Finding Freedom In This Election

I love the Psalms.

Monday morning I opened my ESV app to read a morning Psalm. The text, Psalm 1:

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

With the previous night’s presidential debate still in my head I couldn’t help but think about politics as I read the text. Like you, this election I’ve struggled to know how to vote. But here, it seemed God had made His vote pretty clear:

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

Easier said than done in a political season where “wicked,” “sinner,” and “scoffer” apply to both major party candidates.

Yet, verses two, three, and six stood out.

In verse two we see the “blessed man” is the one whose “delight is in the Law of the Lord.” In verse three, it is this man, who, like a tree, “yields its fruit in its season” and, “In all that he does, he prospers.” And in verse six, we’re told it is this man who is the one the “Lord knows” [literally– the one the Lord watches over with care].

The Lord was reminding me that I am free. Specifically, I (and all His people) am free from the shackles of our current political system.

Free, because the Lord’s blessings for His people are not based on our politics. His blessings are not contingent on what political party wins. Nor are his blessings dependent on what policies are made law. His blessings do not even hinge on who is appointed to the Supreme Court.

No, the Lord is sovereign over all of that. At any moment the Lord could change any policy, any appointment, and any presidency. And though he often works through people to do His will, He is certainly not calling us to “walk with the wicked” to do so. Certainly the Lord is not saying through this Psalm, “Blessed is the man who walks not [with] the wicked…unless it helps him politically.”

Therefore you and I are free. We are free to look for and vote for the “righteous” person whoever that might be… third party, write-in, or otherwise. We are also free to vote for no one if no “righteous” person can be found. Sure, it’s not what our political parties want, nor what our culture wants. But the Lord’s blessings are not dependent on what is pleasing to our political parties or our culture.

The Lord blesses the one who delights in Him.

For the Lord is the one who will prosper His people. The Lord is the one who will care for His people. And ultimately the Lord is the one who will save His people.

Therefore, blessed are the people who delight in the Lord!

 

May you and I delight in the Lord. May we be free from walking with the wicked. May we trust in the care of the Lord. And may we vote trusting that the Lord is sovereign over all, and that His blessings are not given to those who “win” but to those who delight themselves in Him.

 

Overcoming Election Anxieties

It’s very easy to say, Jesus is Lord. It’s not easy to live like Jesus is Lord.

Watching the presidential debate the other night reminded me of this. After it was over I felt anxious. And when I woke up the next morning I still felt residual anxiety.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.

My feelings of anxiety were not bad in and of themselves, but they did point to something bad. Like a flashing “Check Engine” light in my car, these feelings signaled that something within me was broken and in need of repair.

That broken-something was my lost vision of Jesus. Specifically, that broken-something was my lost vision of Jesus as Lord.  I had lost sight of who Jesus really is.  And as a result, I was no longer living as if Jesus really is Lord.

The remedy was the God-breathed words of Psalm 97:

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him
and burns up his adversaries all around.

His lightnings light up the world;
the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord,
before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim his righteousness,
and all the peoples see his glory
.
All worshipers of images are put to shame,
who make their boast in worthless idols;
worship him, all you gods!

Zion hears and is glad,
and the daughters of Judah rejoice,
because of your judgments, O Lord.

For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods
.

O you who love the Lord, hate evil!
He preserves the lives of his saints;
    he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
Light is sown for the righteous,
and joy for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
and give thanks to his holy name!

 

These divine words filled my heart and mind with a fresh vision of Jesus as Lord. That Jesus reigns. That his reign is built on righteousness and justice. That Jesus is exalted above all. That he preserves my life and is able to deliver me from the wicked. That because of all these things, I can “rejoice in the Lord” and “give thanks to his holy name.”

With fresh vision came fresh healing. As I reflected on the psalm my attention was taken away from the frustrations of the election and instead was transfixed on the goodness of Jesus. As a result, my feelings of anxiety faded away. I was left, like the people of Zion, feeling “glad.” I was now living like Jesus really is Lord.

If this election season has you feeling anxious, maybe it’s because your “Check Engine” light is flashing. Maybe something within you is broken. Maybe you too have lost sight of Jesus as Lord. Maybe you’re not living as if Jesus really is Lord.

If so, let Jesus heal you.

Come to God’s Word. Reflect on the words of Psalm 97. Then, take a moment to rejoice and to give thanks that Jesus is still the Lord. I promise you’ll feel better… I sure did.

 

How accurate do your beliefs have to be to go to heaven?

On Facebook the other day a friend posted a link to the poem “When I say am a Christian”. The poem was attributed to Maya Angelou. After reading the poem, I was deeply moved and just about to “share” the link. But then my eyes caught a glimpse of a “related article” by snopes.com. I clicked on the snopes’ link and to my disappointment learned that the poem was not written by the late Maya Angelou.

Now the posting from my friend was a harmless mistake. But that got me thinking, what did Maya Angelou actually believe? Did she go to heaven?

Turns out Maya Angelou was part of the Unity Church. You can watch her talk with Oprah about it here. And you can find out what the Unity Church believes here…

If you clicked on the links above,  you many have noticed that what the Unity Church believes about Jesus is very different than what orthodox Christians believe about Jesus.  But does that matter?

How accurate does a person’s  beliefs have to be to go heaven? Or to put it another way, what exactly does a person need to believe about Jesus, in order to be saved by Jesus?

In the Bible

In the Bible, there was one person who surely had a minimal understanding of who Jesus was. Yet we know that  he went to heaven. The man met Jesus the last day of his life. He was one of two criminals sentenced to death, and crucified next to Jesus.

The story takes place in Luke 23:32-43. Luke writes:

32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots…39 One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

On the last day of his life the nameless criminal put his faith in Jesus and was promised entrance into paradise.

But what exactly did he believe about Jesus?

At the very least the criminal had three beliefs about Jesus:

1.  Jesus was a sinless man sent from GodDon’t you fear God (v.40)…We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”(v.41)

2.  Jesus was a king Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (v.42)

3.  Jesus was able to save him “Jesus, remember me…”(v.42)

There was a lot the criminal did not know about Jesus. He didn’t know that Jesus was the second person of the Trinity. He likely did not comprehend the duel natures of Jesus. He likely knew none of Jesus’ parables. Or Jesus’ teaching concerning the Old Testament Law.

In the moments just before his death all he knew was that Jesus was the Messiah (God’s holy “sent one”), the Lord (king over of all) and the Savior (the one who could save him from the consequences of his sin).

This was all Jesus had revealed to him. But it was enough to ignite his faith, and cause a response. It was enough for the criminal to be welcomed into heaven. (v.43)

 What about Maya and us?

I don’t know if Maya Angelou believed that Jesus was the Messiah, her Lord, and her Savior. I pray she did. Because without trusting in the divine authority and saving work of Jesus, we all are like that criminal hanging next to Jesus on the cross- a condemned man about to face the  judgement of God, for the sins committed against God.

But the good news is that Jesus cares about condemned criminals (like you, me, and Maya).  And he is eager to invite even criminals into paradise.  That’s why he has revealed himself to us as the Messiah, the Lord, and the Savior.

For if these beliefs are the only beliefs we have about Jesus, they are enough to cause our hearts to repent.  Thy are enough for us to put our trust in him.  And they will be enough for each of us, on the day of our death, to hear his words, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”