Voting for Saul

Tanks

At the commencement of the first Gulf War, Operation Desert Shield/Storm (1990-1991), I spent some serious time praying. At that time I was assigned to the 126 MI (Military Intelligence) Battalion (Army Reserve), stationed in East Windsor, Connecticut. When the Iraqis invaded Kuwait in the late summer of 1990, my battalion was one of the first called up. We had interpreters, analysts, communications specialist, and the like making up our unit. Within three week of the invasion, better than half of my unit was in Saudi Arabia. For the next four months I watched more and more of my comrades leaving for the Gulf, and by the time the bombs started falling in Baghdad I was on a very short list to go over. As luck and a lot of prayer would have it, I ended up with an assignment that was mostly stateside, and didn’t take me directly into the war zone. (That’s all I’m going to tell you. I’d have to shoot you otherwise.)

With events changing by the hour, things were tense around our house. My family, as you could imagine, was nervous about what may happen if the war didn’t end quickly and I might be gone overseas for awhile. Fortunately, the war lasted only a little more than six weeks and things soon began to return to some form of normalcy.

As I said before, I spent some time in prayer. Not just for myself, but for some of my colleagues who were in harm’s way, and more broadly, our country. A couple of weeks after the war began (Jan. 17, 1991) I was in my office just trying to chill out after a very stressful day at work. Within a few moments I fell asleep and began to dream a very strange dream. In it I saw a couple moving vans sitting in front of the White House and the movers were taking boxes out of the White House and putting them in the trucks. As I watched the movers placing various items in the vans, my focus was directed to a license plate. There, I saw an expiration sticker that said JAN 93. After that frame, it seemed that I was lifted to the Oval Office and there I saw President Bush (41) placing some books and pictures in a box sitting on his desk. His face was forlorn and somber. After witnessing this part of the dream, I was “whisked away” (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase) and found myself standing in a crowd of people in a place I didn’t recognize at all. It was a sunny and warm day and there was a man speaking in front of an old white, Greek Revival building. I first thought it was someplace in New England. That idea changed however, after I began to detect a southern accent coming from the man speaking to the crowd. In short order I could clearly hear the man announcing that he was running for president of the United States. After that scene, I woke up from my dream. It wasn’t a long, protracted dream, but I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was weird, as many dreams are, and it bothered me.

About two weeks after the war ended, Newsweek Magazine announced that President Bush’s approval rating was at 89%. When I got to my office the next day, Bill Basade, a coworker and a die-hard Republican announced to the office that you could bet on another term for Bush. “He is a shoe-in,” Bill asserted. Most of the guys in the office agreed. After a few minutes passed, and with everyone talking about the war and President Bush’s likely reelection, a very strange thing happened that was in my estimation, akin to a fart in church. Amidst all the conversation, a voice erupted saying, “George Bush is going to lose the race and some Southerner is going to beat him!” It was my voice and every eye in the place was glued on me. It seemed as if time stood still. I guess that if it were possible, I would have most likely been starring at me as well. It was like one of those Southwest Airlines moments when you just wanted to get away. Obviously, everyone thoughtI was nuts. (the jury is still out…I think)

After I left the office, Bill tracked me down and began to do what good politically-oriented Christians do. He tried to exorcise those evil “liberal” demons from my mind, reminding me of the math in the poll and other elements of political science. My reply was to ask him if he really relied on the Newsweek poll as the final determining statistic for his assumption about Bush’s career. He said he was pretty sure he was right. I then reminded him of two very important things. First, there was over a year and-a-half to go before the election, and anything could happen between now and then. He nodded in guarded agreement. The second thing I did was to remind him that he was a Red Sox fan and at that time, hadn’t won a world series in over 70 years. I asked him if past statistics were any guarantee of future results. He raised his hands and walked off. (I would think that now, after the Red Sox have won the World Series twice, he had to believe that current statistic are hardly a promise of future results.) As he was walking away, something really beyond imagination welled up in my mind and I blurted out, “I’ll bet you a year’s salary Bush will lose!” He looked over his shoulder towards me without a word and without breaking stride. At that, I thought it might be a good time to duck out of sight before something else came out of my mouth without my conscious consent.

When I got home that night, I decided to call my brother and tell him about my dream. After a little time on the phone, it seemed that he wanted to redirect the conversation to another subject. Poor guy. He was probably wanting to chill out himself, but instead had to listen to his crazy brother talking politics. For the next few months I didn’t say a word about my dream, but my friend Bill made sure I kept up with all the news lauding George Bush and his handling of the war. I just took it.

 

Then in October 1991, while watching CNN I heard the voice I had heard in my dream. The voice belonged to Bill Clinton, governor of Arkansas. There he stood in front of a white Greek Revival building, the Old State house of Arkansas, announcing his decision to run for the presidency. The next day, I got bold and start telling others about my dream. They still thought I was nuts.

92

Just before Thanksgiving, I called my folks who live in Fayetteville, Pennsylvania. Typically, we would try to go to my parent’s house for the holiday, but for that year, other commitments precluded us from going. I had to let them know. While talking to my dad I decided to broach the subject of my dream and what I thought was going to happen. Like my friend Bill Basade, Dad wanted to remind me of the math and he didn’t see my scenario playing out. I countered by asking him what the odds where that I would hear “the voice” in my dream and that voice was Bill Clinton. Dad still didn’t bite. After some time trying to convince others of my beliefs about the upcoming election I realized that it would be best for me to just shut up. I had tried to convince others of what I believed, but everyone wanted to let me know my theory was just plain wrong. With all the resistance from friend and family, I never changed my mind.

For the next few months after Clinton’s announcement, it seemed that most of those I had spoken to were convinced that Clinton was a nonstarter and had no chance. When Clinton’s background became public, it seemed logical to conclude how people could assume that he had no chance. He definitely had some character flaws.

Gennifer FlowersThen there was the Gennifer Flowers ordeal. She publically revealed that she had had a twelve year affair with Bill Clinton and was suing members of his staff for defamation. Of course this wasn’t good news for Clinton’s campaign but nevertheless Clinton came in second place in the New Hampshire Democratic primary which followed shortly after the Flower’s announcement. He finished behind Paul Tsongas, the former Senator from nearby Massachusetts. For many in the press and in the general public, Clinton’s infidelity, accusations of draft-dodging during the Vietnam War, and his dope smoking (or not), were enough to write him off. For me however, it made me wonder what God was up to. Why would God allow a guy like this to be our nation’s head of state and commander-in-chief? Those answers would come in due time, although for me, not quick enough.

By the time the Democratic convention was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and Bill Clinton was nominated as the candidate for president, I wasn’t backing down to anyone about my “predictions.” Unlike the time before the convention was held, people started to press the question, why? Why Bill Clinton. My answer was simply this. God gives us the leaders we deserve and need.

Throughout history God has used, but not manipulated the character and tendencies of men and women to affect His will in the world. He used the likes of Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, Herod, and Pilate to work his will in the nation of Israel. These were all bad guys, and God’s servants. He also used Hitler to get His chosen people back into the promise land after being scattered throughout the earth for over 1800 years. Being that God has both the long and short view of history, as well as the future, He knows how to manipulate events to affect salvation for those that seek deliverance. He will move mountains if need be. There are a number of scriptures that support the theology that God is the one who determines who will lead a nation. For instance:

Psalm 75:7 “But God is the judge: he puts down one, and sets up another.”

Daniel 4:35 “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he does according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say to him, What are you doing?” Daniel 2:21 “And he changes the times and the seasons: he removes kings, and sets up kings:…”

What I see in these scriptures is the real notion that even though Americans vote to elect leaders, it is ultimately God who sanctions that vote for His will to be carried out. Essentially, God has everything under control and His will is to see all men come to salvation. Because He has a long view to history, He allows the will of men to affect His plan for the world. God is not shocked or worried about who may be elected. He merely uses those leaders to be accomplices to His will.

 

Of course there are others who believe that the world is controlled by Satan and mankind is merely a casualty of the big war between good and evil. Once again, I have to remind you that God uses the nature and character of all His creation to effectuate His will. That includes Satan. The Scripture concludes that “the thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I (Jesus) am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11) Now that’s a great contrast and comparison of the nature and character of Satan and Jesus (God). God used the nature and character of Satan to kill Jesus, resulting in the salvation of mankind. That act of murder on Calvary was hatched by Satan from the beginning of man’s time on the earth and carried out by men. There was even a vote to sanction the deed when Pilate asked what those in Jerusalem would have him to do with Jesus. Their vote was to “Crucify Him!” There you have it. Satan, who seeks to kill and destroy, finds human accomplices to democratically execute the destruction of Jesus Christ. Instead, after three days in the grave, Jesus is resurrected to bring life versus death, restoration versus destruction, and abundance versus loss.

The second thing I came to realize is that God often gives us national leaders who reflect the spiritual character of our nation. I know that doesn’t play well for a lot of partisan, patriotic folk, but as I have observed over a lifetime, more frequently than not, those who raise the loudest voices against politicians are often themselves suffering from a blight of personal righteousness. This is not to say that complaints about corruption in government and politics should be discounted or ignored due to the personal character flaw of a complainant, but we should never use the faults of another to be used as a whipping boy for our own. It is sad to see how much of a blind spot we have about our own character when we speak of the character flaws of our politicians. It’s easy to see a person’s faults and sins when they are reviewed over and over on the television. But what about the sins we ignore in ourselves. I’m not talking about things like murder, theft, adultery and the like, but things like jealousy, gossip, pride, bitterness, unforgiveness, hostility, outbursts of anger, lying, greed, or having a party spirit. According to scripture, these things will keep you from inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven. Apparently these are sins that carry just as much weight in God’s eyes as bribery, theft, and infidelity, common criticisms against politicians. The truth of the matter is that the personal characteristics we despise in political figures are generally the same belonging to the person reflected in our own mirror.

It is typical of human nature to focus on the faults and sins of others in a way to deflect our attention from our own imperfection and guilt. We need scapegoats, and the world of politics provides a perpetual marketplace for casting stones. When we are confronted with our own faults, trespasses, and sins, we are far less likely to judge another without righteous judgment, the kind you give with a huge serving of mercy and love.

For many people, including Christians, politicians like Bill Clinton provided a contrast in character which fed the sin of self-righteousness. Unfortunately, when you look at the character of Bill Clinton, you find that he’s really like most Americans. From numerous surveys conducted by Christian and other polling organizations, it is clear that we as a nation are a bunch of liars, cheats, and will cut corners if we can get away with it. It is disheartening to see in these surveys that a large number of Christians are hardly better than their “heathen” neighbors when it comes to ethics and character. For matters such as divorce and remarriage, polls conducted over a fairly long period of time suggest there are real discrepancies between what religious people say about themselves against what they actually do.

 

This brings me to another issue, the issue of telling the truth. It seems to me that many Christians on both sides of the political spectrum have a very jaundiced view toward handling untruths told by their brand of politician. It seems that if their politician tells a lie, they tend to remain silent. If the other guy’s politician tells a lie, they rant like a mad man, demanding an independent investigation, impeachment or even death. I find it hypocritical to have such righteous indignation toward liar versus another. Is truth to be balanced by political loyalty? Some believe so. I don’t.

When it comes to the falsehoods of Bill Clinton, he had a few doosies. They were very public and provided considerable fodder for his opponents. However, when you look at the record of falsehoods by recent presidents, Bill Clinton wasn’t any worse at lying than Reagan, Bush (41) and Bush (42). Many actually believe that George W. Bush, the “faith president,” may be the most dishonest president in modern history.

Later on this year (2008), Christian Americans will cast their vote to elect a new president. When they do, if they expect the new president to determine the course of the nation, they will be fooled again. It’s not the president we choose that leads us to justice and righteousness or corruption. It’s not the Congress or the Supreme Court either. It has always been the righteousness of those who claim to be saved that determines the directions of a nation. Christians can curse the darkness all they want, but in the end it isn’t the state of the wicked that determine the health of a nation, it’s the spiritual health of the believer that determines it. The formula hasn’t changed. As II Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; THEN will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Notice that it didn’t say that you need to overturn Roe v. Wade, or end same-sex marriages, or get rid of illegal aliens to bring healing to the land. It won’t come by name-it, claim-it either. It will only come when those who are called by His name make a serious commitment to personal holiness, rejecting tman’s ways, and seeking His face will there ever be healing in the nation.

The real problem is that we have our own ways and ideas about how to save the nation. Unfortunately, by employing the strategies and tactics of man, we go against God’s ways and come to waste. The scripture implores us to not be fooled by man’s devices. In Isaiah 55:2 it says, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.” Later in the same chapter God declares, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God will not change a nation by voter guides and political action committees. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and still responds to the prayerful cries of those who seek after His kingdom and righteousness.

If we want justice, mercy, righteousness, and real change in our homes, neighborhoods and our nation, then we need to spend more time on our knees and less time watching Hannity, Ingraham, and Limbaugh. They may be good people, but they promote man’s ways and man’s thoughts, and are way off-based from God’s ways. Unfortunately, too many Christians have taken the wide road of human endeavor to bring “revival” to the nation. They need to be careful that they don’t fall into the trap of expecting man to provide the answer. Israel fell into the same trap and God called it what it is. When Israel looked for a king (Saul) to lead them, God allowed them to have what they wanted. They wanted a man and not an invisible god. In 1 Samuel 8:7 we read, “And Jehovah said unto Samuel, hearken unto the voiceof the people in all that they say unto you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me, that I should not be king over them.”

On the morning of November 5th, 1992 I received a phone call from my father. This was the second call I had with him in the previous 24 hours. In the first conversation he stated that despite what the polls were saying about Clinton being ahead in the count, he felt that Bush was going to pull it out and be reelected. He said that he and my mother had been praying. I thought that it was good to pray on election day for God’s will to done, but obviously, I disagreed with his belief that Bush would pull it out. When the second call came, after the election results were in and Clinton declared, president-elect, my father asked me straightaway, “What happened?” My response was equally straightforward. “We have rejected God as a nation, looking for a man to solve our problems. We got someone just like us.”

As long as Christians look for a redeemer and savior that has a heartbeat, we will live in a land with no prospects of peace, reconciliation, or wholeness. Seeking God with our whole heart and the welfare of His kingdom is the only way to REAL CHANGE!

Peace,

Steve

Jesus ‘08

 

 

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