Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Why Were the Polls so Wrong?

Until about 8PM on November 8, nobody in the media was predicting anything but a win for Hillary Clinton. Among the polls taken in the days leading up to the election, the only difference was the difference between a squeaker and a landslide. All the polls predicted a win for Hillary Clinton.

Yet, Donald Trump won, and he won resoundingly, by a healthy margin of electoral votes. Maps of results by state were clearly dominated by the color red. According to the Constitution, electoral votes are the votes that determine the election. The polls taken before the election predicted a win for the wrong candidate, and that prediction was wrong, dead wrong, profoundly wrong.

Why did all the polls miss the prediction?

The polls missed the prediction, because God is still in charge. It would be easier to explain the results by hypothesizing that the polls were unwittingly skewed by an ill-suppressed desire for a Democrat win that led pollsters to de-randomize the selection of people to be polled. I, however, attribute the failure of the polls to foresee Donald Trump’s win to the fact that God has other plans for this country, I believe that people who are in touch with God prayed in submission to God’s will, and I believe God heard their prayers. A win that topples the predictions of well-validated statistical analysis is no big feat for the One who walks on water.

The Bible teaches us that we who have been purchased by the blood of Christ can cast out deeply embedded demons through prayer. We can move mountains by prayer. When our prayers are offered in submission to the will of Almighty God, the outcome can be utterly unexpected by minds confined to the time/space universe.

The Bible also teaches us that God likes to be recognized when he achieves victory, so it would not be out of character for God to set up a situation in which his intervention is the only possible explanation for the events. I believe that this may be the deep reason that nobody got it right.

Our election story could also be delightfully in parallel with the Bible story of the prophet Micaiah. When ancient kings thought about going into battle, they routinely summoned prophets to forecast the likelihood that they would win. King Ahab asked the prophets of Israel about his prospects for success in a battle against his neighbor, and they all predicted an easy win.  After a little verbal sparring, Micaiah told the king how God had sent a lying spirit to the prophets in order to entice Ahab to go into battle and die in a resounding defeat. The polls forecasting that Hillary Clinton’s win was inevitable were like the words of the prophets deceived by the lying spirit.

It served God’s purpose for people to know that Ahab’s defeat was God’s plan. Is it possible that it serves God’s purposes for people to see that Hillary’s defeat serves God’s plan?

After Election Day, when the vote tally showed that Donald Trump had won the presidential election, a lot of people, including me, breathed a sigh of relief. We felt we had received a reprieve after 8 years under the leadership of a man who had been leading the country in the wrong direction. Hillary Clinton’s campaign promises deliberately built on the “legacy” of Barack Obama, assuring people who were pleased with his work that it would continue if she were elected. Those of us who believed that Obama’s agenda was utterly wrong for America were glad to see the Obama juggernaut halted.

Since the direction Obama took was the wrong direction, it seems quite natural to believe that the direction Donald Trump takes will be so different that it will surely be the right direction. People who yearn for the country to move in a different direction are expressing their fervent hope that Donald Trump will undo many things that Obama considers to be admirable accomplishments. They have high hopes that the new president will fix what they believe to have been broken by the Obama administration. Voters need to remember that we dare not put our hope in any human being. It is tempting to rejoice exuberantly that Obama’s agenda is off the table while we forget that Trump’s agenda is also might not be God’s agenda.

We only exchange one tyranny for another if we put our hope in Donald Trump.

People of God must be humble in our gratitude for this election outcome, and we must not overload Donald Trump by inappropriately putting our hope for the future of the USA in him. We must continue to hope only in God. Donald Trump will, I believe, be a good president, but he is still only a man. He will make mistakes. He will disappoint people who prayed that he be elected. His administration could ultimately be a terrible blot on the history of the USA (As Ahab’s reign was a terrible blot on the history of Israel) unless the people who prayed for this election continue to pray for America.

A lot of people prayed for Hillary Clinton’s defeat, because they felt that she would surely continue to lead the country in the same wrong direction that Obama traveled. Donald Trump campaigned on  taking the country in a different direction. However, a different wrong direction is still wrong. Whoever prayed that God would give us a president who would put us on the right path must continue to pray that God will guide our new president in everything he does. We must be his prayer warriors to invoke God’s guidance in all that he says and does.

We give thanks for the hope that our country will turn away from the path to destruction on which Barack Obama was embarked, but we must pray every day that our new president be protected from the temptation simply to take us down a different wrong path. We must put our hope for a blessed, safe, and prosperous future in God Almighty, not in Donald Trump.

Pray for Donald Trump. Pray for his administration. Pray every day for America.

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How to Avoid Seeing Christ

Barack_Obama_National_Prayer_Breakfast_20090205When the President of the United States of America recently spoke at a prayer breakfast and declared a number of wrongs done in the name of Christ, many Christians across the country were appalled. He pointed to the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, and Jim Crow laws as examples of wrongs justified as obedience to Christ. Whatever his personal agenda was that day, it can be stated with absolute certainty that it was never his purpose to praise or serve Christ in those words. Nothing about the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery or Jim Crow laws has anything whatsoever to do with the teachings of Christ or the work of his church. What’s more, nothing about those events serves to justify some other occasion of wrongdoing in any historical era. The clear purpose of those words was to tamp down outrage over violence wrought by militant forces who claim to be serving Allah. The obvious intent was to make Christians ashamed of criticizing the violence of people who claim to be acting for Allah and for the advancement of Islam.

Christians need not be ashamed of abhorring the violence of ISIS, or that of Boko Haram, or that of Al Shabaab, or the violence of any other violent group that claims the name of Islam. People who follow Christ are justly ashamed that the Crusades were initiated as if they were the work of Christ, because people who follow Christ know that the Crusades were never part of Christ’s plan for the advancement of his kingdom. Anyone who studies history knows that fact. The Crusades were politically motivated, and the church was so deeply integrated with the state at the time that whatever the state did was labelled Christian. It defies logic to attempt to justify the violence of ISIS because the violence of the Crusades was not Christ-like.

Such utter disconnect with the truth of Christ taught our founding fathers that the administration of the state must not be confused with the administration of a religion. They did not reject the voice of Christians as citizens with the right to speak and act for what is right. They did reject the integration of church administration with political administration. The founders  protected people of all faiths with the assurance that government would never try to tell them what to believe or whom to worship or how to live out their faith. The men who founded the USA knew that evil loves to cloak itself in religious garments and governmental power. They also knew that the values of citizens are rooted in their faith, and the founders welcomed the expression of and advocacy for values based in faith. They did not reject the voice of people of faith out of some misguided notion that advocacy for the values taught by faith was synonymous with giving that faith executive power.

All sorts of people had agendas related to the Crusade, the Inquisition, slavery and the Jim Crow laws. The agendas that drove the wickedness did not derive from Christ or his teachings. The fact that many individuals and groups appropriated Christ’s name and claimed his support for their behavior does not make it so. Making Christ responsible for the Inquisition or slavery is like making cows responsible for the increase in size of the Sahara Desert. When all the available facts are examined, the evidence does not support the conclusion. Christ’s teachings do not incite to violence, torture, and oppression.

Christ told his disciples and the other people listening to his Sermon on the Mount to expect this sort of thing. When he spoke of heaven and those who will join him there, he said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV). We can safely conclude from that statement that people who somehow do a few good things by claiming the name of Christ will never be able to gloss over their evil by trying to hide behind a good show of good deeds.

The elected leaders in Congress who voted for the Affordable Care Act showed exactly this behavior. They have not, to this day, read the content of that law, yet they go around claiming that this law is good law, even though it is profoundly evil in its design and implementation. Any sane person who reads the text of the law will quickly see that the benefit of the law falls on those who are hired to administer it—the bureaucracies that create bureaucracies that monitor bureaucracies that eat up the federal budget by the billions of dollars at a bite. The President is the most visible and most vocal of the people who claim that this act is something good, when it is demonstrably a profound evil that is already harming the very populations it alleged to help. Numerous supporters, too, linked the ACA to Jesus, even though this is not at all what Jesus meant by helping the sick.

An agenda that steals the God-given freedom of people and enslaves them to government through secret taxes and oppressive bureaucracies is evil. Evil thrives on its success in turning people’s eyes away from Jesus. Many evil laws have been passed under the guise of feeding the hungry, curing the sick, housing the homeless or ending all wars. The proponents of such laws always allude to the teachings of Jesus. They are exactly right that Jesus taught us to help the downtrodden. However, Jesus taught us to do it with our own gifts. Jesus taught me to give my own coat to somebody who was shivering; Jesus did not teach me to grab your coat and your hat and your wallet so I could give the coat and hat to someone who is cold and keep the wallet for myself. This sort of behavior was behind the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery and Jim Crow laws. This sort of behavior is embedded in the Affordable Care Act and in most government social programs. This sort of behavior has nothing to do with Jesus.

It is a great challenge in the US today to keep pointing to Jesus. Political leaders of all stripes busily accuse Christ of blessing their agendas. When we look intently at Jesus, we see that he has nothing to do with the many evils linked to his name and his mission. It is easy to see that Satan, the father of lies, is behind all of these things.

Who is Christ? He is the one who came to save the people of the world from being enslaved by the lies of Satan. He is the one who pitied the downtrodden and lifted them up. He touched lepers, fed the hungry, held children on his lap, and suffered under Pontius Pilate. He suffered under cruelty perpetrated by an agenda that originated in the unholy union of religious and political leadership. Jesus died at the hands of the same variety of unholy alliance that produced the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery and Jim Crow. He did it, because his purpose was to save people from being lured into such evil.

When Nicodemus came to Christ one night, curious about him because he seemed so unlike the religious leaders among the Pharisees and the priests, Jesus gave Nicodemus the answers he needed: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). Such a mission is completely opposite to the purposes of the Roman government, the Pharisees, the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery, Jim Crow laws, or even the Affordable Care Act. If people actually look at Christ, it will be easy for them to see that his love and grace do not produce such evil. In order to see the origin of evil, they must look away from Christ.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Barack Obama at Prayer Breakfast
By Pete Souza, White House photographer (http://www.whitehouse.gov/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Source:http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABarack_Obama_National_Prayer_Breakfast_20090205.jpg

Answered Prayer

For the jillionth time someone just said, “God always answers prayer: yes, no or wait.” My experience and my Bible both reject that simplistic, self-centered view of prayer.

In the first place, it is not necessary for Jesus’ promise of answers to mean that an answer is “fulfillment.” In the second place, everything about prayer is about submission to God’s sovereignty before anything else.

When anyone asks me, I tell people that prayer is not an order to Amazon, guaranteed to be “fulfilled.” I am no authority, but the idea that the sovereign God is going to respond to my prayer the way I might answer a multiple choice question on a quiz is completely at odds with everything I have learned about God. When God promises to answer prayer, he does not promise that we can manipulate him till we get what we want.

In fact, one of the most important changes we experience when we get to know God in a close relationship is the change in what we want. We are born wanting to be the center of everything, but when we get to know God deeply, we begin to start wanting outcomes that are not about us. In my experience, this sort of change is a blessed outcome of prayer. I pray for something to happen, and I might pray about this outcome for a long time. According to the “yes, no, or wait” theory, God’s failure to say “yes” is interpreted as either “no” or “wait.” According to my experience, God is actually teaching me something that will ultimately change my prayer. He didn’t refuse me. He actually paid close attention to me.

Here is an example.

Peter wrote that we are to pray for our governmental leaders. I do that. When I see that one is doing wrong (way too common) I pray for him to do right. When a bad leader is in office, I pray that God will work in his heart to make a better leader. I pray and pray and pray for outcomes that will be good for our country. I have prayed such prayers for Barack Obama, because I believe he is the worst president in the history of the world.

I have never yet seen any evidence that Barack Obama was moved by God to amend his bad behavior or his bad attitudes. Does that mean that God refused to speak to Barack Obama? To believe that would be presumptuous in the extreme. Yet, if I prayed for God to speak to Barack Obama about his failures, and Barack Obama did not change, then I must ask if God is saying “no” to my prayer, or if he is saying “wait.” He certainly is not saying “yes.” If I believed that God answered prayer by “yes, no, or wait,” my train of thought would be focused on what God was doing to make my request happen.

In fact, God was doing nothing of the sort. In fact, God was working in my heart. In fact, God’s agenda was quite different from mine, and God observed that I was being arrogant and self-centered. I wanted Barack Obama to act differently than he does, and I asked God Almighty to use his power to bring about the changes I had in mind.

What was God actually doing all this time? God was working in my heart. I can’t speak about what God is doing with Barack Obama, but I know what God is doing with me. One morning, as I prayed that Barack Obama would change his ways and do the right thing, I found myself praying this prayer: “Please forgive Barack Obama for all the evil he has done.” Whoa! Did I say that?

God asked me to pray for Barack Obama’s forgiveness. My first thought was to ask why Obama should be forgiven, and God’s response was, “the same reason you need forgiveness.” Barack Obama and I both need forgiveness for our sins before almighty, totally righteous God. It was a humbling thought. I was so angry with Barack Obama over his arrogance and presumption that I failed to notice my total inattention to God’s main thing. God’s main thing is not good government, important though it may be. God’s main thing is that everyone be cleansed of sin. I was so busy trying to change Barack Obama that I forgot that God’s main thing is to save Barack Obama from Satan. I was praying for a magical outcome in Obama’s behavior instead of praying for Barack Obama to be rightly related to God. I couldn’t even wait for the Holy Spirit to do what the Holy Spirit does; I was giving him his marching orders. I was very busy telling God what I thought good government looked like, telling God how to make Barack Obama into a better president, when God thought that outcome was trivial compared to Barack Obama’s need for forgiveness and grace, just like me. He let me prattle on for days while he continued to lead me and teach me and work in my heart until he finally led me to pray, “please forgive Barack Obama for all his sins.”

This is not the only time God has done this sort of thing. I had a fractured relationship with my mother, and one day I went to her pastor to talk about the problem. He was generous with his time, and kind in his responses. He even asked questions. Finally, he asked, “Could we pray together?” I bowed my head, and he began to pray for both me and my mother. It all felt good to me. Then he said, “Would you like to pray, too?” I began to pray, and I complained about all the hurtful things in my relationship with my mother. When I had exhausted my list, I started to pray for my mother to change, but the words that came out of my mouth were, “Please help me to see my mother as you see her, Lord.” Whoa! Where did those words come from? God was answering my prayer, not with “yes, no, or wait,” but with new insight. He answered my prayer, “Please make my mother treat me better,” by saying, “Start looking at the world from my point of view.”

That is why God asked me to pray for Barack Obama’s forgiveness. God wants me to pray about the world from his point of view. God wants me to see Barack Obama, and my mother, and the whole world, the way he sees it. When I change my view, then I pray differently. God didn’t fulfill my request. God didn’t deny my request. God didn’t even defer my request. God simply led me to a moment of personal transformation and showed me how things look from his side of the matter.

Prayer is God’s great gift to us, and I give thanks every day for the privilege of prayer, but I have learned that the blessing of prayer is not so much what I get as it is what I learn. When God promises to “answer” my prayer, the “answer” is not often the “fulfillment” I might have anticipated when I bowed my head. I am learning that the best way to pray is to begin the way Jesus taught us—focus first on the Father and his worldview.

“Our Father, who art in heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10

Then, from that perspective, all the other issues look very different.

To declare that God always answers prayer with “yes, no, or wait” is to say that prayer is about what I want. Prayer is not about me. Prayer is about God.

 

Evolving Standards Do Not Work in the Real World

When Barack Obama first spoke publicly about same-sex marriage, he was equivocal. His views were still “evolving” he told us. Then later, after he had tested the waters and determined what cultural trends were developing, he spoke in support of it. He behaved consistent with the growing influence of a belief that all moral standards are relative and that human beings evolve morally as well as biologically.

This idea is most fully developed in secular philosophy. (There are secularists, there are humanists, and there are free thinkers who advocate substantially the same views. I try to refer to them consistently as secularists, because that term seems the most appropriate word for their core ideas.) Secularists deplore the idea that anyone would impose their morality on other people. They teach not only that each generation must find its own way, but further that each person must find their own way. In a recent conversation with a secularist, I asked how he knew that he had found the “right” answer to a moral problem, and his response was that the “right” answer would be whatever made him happy.

Continue reading Evolving Standards Do Not Work in the Real World

By Whose Authority?

The Supreme Court knew that a furor would surround its decisions about the definition of marriage, and it is reasonable to assume that a desire to avoid being engulfed in that furor led the court to delay releasing those decisions as long as possible. There has been a great deal of furor already, and Justice Kennedy was even sucked into some of that excitement when California chose to jump the gun on the implementation of the Prop 8 decision.

The Supreme Court’s choice of cases that dealt with the subject of the definition of marriage was obviously intended to settle some things in the nationwide debate on the subject. One thing the Supreme Court did not say was that the federal government would require all states to authorize and recognize homosexual unions as “marriages.” The Prop 8 decision affected the marriage definition only in California, and the DOMA decision only required the federal government to recognize, for purposes of benefits administration, homosexual marriages authorized by any state.

Troubling as these decisions are, an announcement by the President soon after the court decision was released is even more troubling. The headline read “Obama promises not to force churches to perform gay marriages.” The President said. “How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision — which applies only to civil marriages — changes that.” This statement is troubling, because the Constitution specifically protects churches in their right to exercise the teachings of their faith. The president has no constitutional power to interfere with churches on the subject of marriage or any other teaching. Obama’s statement is unnecessary, unless he himself believes it is necessary. He could only believe it is necessary if he also believes he has the power and the right to tell churches that they must perform gay “marriages.”

Christians who read the news attentively will see immediately the broad implications of the statement.

The most contentious issue between Christians and the federal government in recent months has been the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act. In the lawsuits centered on this mandate, the federal government has said that individuals lose their First Amendment right to free exercise of their religion the minute they engage in commerce, whether as a sole owner or in a corporation. The only conscience exemption allowed is for the business operations of a house of worship. That definition is almost certainly the definition the president had in mind when he made his announcement about weddings.

However, the fact that he feels he must say such a thing makes it clear that he can conceive of such an order. What’s more, the statement makes it clear that he thinks he has the authority to make such an order and that he is showing admirable restraint by not issuing it.

What happens when he changes his mind? President Obama has changed his mind on any number of things during his presidency. His views are always evolving. What happens when he decides that he cannot tolerate the unwillingness of some churches to consecrate gay marriages? What happens when the LGBT activists wear down his reluctance to exercise what he clearly believes is his rightful power to compel churches to consecrate gay “marriages?”

The question of authority has been a very real question with this president. The Constitution as written does not empower the president to do use executive orders to accomplish objectives that the Congress refused to enact as law, yet this president does it almost every day. It is much more difficult to claim and defend the protection of the First Amendment against a government which has abandoned all pretense of operating according to the Constitution. The obvious first act is to pray for the protection of all religions from the federal juggernaut. However, Christians need to put feet on these prayers and stay alert to the news. They must let their elected officials, and especially their Representatives and Senators, know that religious liberty must be preserved. Advocacy for religious liberty must include not only the right of churches to consecrate weddings according to their teachings, but also the right of every individual to refuse to participate in weddings that violate their religious convictions.

It isn’t a mystical experience to write a letter to your Congressman, but it is an act of Christian discipleship. If this government were a dictatorship, there would be nobody to whom citizens could appeal for protection from the dictator. Until such time as the government completely abandons the façade of a republic, we must assume that some constitutional rights and powers are still vested in the people. Pray. Write. Live faithful to the truth. Reject autocratic assumption of power outside the boundaries of the Constitution. Pray like your church depended on it. It does.