An Election Day (Waiting) Prayer

As I await the vote count from 6 remaining states with population totals of over 18 million and the total number of votes that separate the candidates only around 200K, here is my prayer:

Almighty God, Eternal Father, Lord of Heaven and Earth, we humbly come before you as a church and pray for our nation in throes of this unsettled election. We pray all of this against the background of acknowledging that you are the sovereign God of the universe who sees yesterday and tomorrow through the lens of your eternity, and knows the end from the beginning—ruling over the affairs of humanity just as you govern the earth, skies, and seas.

In spite of all we know to be true about you, Lord, many of us are still filled with anxiety, others of us are fearful, and others even angry. We are thankful for our democratic (representative) form of government and the opportunity we have to exercise a say in its direction. On the other hand, we also acknowledge our allurement to power and the tendency we have to consider our political opinion pre-eminent. We often fail to recognize or admit to our own blind spots and prejudices which could lead us to disregard the opinions of others with as much zeal as they reject ours.

We often put too much faith in “the system” rather than recognizing that it is but a tool in your sovereign hand for accomplishing your divine purposes, not ours. And we admit that such a trust in our own opinion opens us to the dire warning of our Lord Jesus, “Judge not lest you be judged.” We opine the the viewpoint and negative qualities of others, only to see that our sensitivity to such viewpoints flow from the dark crevasses of our own hearts where the same sin dwells.

We are such weak and desperate creatures, willing to trust in anything that seems to serve us most immediately. O Lord, forgive us; revive us; stir within us a passion for your kingdom and glory. May we pursue justice and righteousness not because it is culturally relevant or a part of our party’s platform, but because it is what you desire from us. May we love mercy and kindness not because it fosters civility, but because it reflects you character who makes the rain fall upon the just and unjust. And may we be driven by the Spirit of humility, repentance, forgiveness, and repentance, thus shunning the way of anger and vengeance towards those who “in our minds” don’t deserve it—just like we dd not in your eyes..

For the Day is coming when every proud look will be brought low and you, Lord, will be exalted. All the glory of mankind will bow; all the pride of man will lie in the dust, and you will be exalted in all the earth. And all our political idolatry will be destroyed.

Holy Father, someday this most anticipated election of our lifetime will be be replaced by another. The election of 2020 will need to be googled to be remembered. But you, O Lord, will remain. May we then, as now, acknowledge with the prophet Isaiah, “Puny man! Frail as his breath! Don’t ever put your trust in him!” Through Jesus Christ. Amen.

As I finished writing this prayer the announcement came that Biden was being declared to winner, which still needs to be certified.

The Most Pivotal Election in US History?

Is this election the most important one in our lifetime? We have been told it is, but when you have lived as long as me, you have heard that phrase many times. In fact, if you did a study of presidential elections in American history you would hear this same phrase repeated in almost every election.

That is why I have rephrased the question to ask what was the most pivotal election in US history? You can do your own study and arrive at your own conclusion, but for me, I believe that the most pivotal and divisive presidential election in American history took place in 1860. John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry a year earlier had brought the great American debate over slavery to a breaking point.

Four candidates were nominated. The Republican Party, which fielded its first candidate in 1856, was opposed to the expansion of slavery. Abraham Lincoln, the party’s nominee in 1860, was seen as a moderate on slavery, but Southerners feared that his election would lead to its demise, and vowed to leave the Union if he was elected. The Democratic Party split during their April convention, and the Southern delegation walked out in protest against the party’s failure to endorse a federal slave code for western territories. Northern Democrats reconvened in Baltimore, where they nominated Stephen Douglas, while the Southern faction of the party held their own convention in Richmond and nominated Vice President John Breckinridge for president. The Constitutional Union Party, a moderate party composed of former Whigs and remnants of the Know-Nothings and other groups in the South, organized just before the election of 1860 and nominated John Bell.

Bell carried Virginia and Breckinridge had the most votes in western Virginia. Lincoln won the election without carrying a single Southern state, the limited support he received in Virginia coming almost exclusively in the Northern panhandle. Almost immediately following his election, Southern states began withdrawing from the Union, setting the stage for a civil war and the creation of a new state.

Notice the above map – with four candidates in the field, Lincoln received only 40% of the popular vote but a significant 180 electoral votes (59%). This meant that 60% of the voters selected someone other than Lincoln. The next time you complain about the electoral college just think of this election as an example of its wisdom. With the results tallied, the question was, would the South accept the outcome? A few weeks after the election, South Carolina seceded from the Union. Since the North had a larger population than the South, it therefore had control of the Electoral College. Lincoln dominated the Northern states but didn’t carry a single Southern state. 

Douglas received some Northern support—12 electoral votes—but not nearly enough to offer a serious challenge to Lincoln. The Southern vote was split between Breckenridge who won 72 electoral votes and Bell who won 39 electoral votes. The split prevented either candidate from gaining enough votes to win the election. The election of 1860 also firmly established the Democratic and Republican parties as the majority parties in the United States. It also confirmed deep-seated views on slavery and states’ rights between the North and South. 

The night after all the results came in and it was clear that Lincoln had won, he went home only to find his wife, Mary, already asleep. He gently touched her shoulder and whispered her name, to which she made no answer. Then, as Lincoln recounted: “I spoke again, a little louder, saying ‘Mary, Mary! we are elected!‘ ” Minutes before, the final words his friends heard him utter that night were: “God help me, God help me.” (The Smithsonian Magazine)

Before Lincoln’s inauguration, eleven Southern states had seceded from the Union. Weeks after his swearing-in, the Confederate Army fired on Fort Sumter and started the Civil War. I would say the election of 1860 was the most pivotal in US history.

Learning about African American history… 2

The recent racial unrest in our country has given me a deep desire to understand the enslavement of the African people in U.S. and, among other things, why African Americans have been almost completely left out of the history of our nation, except for slavery. Most of us raised studying American history have gained little knowledge of the contributions African Americans have made to our nation. Over my next several blogs I would like to share some of what I’ve been learning about African American history. My goal is not to be controversial but informative and to recognize the African American as playing a vital role in the development of our country .

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Between 1500-1800, about 12 million slaves were brought to the New World in a system called “triangular trade.” The first line of this triangle consisted of bringing goods, textiles, and weapons to the African Coast to trade for kidnapped slaves. The second line was the transport of these slaves to the Americas—known as the “Middle Passage.” There, traders sold the slaves for sugar, tobacco, and other goods and headed back to England. The majority of slaves were sold in the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Both slaves and free people of color contributed to the development of culture in the Colonies. Jupiter Hammon, a slave on Long Island, published a book of religious poetry. Gustavus Vasa wrote a book about his life in Nigeria, his capture, and his slave life in Virginia. His book sold eight editions in America and England. He bought his freedom and presented a petition against the slave trade to the English Parliament. A South Carolina slave named Cesar developed cures for certain poisons that earned him his freedom and an yearly annuity of 100 pounds. James Derham was a slave in the post-Revolutionary War era and was sold to a New Orleans physician, who taught him to prepare drugs and gave him lessons in French and Spanish. At age 21, Derham began to practice in New Orleans and was highly praised for his medical knowledge and practice by Dr. Benjamin Rush, surgeon general of the Continental army and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Banneker, a freed slave, was chosen by George Washington to serve on the commission that planned the City of Washington DC. Phillis Wheatley, a poet, published a book of verse in 1773 with the encouragement of her Boston mistress, who also freed her. Her poetry received favorable reviews from Voltairs, Ben Franklin, John Hancock, and George Washiugton, who invited her to visit him at his Cambridge HQ’s in 1776.

The first known written protest against slavery was written by Pennsylvania Quakers in 1688…”have not these poor Negroes as much right to fight for their freedom as you have to keep them slaves?” The first known written African American protest against slavery appeared in 1788, published by Othello, about whom we know nothing. “In you [whites] the superiority of power produces nothing but superiority of brutality and barbarism….Your fine political systems are sullied by the outrages committed against human nature and the divine majesty.”

On March 5, 1770, Crispus Attucks, a runaway slave became one of 5 Americans to become martyrs— killed at the Boston Massacre. Lemuel Haynes was among the first African American Minutemen who fought at Lexington and Concord and whose “shots were heard around the world.” He also became one of Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys who captured Fort Ticonderoga from the British in 1775. After the Revolutionary War, Haynes became the minister of an all white congregation in Vermont. James Armistead, while a slave, became a spy for General Lafayette during the Revolutionary War. In 1786, the Virginia legislature granted him his freedom because he aided the American cause. While not as famous as Lafayette, Von Stubben, Kosciusko, many African Americans fought for the cause of freedom against the British. In fact, two months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Massachusetts legislature declared that slavery was utterly inconsistent with the struggle for liberty and many towns in the state voted to abolish slavery.

Many of the Founding Fathers strongly opposed slavery and the slave trade. However, the men who gathered in Philadelphia to draft a Constitution were there to build a strong and unified country, not solve the slavery issue. And in order to gain and keep the loyalty of the slave owning states in the South. Sadly, concessions were made to protect slavery and not demand its immediate cessation. In a compromise, the Constitution granted the African slave trade 20 more years to exist—a period ending in 1808. However, the compromise also provided that all runaway slaves be returned to their owners and because slaveholders were to be taxed for their slaves as property, they were allowed 3 votes for every 5 slaves owned. Thus if there were a census taken in those days, an African American slave would be counted as only 3/5ths of a person! Most felt that slavery was a temporary arrangement that would soon run its course. However, no one could foresee the invention of the cotton gin (short for engine) just 6 yrs. later nor the wealth gained from the European demand for cotton which dramatically increased the need for labor provided by the slave trade.

James Beckwourth was one of the most famous frontiersman of the 19th century. He escaped slavery and headed west to live on the frontier. He was “adopted” into the Crow Indian tribe and became its chief. But his place in history rests in discovering a pass (1850) through the Sierra Nevada Mountains which became a gateway to California during the gold rush days. The pass still bears his name. The Crows wanted him back as their chief, but he turned them down. Legend has it that they invited him to a feast where he was poisoned. If the Crows could not have him as chief, at least they could have him to bury in the tribal cemetery as their former chief.

More to come…

It is Good for Me That I was Afflicted…

Things like this are not easy to read or accept, but I would like to share with you a section from Thomas Brooks’ “A Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod of God: Comfort for Suffering Saints,” originally published in 1659. It has been helpful to me. You may find the complete book in a PDF file at http://www.ChapelLibrary.org

“It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes.”—Psalm 119:71.

“A gracious soul secretly concludes, as stars shine brightest in the night, so God will make my soul shine and glisten like gold, while I am in this furnace, and when I come out of the furnace of affliction. “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

Surely, as the taste of honey opened Jonathan’s eyes, so this cross, this affliction shall open my eyes. By this stroke I shall come to have a clearer sight of my sins and of myself, and a fuller sight of my God (Job 33:27-28; 40:4-5; 13:1-7)!

Surely this affliction shall proceed in the purging away of my dross (Isa 1:25)!

Surely as plowing of the ground kills the weeds, and harrowing breaks hard clods, so these afflictions shall kill my sins and soften my heart (Hos 5:15; 6:1-3)!

Surely as the plaster draws out the infectious core, so the afflictions which are upon me shall draw out the core of pride, the core of self-love, the core of envy, the core of earthliness, the core of formality, the core of hypocrisy (Psa 119:67, 71)!

Surely by these afflictions, the Lord will crucify my heart more and more to the world and the world to my heart (Gal 6:14; Psa 131:1-3)!

Surely by these afflictions, the Lord will keep pride from my soul (Job 33:14-21)!

Surely these afflictions are but the Lord’s pruning-knives, by which He will bleed my sins, and prune my heart, and make it more fertile and fruitful! They are but the Lord’s potion, by which He will clear me, and rid me of those spiritual diseases and maladies which are most deadly and dangerous to my soul! Affliction is such a healing potion, as will carry away all soul-diseases, better than all other remedies (Zech 13:8-9)!

Surely these afflictions shall increase my spiritual communion with God (Rom 5:3-4)!

Surely by these afflictions, I shall be made to partake more of God’s holiness (Heb12:10)! As black soap makes white clothes, so do sharp afflictions make holy hearts!

Surely by these afflictions, the Lord will draw out my heart more and more to seek Him! “In their afflictions they will seek me early” (Hos 5:15)! In times of affliction,Christians will industriously, speedily, early seek unto their Lord!

Surely by these trials and troubles, the Lord will fix my soul more than ever upon the great concernments of the eternal world (Joh 14:1-3; Rom 8:17, 18; 2 Cor 4:16-18)!

Surely by these afflictions the Lord will work in me more tenderness and compassion towards those who are afflicted (Heb 10:34, 13:3)!

Surely these afflictions are but God’s love-tokens! “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Rev 3:19)! So says the holy Christian, “O my soul! be quiet, be still. All is sent in love, all is a fruit of divine favor. I see honey upon the top of every twig; I see the rodis but a rosemary branch; I have sugar with my gall, and wine with my wormwood; therefore be silent, O my soul!”

Afflictions abase the carnal attractions of the world outside us that might entice us!

Affliction abates the lustiness of the flesh within us that might otherwise ensnare us!

Afflictions humble us and keep us low! Holy hearts will be humble under the afflicting hand of God. When God’s rod is upon their backs, their mouths shall be in the dust!

A godly heart will lie lowest, when the hand of God is lifted highest.

All this proves that affliction is a mighty advantage to us! ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted…’ Psalm 119:71).”

NOTE: Check out a new resource that I have written, “Slavery and the Use of Scripture”.” It can be found on the menu portion of this or any blog.

God Has a Greater Interest in Me, Than I Have in Myself…

I’m getting chemo right now and thanking God for the safe delivery of our new grandson, Micah Lucas McDowell, born to Danielle and Jeremy early this morning at 12:17 am. Micah is our 11th grandchild. Gloria and I are blessed!

I always bring a book with me to chemo and I would like to share a portion of that book with you. The book was written by Thomas Brooks and is titled, “A Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod of God: Comfort for Suffering Saints,” originally published in 1659. Here it is:

You have a greater interest in me, than I have in myself. The godly one gives himself up to God. The secret language of the soul is this,“Lord, here am I; do with me what You please, I give up myself to be at Your disposal.”

There was a good woman, who, when she was sick, being asked whether she were willing to live or die, answered, “Whichever God pleases. ”But, said one who stood by, “If God would refer it to you, which would you choose?” “Truly,” said she, “if God would refer it to me, I would even refer it right back to Him again.” This was a soul worth gold.

“Well,” says a gracious soul, “The ambitious man gives himself up to his honors, but I give up myself unto God. The voluptuous man gives himself up to his pleasures, but I give up myself to God. The covetous man gives himself up to his bags of money, but I give up myself to God. The wanton man gives himself up to his lust, but I give up myself to God. The drunkard gives himself up to his cups, but I give up myself to God. . . .The heretic gives up himself to his heretical opinions, but I give up myself to God.

Lord! Lay what burden You will upon me, only let Your everlasting arms be under me!” Strike, Lord, strike, and spare not; for I submit to Your will. You have a greater interest in me, than I have in myself; and therefore I give up myself unto You, and am willing to be at Your disposal, and am ready to receive whatever impression You shall stamp upon me. O blessed Lord! Have you not again and again said unto me, as once the king of Israel said to the king of Syria, “I am yours, and all that I have is yours” (1Kings 20:4).

God says, “I am yours, O soul, to save you!

My mercy is yours to pardon you-

My blood is yours to cleanse you!

My merits are yours to justify you!

My righteousness is yours to clothe you!

My Spirit is yours to lead you!

My grace is yours to enrich you!

My glory is yours to reward you!”

“And therefore,” says a gracious soul, “I cannot but make a resignation of myself unto You. Lord! Here I am, do with me as seems good in Your own eyes. I resign up myself to Your will.”

Amen!

The God-chaser

The Bible introduces King David as a “man after God’s own heart.” We know the guy was far from perfect so what was the element that defined him in contrast to his predecessor, Saul, or his son-successor, Solomon? Someone described David as a God-chaser. I like that. I think such a description singularly defines a person after God’s own heart—someone who relentlessly pursues God in spite of being deeply flawed and broken.

While Saul was busy building a monument to himself (1 Samuel 15:12) and Solomon was focused on loving “many foreign women” and accommodating their gods (1 Kings 11:1-6), David was chasing after God. “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so my soul pants for you, O God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1, 2) “O God, you are my God; early will I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land.” (Psalm 63:11) “My soul languishes for your salvation; I wait for your word.” Psalm 119:81. “I stretch out my hands to You; my soul longs for You…” (Psalm 143:6)

David was hungry and thirsty for God; he sought after God; he had a passion for spiritual things. Though he was a sinner he was also a man of repentance who saw his sin as potentially separating from the God who was his very life. “Have mercy upon me, O God…blot out my transgressions…against you, and you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…I was brought forth in iniquity…create within my a new heart…cast me not away from your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:1-11)

Yes, David was a God-chaser and rightly called a “man after God’s own heart,” because he had a deep desire for God and doing the will of God. He was a shadow of another who would come to be known as the “son of David.” The Messiah, Jesus Christ, took what David imperfectly demonstrated and manifested those qualities to perfection. He relentlessly pursued God, his Father; his food was to do the will of the One who sent him; his entire purpose in life was to glorify his Father in heaven. Interestingly, we usually define the passion of Christ as his suffering and death, but his real passion was desiring to do the will of God more than he wanted to escape his pain.

I want to be like Jesus, but David shows me that it is possible to be a God-chaser inspite of my sin. David gives me hope that, though deeply flawed, I can be a man after God’s own heart!