Relieved and Puzzled-The Presidential Election of 2016

The election is over. God be Praised! Since the nomination of Donald Trump to be the Republican candidate, I have tried to say very little about my views. My credibility as a preaching Pastor was a concern to me since so many evangelical friends held opposite, and often combative, views. In fact, I cannot recall any issue when Bible-believing people with so much in common had such different positions on a candidate…or where so many spoke with such certainty and hubris as they critiqued one another.

I watched as many Christians were stunned and even angry that other evangelicals could support Trump. At one point, I grew disappointed at the high level of virtual contempt expressed by some towards others…crisscrossing a range of opinions and certainties that became mutually condescending.

I heard from people who pointed out that Mr. Trump had been married three times and had been an open blasphemer. I was reminded that his policy positions on abortion and gay marriage and other things have vacillated to the point where perhaps he cannot be trusted. His record of earthy comments and open improprieties was unparalleled. How could any self-respecting evangelical vote for such a man? Ought not that Christian voter be ashamed? And what of their witness to those who need Christ? (That last concern stuck me as really quite irrational. Somehow I doubt very much if my unbelieving neighbors would come to Christ if I denounced Trump.) In short, the incoming fire from other believers was often uppity and disrespectful. It amounted to: How could an evangelical support Trump in view of his obvious depravities? Could any of us really vote for him?

I did. And I did so with a clear conscience. Now, for any who might be interested, I will say why. Be assured that I found Mr. Trump’s obnoxious and unwholesome (read dirty) remarks to be totally repulsive. And I made no arguments for nominating him as the model father or husband or citizen. I got it. But I voted for him as any pragmatist would.

I wondered how so many evangelical friends could be so incredibly judgmental. With respect for these folks whom I love…I wondered if they had spent adequate time lately in the Word of God? The fact is that God often used and uses very flawed people to do His will; I am one. Abram showed the traits of an untrusting serial liar repeatedly, yet God used him to lead Israel. David was practically a sexual predator and clearly a murderer yet the Bible says he was a man whose “heart was devoted to God” (1 Kings 15:3). Saul became Paul after he brutalized many of the early Christians. The list is lengthy of imperfect people used by God. Almost as if He delights in deploying the weak and sometimes wicked for his own purposes and often converting them!

I also wondered if many evangelicals would do well to consider the real world in which we live. A season reading the biographies of past presidents will open one’s eyes to how few of them were men who would be welcome as members in our churches. The fact is that if we Christians want good governance, which has moral implications of its own, we sometimes have to separate our moral preferences from the practical reality that not many of these candidates would qualify as elders in our midst.

I was called a pragmatist…one who puts the practical over the idealistic. Guilty as charged. I felt we needed a president with some leadership skills. Using my vote for an unelectable third party was entirely unacceptable to me.

It struck me as something one does to feel better but is totally pointless. But…that leads me to my second point. I said I was puzzled. HERE IS WHY I AM RELIEVED AT MR. TRUMP’S VICTORY. All of my reasons, in my view, occupy high moral ground and were sufficient for my conscience to vote for him.  Why am I relieved?

I am relieved that his presidency will mean less babies will have their heads crushed and their arms torn off and their skin burned away because of judicial appointments he will make. His opponent actually argued for partial-birth abortion openly in a debate! That is a moral issue.

I am relieved because he will give much needed support to our nation’s law enforcement. Men and women who risk their lives every hour being treated with contempt. That is a moral issue.

I am relieved because he will re-build our military so that it will be prepared, when necessary, to protect our nation and other nations if the cause is just. And that will include a proper level of respect and care for the relatives of Abram…God’s ancient ethnic people Israel. That is a moral issue.

I am relieved that he will embrace economic policies that might bring America back from the brink of real-time economic collapse that will leave millions unable to live decently. That is a moral issue.

I am relieved that he will propose solutions to inner city decay and infrastructural ruin thru real economic opportunities. I am relieved that our nation will no longer be managed by an administration that has actually made living in America worse for the poor in the last decade. That is especially true for minorities and those whose economic mobility has remained beyond minimal. That is a moral issue.

I am relieved that he will generate changes to a health care plan that was conceived in deceit, passed thru partisan bullying and that is collapsing visibly as it goes forward. That is a moral issue.

In short, I was willing to vote with an eye to policies not piety. It would be nice to have both. Perhaps someday we can. But at this point, I am reminding any Christian in whose life I have influence…that by the power of the Holy Spirit people can change. What we should be doing is praying daily for Mr. Trump and his house to truly come to the Living Christ! And I rather suspect that God will use him in days ahead to join with others and give this nation some much-needed management.

Do others around the world wonder how we could elect such a man whom they have heard speak with such careless buffoonery? Sure. But… I suggest that they get the boards out of their own eyes before they say much more. And we Christians might do well to remember that God is the great change-agent and is full of redemptive surprises. Indeed, the Apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit said this:

1 Corinthians 1:27 (NIV) 27  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

I think this election and its result suggest that God the Holy Spirit is up to something in our midst. Let’s pray He is Glorified in it!

Blessings! Pastor Alberta

 

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“Bearing witness-Fall 2016”

“Bearing Witness…Fall 2016”

First-Be a “Prayer Bear” (Sept. 29, 2016)

Awhile back I read a surprising article about bears. Even when they are not hibernating they like to hide away. They are rather private even introverted creatures at times. If they were “image-bearers” of God (that’s corny but I could not resist) they would be perfectly suited to be prayer warriors. “Prayer bears?” Enough on the bear theme but here is the point:

Our plan this fall is to invite everyone on our streets or in our complexes or wherever to join us at Cornerstone on November 20th. for a special evening of Thanksgiving called “Celebrating Jesus!” But honestly? That’s pretty nervy. I can think of thirty reasons why our neighbors might just disregard such an invitation…especially if we ask them to visit our homes first!

So…what would be a “force multiplier” for our efforts before we send out the invitations? Thirty days of prayer for each neighbor by name! Specifically. We dare not think that people will just respond because our words are polite or inviting. No. We want to ask God to soften the hearts of those we invite. We must pray believing that the Holy Spirit is at work in some of these people. We must believe that God wants to save souls and that He is working His list…and like good local missionaries we must believe that He is waiting to hear us say “Send me! I’ll invite them!”

Do we remember what Jesus  did before he chose the twelve disciples? He spent the night in prayer! We read: 

Luke 6:12-16 (NIV) 12  One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13  When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14  Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15  Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16  Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. 

God told Jesus whom to choose including the one who would betray him! So, let us proceed saying to the Lord “Please….work in the lives of my neighbors and chose the ones that you are calling and have made ready at this time. I will invite them awaiting your miraculous work in their hearts!”

More on this in the days ahead. Let’s be sure we are praying daily so that we can send out our invitations November 1 and wait expectantly for results. Blessings! Pastor Alberta

 

 

 

 

 

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“Is Abortion a Sin?”

“Is Abortion a Sin?”

A Response to Chaplain Norris Burkes as published in syndication, June, 2016 

During one of his campaigns, President Lincoln was asked about slavery. He was aware of the strong feelings on all sides. He knew that no matter how he responded someone would be alienated and offended. But he was also aware of the need to confront this great question of right and wrong. His reply? “If slavery is not wrong then nothing is wrong.” His point, of course, was that depriving human beings of their freedom and basic human rights must be morally wicked… but if it is not wrong then how can anything ever be called wrong? I believe he would say today “If abortion is not wrong then nothing is wrong.” Depriving an innocent living human being of their right to life must be wrong if anything is wrong. To be more precise: it must be sinful. That which falls short of God’s righteous requirements is sin. Yet, in a recent column, Chaplain Norris Burkes refused to give sound Biblical guidance to a young woman who came to him for counsel with the question “Is abortion a sin?”

My sense is that Norris Burkes is a caring and decent man and that he meant well. But his response to the young woman asking about abortion was morally scandalous and indicative of a God-shaped vacuum in his theology. That is my view.

In thirty eight years of ministry, I have counselled dozens of women facing challenging pregnancies. Unplanned and unanticipated. Very stressful. Sometimes they have come alone to seek guidance. Sometimes with the child’s father. But always with a measure of anxiety because God has hardwired mothers to protect their children. They come because they know that abortion is sinful-that it cannot please God who creates all life. It does not help to avoid the hard truth when they ask “Is abortion a sin?” Yes. It is always a sin to take innocent life. The Fifth Commandment condemns murder.

Chaplain Norris explains the anxious mother’s dilemma this way: “She wanted to go to school. She wanted to date without having a baby in tow. She couldn’t handle the perceived embarrassment to her family.” He then says that no matter what she decided “nothing would separate her from the love of God.” Yes, God is gracious but the preceding justifications for having her child put to death were tragic. Will this gentleman really suggest to God on Judgment Day that the young woman’s personal plans and family concerns justified crushing a child’s skull or ripping off its arms or burning off its skin? It is clergy like this that make Heaven shutter. Such people are not helpful to young women who will, in their souls, regret the choice they made for the rest of their lives.

Finally, what if she had come asking a similar question about a one month old baby outside of the womb? Inconvenient? An impediment to dating? To education? Family comfort level? Would he counsel her to put the child to death? Of course not. So, for this man a sin against God and the child is not a sin if the location of the killing is inside of the womb? The young woman needs to hear that God requires a Holy choice…and that help is available to help her make that right choice. And I would say to this gentleman: “Count on it Chaplain: it’s a sin!”

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“Lincoln, Grant, Trump and the Evangelical Voter”

“Lincoln, Grant, Trump and the Evangelical Voter”

Dr. Richard J. Alberta

June 11, 2016

 

The late Historian Shelby Foote used to tell an amusing story about President Lincoln. As he watched victory in the Civil War seeming to slip away in the summer before the election of 1864, a trusted cabinet member came to him with a concern. He warned the President that rumors of Grant’s excessive drinking had become everyday fare among the troops. Lincoln’s response? “Find out what brand he drinks and send a case of it to all of my other Generals! I need this man! He fights!”

Would Mr. Lincoln have preferred his most effective General to be a pious man? Sure. A man known for his prayer life and frequent references to repentance like the estimable General Lee? Of course. It would have been nice if Grant could both fight and embrace piety. Certainly! Yet…Grant was not like Lee who was known to have his “quiet time” mumbling his prayers on horseback as he led his troops. Or calling for clean language and moral propriety among his troops because he was a follower of Christ. That was Lee. Even as he led his army in defense of the hideous abuse of other human beings who were born black in West Africa. Even as their families were torn apart, their women abused and their life spans reduced to barely two decades, Lee defended the south. But he was pious and frequently penitent. Interesting.

What are we who are evangelical to think of the pious who display unrighteousness? And what are we to think of the impious that do the right thing? And are we kidding ourselves if we demand deep spiritual DNA in our leaders? Are we looking for solid moral footing from men and women with feet of clay?

As an evangelical Pastor, I interact regularly with evangelicals who are voting for Donald Trump. And some who find the very idea unthinkable! I am not saying I am or I am not at this point. Because the Trump candidacy is so polarizing, I may never reveal my choice. But I think I know what is going on in many evangelical minds. Thus…a few well-intentioned, non-combative…hopefully beneficent thoughts on this blog!

In a sense, perhaps evangelicals have simply become more realistic. Perhaps without knowing it, they are respecting what theologians call “Common Grace.” For those unfamiliar with that term, a brief review: “Special Grace” means that gift from God that enables a Christian to believe in Christ and be born of the Holy Spirit. It takes a special merciful and totally undeserved act of God to show a person the truth of the Gospel and give him or her the faith that leads to eternal life. In contrast, “Common Grace” is the gifting of God to all people that enables them to develop talents and skills that are good for the society and pleasing to God. Hence, the policeman on the corner may be a hardened atheist but an excellent cop! Or, a general may be known for steroidal impiety but be a remarkable tactician! The best dentist in town may have no fear of God but in pain I might turn to him or her without hesitation.

When Lincoln overlooked Grant’s drinking, he did not endorse it or find it amusing. But he saw in Grant a man who could win in battle. My sense is that many evangelicals see in Trump a man who can fight. Right or wrong, they are quite willing to overlook his rhetorical road rage, his irascibility, and smart remarks about other people and all of the rest. Why? Because at this point in America with a twenty trillion dollar debt load and Isis looming and the Supreme Court pending, evangelicals are frightened. Yes… evangelicals would like a management type in the White House who was also born of the Holy Spirit and a complete gentleman. I get that. Me too. But, absent those traits, they can live with someone more earthy and, at times, arrogant if he can get the job done. “If he can fight,” Lincoln might say.

That evangelicals are willing to accept Mr. Trump seems puzzling to many people. Their question seems to be “How can people who say they are Bible-believing and devoted followers of Christ…possibly vote for a man who insists he has never prayed for forgiveness despite his record of moral migetry? This man shows no familiarity with simple humility and repentance!”

Sure seems that way. However, if humility and regular penitence are required for the Oval Office, one must wonder how to look at many of America’s past leaders…some of them quite effective. Shall we dismiss TR because of his bombastic and, at times, cruel tongue especially towards his political enemies? The great TR who referred to native Africans as “ape-like naked savages” and native Americans as evil nine out of ten times? Was TR ever penitent? Not much evidence of tears trickling down Mt. Rushmore. Yet…many say he was a pretty good president.

Historians can’t find any contrition in the life of Andrew Jackson either. A President who wanted to Christianize the savage native Americans but whose views may have paved the way for the “Trail of Tears.” No, not much evidence of repentance there. Or FDR whose long running affair with a secretary broke his wife’s heart. No indication of contrition. Then of course everyone’s favorite General Eisenhower who’s well known romance with his personal driver left his good wife humiliated? No repentance at least publicly. How about JFK whose many ladies in waiting included skinny dipping secretaries in the White House pool while his wife walked the hallways? To say nothing of Bill and Hillary who, up to this point, have not exactly beaten a path to the confessional. The former president going so far as to insist to interviewer Mike Wallace that he had “nothing to be ashamed of!” A popular president who embodied Jeremiah’s charge against ancient Israel “You have forgotten how to blush!” (Jeremiah 6:15) Indeed, Mr. Clinton managed to demonstrate feet of clay and a wagging finger as he stared into the camera. Repentance? Hardly. Yet each of these people had strengths and brought some leadership to America.

Is it possible that racism and peccadillos have been often the norm and not the exception? Maybe evangelicals are coming to grips with the real picture and setting aside some ideals in pursuit of effective governance? True…some suggest that evangelicals who called for Clinton’s resignation are now hypocrites if they accept Trump’s bad behaviors. Possibly. That would require further argumentation to demonstrate that the two sets of moral lapses are equivalent. After all, Clinton was the president when he sinned. If Trump is elected and falls into the same wickedness then the word impeachment will no doubt surface again.   But the irony is almost amusing that Bill Clinton so lowered the bar regarding expected presidential morality that evangelicals may have found a new tolerance for decadence!

 

A further irony is that Clinton’s supporters insisted that his personal life had nothing to do with his suitability for office. But now many of them join evangelicals demanding a “penitence litmus test” suggesting that no self-respecting voter with any religious or moral scruples could vote for such a man as Trump. This is really quite confusing! Why? Because despite all of the high level moral preening by those who despise Trump, Clinton is still held in high regard. Why? Because he did do some very good things as president. So….if evangelicals are inclined (some of them) to overlook Mr. Trump’s personal short comings, they are in good company vis-à-vis the rest of the electorate.

 

Thus far, Mr. Trump has not contacted me for advice. But allow me to speculate on what I would suggest if he did so. First, I would advise Mr. Trump to knock off the crude and off-putting remarks. Such talk is boorish and really quite obnoxious. I’d tell him to be more careful with words and explain his views with greater nuance. And to be smarter with questions designed to leave him with a label. Did you really mean that no Mexican could ever be a good and competent judge because he or she is of Mexican origins? Or…did you mean that a particular judge has ruled against you with such bias that you are wondering if his devotion to his heritage has impeded his objectivity? Why not refer to former Attorney General Gonzales, himself of Hispanic origin, who has said your question was “legitimate?” And why not point out that your views on killing the unborn have changed and Hillary’s views have not; they’ve hardened further with palpable disregard for unborn life?

Finally, as a born-again Pastor I would encourage Mr. Trump to pursue the Lord Jesus Christ with far greater passion than the Presidency. But whatever happens, evangelicals are growing in their understanding that we are not electing a prayer warrior or a Priest or a Pastor or Rabbi. But an executive. And evangelicals are anxious. Because they know that this is where we raise our kids and this is where we rely on the police and this is where we pay our taxes. And this is a country on the brink of fiscal implosion. And Isis is right there. Or maybe even right here! And the evangelicals I speak with sense that we desperately need some real presidential management for a change. My guess is that many of them will roll their eyes on Election Day and give Trump their vote. Why? Because when it comes to many of their issues…”he fights.”

(Friends of this blog…your corrections regarding spelling, grammar and typos are more than welcome! I am my own editor! J)

 

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“Unanswered Prayers!”

“Unanswered Prayers!”

Psalm 10:1 (NIV)
“Why, O LORD, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”

We need to be truthful about this. There are times when prayer goes unanswered. Reasonable and good and sweet and honest and hopeful prayers that God seems to be ignoring. He seems very far away. Perhaps the problem is with our perceptions about where God is. He is always near and there is nothing that He does not hear! We may feel that He is distant and that He has tuned us out…but that is not possible.

What to do? Pray more! Prayer harder! Pray joyfully! Praise Him in prayer and thank Him for developing perseverance in your spirit!
I met a man who cheerfully asked me to rejoice with him. His brother was saved recently. “How long did you pray for him I asked?” He replied “Forty years.” Forty years?! But …his “unanswered prayer” was finally answered! God be Praised!

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“You Can Tell Alot About a Person…From Their Prayers!”

“You Can Tell Alot About a Person…From Their Prayers!”

The Lord Jesus Christ told a stunning parable about a vain man and his prayer:

Luke 18:9-12 (NIV) 9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

What can we tell about this man’s understanding of salvation? How might God react to such incredible hubris (if that’s a weird word to you, it is from the Greek meaning “foolish arrogance”)? Have you considered listening to your own prayers more carefully to see what’s going on in your heart? What was it in this prayer that showed a very false humility?

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“A Rational Perspective on Prayer!”

What a great insight the Psalmist had when he said:

“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty, yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone and we fly away…so teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom!” Psalm 90:10 & 11 (ESV)

His point seems to be that even thought we are such ephemeral creatures on this earth…that we are here less than a blink… we should keep the right perspective when we pray.  That is, even  though we are temporary in the flesh we may approach  the eternal God of all creation…the timeless ” IAM” knowing that  He is  passionately interested in us and what we have to say!  We must never pray with an attitude that says “Well, I’ll pray now but I doubt if God is interested in what I have to say! It’s only me!”  God would respond with  “Not so!  I listen to you because  you are my eternal child and it is my joy to hear your prayers.  By all means…PRAY!”

Blessings!  Pastor Alberta

 

 

 

 

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