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.” MY VOTE WAS NOT LOST.

So how should you, as a Christian vote this November? I have given my opinion as to how I will vote, though I will not turn this into a normative statement where everyone must vote this way. So perhaps the best answer is to say that this November we should all vote prayerfully.

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Becoming Child-Like

This blog is adapted from a sermon I preached a few weeks after my daughter was born.

On 10 January 2016, my wife gave birth to our little Princess, Leona Mae. I had no idea that my heart would ever be able to love someone this much. My heart is exploding with praise and gratitude towards God—who am I that he would entrust my wife and I to take care of Leona? Today, I am proclaiming the word of God and I pray it encourages you all, but if I am honest with myself, it is also a type of love letter to my little 3.3kg Princess. I would ask for your forgiveness as I show pride in my child, however, I think it is a good reminder of the pride which God the Father has for each and every one of us. The love I have for my child is merely a glimpse of the love God has for each of us.

When I stare at my beautiful Princess Leona, I often wrestle between two thoughts, the first is how will I raise this child to become a faithful follower of Christ like her mother and I, and the second is that I know I must become more like her if I truly want to be a more faithful follower of Christ. This is a paradox—I want her to be like me and yet I know I must become like her.

Imitate Me, Put Away Childish Things
It may sound presumptious and arrogant to encourage another person to be like yourself, yet at the same time, it is necessary and Biblical. When I first became a follower of Christ, I imitated other followers of Christ, because I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea what it meant to follow Christ. I was 20 years old and I knew nothing of what it meant to follow Christ. I looked up to a few of my peers in college, and I imitated their example. The showed me what it meant to pray, to read my Bible, to become baptised, to serve people, to worship together in a community, and so forth. Now that I am more mature in following Christ, I try to encourage others in these things, and I intend to encourage Leona in these things throughout her life as she grows up.

Paul says in Philippians 4.8–9: “Finally, brothers (and sisters), whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commenadable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Whatever you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Paul realized that he was a sinner, in fact he refers to himself as the greatest of sinners (1 Tim 1.15). Yet he also realized that because of Christ, he was lovely and righteous. He was simultaneously a sinner and a saint. And he was encouraging people to imitate the lovely things of Christ which were found in him. Paul knew that every good thing which came from him, was actually from Christ, and thus Paul could say, “Whatever you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Php 4.9)

It is with this heart, that I too want Leona to grow up in the example which her mother and I set before her. I pray that every parent has this heart. But this is not simply something for parents. Sometimes it is actually the child who must encourage the parents to follow their example.

Few things cause a person to grow up as quickly as having a child—something which became a reality for me on January 10th, when Sara gave birth to our little Princess Leona. When one becomes a father or mother, they are confronted with their childish ways, and you really must do away with childish things. How are we to do away with childish things? I have been married for 10 years, yet I still feel like a child. We just had our first born child, yet I still feel like a child. Will I ever not feel like a child? I will always feel like a child become I am a son of the heavenly Father. I will always feel like a child because Jesus himself tells me that if I ever want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, I must become like a child.

Become Like These
When a person gets married, or when they have a child, they are confronted with the reality that the world does not revolve around them. The following passage has been preached on many, many occasions by countless preachers, because it is a message which we continually need to hear.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the[f]greatest of these is love.

When God became man, love perfectly entered human history in the form of a person. Love is a person, not an activity. (At this point, I suggest you re-read the text, but insert “Jesus” for every occurrence of the word “love.”) And love continues to enter history through the church as Christ is formed inside of us. (I suggest you re-read the text, but this time replace the word “love” with your own name, and say it as a prayer.) But why is it so crucial that love enter history today? Love must enter history today, because the world will never know salvation apart from the love of God proclaimed and demonstrated through the church. (Refer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17: may they be one, so that the world can know….)

Now that I am a Dad, verse 11 speaks incredibly loud to me. It screams at me. In a paragraph on love, Paul tells us to put away childish things. What are the childish things? The childish things are what cause me to be impatient, jealous, proud, selfish, etc. Now, Jesus tells us that we must become like children if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven….to be child-like and child-ish are entirely different. In the NT, a child was not given the status of honor we give them today, children were viewed as weak and helpless….if we want to enter the kingdom of God, it means recognizing our weakness and helplessness, and that only God is able to save us. We cannot do it on our own. I pray that each and every one of us becomes child-like.

My daughter acting perfectly child-like.

My daughter acting perfectly child-like.

Saving your Marriage with Roses and Belgian Chocolate

How is your marriage? Do you wish you had a better marriage? Do you feel like your spouse is a different person than the fun, loving, person you originally married? Do you feel like they don’t understand you? Do you no longer understand them? Do you feel like ripping your hair out? their heresjonnyehair? Do you feel crazy like Jack Nicholson on The Shining? Has the screaming been waking up your neighbors? Does the crying keep you awake?

Sometimes I want to bash my head against the wall–why? Because marriage is difficult. I am not perfect. I am far from it, and my wife can attest to this fact. My wife and I had an argument today. The argument was about something which no one else would comprehend, as with all married couple argumentation. Arguments happen. Arguments suck. Two messed up people living together is bound to get messy. Why? Miscommunication and impatience. Speaking when we ought to be silent, and remaining silent when we ought to speak. How do we reconcile after an argument? How do we move forward? For some, the answer is make-up sex. For us, the answer is commitment.

Commitment: com (together) + mittere (to send) + ment (resulting action). Commitment is the resulting action of being sent together, the resulting action of committing to something together. What binds together those who are committed, rather, what mediates between those who are committed? I would be remiss if I were to avoid speaking about what, rather, who, mediates between my wife and I. Dietrich Bonhoeffer says it best,

Christ has become the mediator who has made peace with God and peace among human beings. Without Christ we would not know God; we could neither call on God nor come to God. Moreover, without Christ we would not know other Christians around us; nor could we approach them. The way to them is blocked by one’s own ego. Christ opened up the way to God and to one another. Now Christians can live with each other in peace; they can love and serve one another; they can become one. But they can continue to do so only through Jesus Christ. Only in Jesus Christ are we one; only though him are we bound together. He remains the one and only mediator throughout eternity.

I often forget that Jesus is the mediator and I let my own ego control my relationships. The only way I can truly know my wife is by knowing her as my sister in the Lord, and I can only know her in this capacity because in Christ we are one. Together, my wife and I are committed to living in this world as believers in Christ. These are not idle words, we truly believe that we must be fully immersed in this world and committed to it. “The cross of reconciliation…sets us free to live in genuine worldiness.” (Bonhoeffer)

My wife having fun with bicycles

Our commitment to each other is mediated by Christ and displays itself in a genuine love for the world. This means that we ought to enjoy one another and all the goodness which is found in this world. Movies, popcorn, bicycling, travelling, laughing, music, beer, Irish whiskey, a good cigar, steak and potatoes, running, photography, sunsets, sushi, sunrises, Belgian chocolate, flowers, and the list could go on. God made this world and he wants us to enjoy it. My marriage fails when I forget to enjoy the world with my wife.

I think it is time for me to go buy some Belgian chocolates and roses for my wife….yes, I just gave a theological foundation for buying my wife roses and chocolate! I think this is a theological argument most women will appreciate–you can share this post if you agree :)flowerandchoco

From Gimp to Athlete

It was during college, I decided to go for a run that day. Beautiful OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAweather, sun beaming down but not too hot. I went for a few miles and was running alongside the railroad tracks. Somehow, I tripped and banged my knee. I figured the pain would go away after a few days and it did; however, the pain would always come back when I tried to run. Like an idiot, I never went to the doctor. I decided to take it easy on that knee and because the glory days of racing were over, I thought nothing more of it, aside from praying for God to remove the pain. I had many people pray for me actually. But I figured I was now an academic, so that was where I focused my energies.

Note: this is not my actual x-ray, but mine was very similar to this.

After two years of no running I decided to give it another go – I was visiting my parents when I tried to go on this run. Once again, it was another beautiful day and I was running around the lake on their property. The pain in my knee became excruciating, I hobbled to the house and started rubbing down my knee and then I felt it: a huge extra bump on the inside of my leg! Whoa, what is this! Am I an alien? I asked my mom to look at it and she freaked out – and she is a nurse! We went to get X-Rays as soon as possible and discovered what is called Osteochondroma, essentially it was an extra piece of bone growing off of my femur. It was about 4 inches long and was wrapped around my knee, and the ligaments in my knee were catching on it whenever I moved. No wonder it hurt!

Long story short: I had surgery, they had to make a seven inch incision through the muscles in my leg. Surgery went well, we found out that it was not cancerous and it never came back. However, they completely destroyed the muscles! I would have a long journey of PT. Impact sports were out of the question because of doctor’s order. I decided to start riding a bike to commute, and enjoy the scenery, being I could not enjoy that by running anymore. I got really into biking, my wife and I even started racing. And then I decided to try running again. The scenario: I was competing in a cyclocross bike race, my tire flatted and there were no neutral wheels that fit my bike. I was not going to quit, so I ran for 4 miles carrying my bike the whole time and finished the race. I don’t like to quit. And amazingly, my knee was not hurting! Whoa! However, my back was killing me! What a strange twist of events?

My back problems continued getting worse so I visited several chiropractors and it was Dr. Scott Shepherd (Portland, OR) who helped me realize that I had been “tri-poding” for the last few years. Because of the weakness in one leg, I would put most of my weight on one leg so that I could baby the other one. The downside: it messed up my alignment big time! My spine was so curved! We decided to put in a heal lift on one of my shoes and after a year of this and regular chiropractic my spine was much more strait. He helped eliminate all of my everyday pain! Thank you Dr. Shepherd! But every so often I would attempt to run again, and I would develop more back pain, what was going on?

During this time my wife had become a personal trainer and was sharing my story with a few of her co-workers and it was Krista Loveless (now Krista Lennartz), the Pilates instructor, that I am ever grateful for. At this point I was so willing to run that I was willing to do whatever it took. Krista is not a big fan of heal lifts, so we got rid of it. Then she had me start strengthening my feet by doing toe curls! Have you ever done toe curls? they are hard! It takes a lot of coordination. And then we started doing a ton of different exercises on the Reformer – it is amazing how much stability you can gain through working out on that thing! I did personal training with Krista for close to a year, and during that time I withheld from running so that I would not ruin a good thing. I knew that a good runner needed strong feet and a strong core.

From the time of my original injury til today, it has been 11 years. I have been running again for the past 4 years year with no knee troubles and no back pain. I have now competed in one marathon and am looking at possibly competing in an ultra-marathon…we shall see :)

Eleven years is a long time to fight through an injury. I used to wonder if God cared about me, I would get upset on occasion because he did not heal me. But I have come to realize something: God did answer my prayers, it just happened to be through my hard work. God gives us freedom to choose and God loves it when we are faithful with the resources he has given us.

Praise God?

Have you ever heard a story about a loved one being saved from a near death experience, and then someone almost instinctively says, “praise God!”? God is certainly to be praised in this situation, but I wonder if there is more too it. Namely, ptlwhat are we supposed to say when the loved one actually dies? Should we not praise God during the tragedy? (Not for it though!) Near death experiences are far from the only occasion when you hear the phrase, “praise God!” It often comes about when a person gets a promotion at work, or when a student does well on an exam. Once again, God should be praised during these moments, however, what is to be proclaimed when the person actually dies, the promotion never comes, or you fail the test?

There have been so many instances in my journey with my wife over the past year which are “praise worthy.” We saved enough money to move to Belgium, I successfully completed the pre-doctoral year near the top of my class, earned acceptance into the PhD on a topic concerning ecumenism with an amazing promoter…it all sounds amazing, right? But then came the bad news, I did not get the funding stipend I was hoping for. How deflating! Talk about a shock to your pride. We went through an incredibly difficult journey only to now be faced with the hardest financial burden of our marriage? I ask a question to myself: if I had gotten the funding, would I be saying “praise God!”? If so, my faith is pretty shallow.article-1196755-058DCDF9000005DC-866_634x784

My financial burden is not my own, it is also my wife’s. When we got married we said, “for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, for better and for worse…” What would our marriage be if we only loved each other during the rich, healthy, better moments? Love is more than an emotion in the high times, it is a choice in the low times of poverty, sickness, and bad times. Is it not the same with God? As my pastor during college told me time and again, “our joy should never be dependent upon our circumstances” (Retired Lt. Col. Rev. Dr. Jerry Malone). I am so thankful that when I first became a believer, I had Pastor Jerry to help train me in the faith. Our joy does not depend upon our circumstances, our joy depends upon the faithfulness of Jesus Christ in having lived faithfully, going to the cross, dying, being raised, and ascending to the right hand of the Father so that he may continually mediate for us.

Am I saying that we should stop praising God? Heaven forbid! I am saying that we should praise God all the more, and not merely when life is going the way you wanted it to. Sara and I are still praising God, even though we did not get the funding stipend we were hoping and praying for. God is still faithful.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt this point, my wife and I have very little money and in all honesty, we are considering moving back to Portland where I teach HS, if we are not able to afford living in Belgium. This is difficult because we love Belgium and serving the church here. This dilemma of moving or staying reveals a major tension in my own vocation: on the one hand I love pursuing Christian reconciliation and pastoral work, and on the other hand I love teaching students. I am a theologian and an educator. Both are fantastic options and need not be mutually exclusive or be dependent upon my future career. We love Belgium and we love Portland. Your prayers for our direction and other funding opportunities are greatly appreciated.

There are many songs by Jeremy Camp which describe what it means to praise God in all things. He has experienced some very difficult times in his life, having experienced the death of his first wife to breast cancer and the death of his youngest child. Yet he remains a faithful believer in Christ. Here is one of my favorites and I pray it gives you hope: