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The rancorous presidential election of 1800 brought religion to the forefront of public debate and had lasting repercussions for the relationship between church and state.

Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated the third president of the United States on March 4, 1801, following one of the most bitterly contested presidential elections in American history. He had faced the unpopular incumbent, Federalist John Adams of Massachusetts—his confrere in the independence struggle and longtime rival. The electorate was deeply divided along regional, partisan, and ideological lines. Acrimonious campaign rhetoric punctuated the polarized political landscape.

In few, if any, presidential contests has religion played a more divisive and decisive role than in the election of 1800. Jefferson’s religion, or alleged lack thereof, emerged as a critical issue in the campaign. His Federalist opponents vilified him as a Jacobin and atheist. (Both charges stemmed from his notorious sympathy for the French Revolution, which in the 1790s had turned bloody and, some said, anti-Christian.) In the days before the election, the Gazette of the United States, a leading Federalist newspaper, posed the “grand question” of whether Americans should vote for “GOD—AND A RELIGIOUS PRESIDENT [John Adams]; or impiously declare for JEFFERSON—AND NO GOD!!!”

Jefferson’s Federalist foes did not invent the stinging accusation that he was an infidel. Years before, his ardent advocacy for disestablishment in Virginia had led many pious Americans to conclude that Jefferson was, if not an enemy of religion, at least indifferent towards organized religion’s vital role in civic life. The publication of his Notes on the State of Virginia in the mid-1780s exacerbated these fears. He wrote, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” This passage came back to haunt him in the 1800 campaign. Detractors said this proved he was an infidel or, worse, an atheist.

Jefferson described himself as “a real Christian,” although he was certainly aware that his beliefs were unconventional. “I am of a sect by myself,” he said. He believed that human reason was the arbiter of religious truth and rejected key tenets of orthodox Christianity, including the Bible’s divine origins, the deity of Christ, original sin, and the miraculous accounts in Scripture.

Despite his deviations from orthodoxy, he rejected suggestions that his views were of “that anti-Christian system imputed to me by those who know nothing of my opinions.” His religion was very different, Jefferson conceded, from the leading churchmen of his day who called him an “infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel.” He believed that Jesus Christ’s moral teachings, stripped of the fiction and artifice carefully crafted by those calling themselves Christians, were “the most perfect and sublime that has ever been taught by man.”

An infidel in office?

Jefferson’s faith provided an early test of religion’s place in national politics. His heterodox beliefs raised doubts about his fitness for high office. In 1798, Timothy Dwight, a Congregationalist minister and the president of Yale College, warned that the election of Jeffersonian Republicans might usher in a Jacobin regime in which “we may see the Bible cast into a bonfire, the vessels of the sacramental supper borne by an ass in public procession, and our children … chanting mockeries against God … [to] the ruin of their religion, and the loss of their souls.”

In an influential pamphlet published in 1800, William Linn, a Dutch Reformed clergyman, warned that a vote for Jefferson “must be construed into no less than rebellion against God.” He added ominously that the promotion of an infidel to high office would encourage public immorality and lead to the “destruction of all social order and happiness.”

Presbyterian minister John Mitchell Mason similarly declaimed that it would be “a crime never to be forgiven” for the American people to confer the office of chief magistrate “upon an open enemy to their religion, their Redeemer, and their hope, [and it] would be mischief to themselves and sin against God.” Jefferson’s “favorite wish,” Mitchell charged, is “to see a government administered without any religious principle among either rulers or ruled.” He repudiated the notion gaining currency among Jeffersonians’ that “Religion has nothing to do with politics.”

Jeffersonian partisans denied that their candidate was an atheist and advanced a separationist policy that would eventually exert much influence on American politics. “Religion and government are equally necessary,” said Tunis Wortman, “but their interests should be kept separate and distinct. No legitimate connection can ever subsist between them. Upon no plan, no system, can they become united, without endangering the purity and usefulness of both—the church will corrupt the state, and the state pollute the church.”

Republicans extolled Jefferson as a leader of uncommon liberality and tolerance—an enlightened man who zealously defended constitutional government, civil and religious liberty, and the separation between religion and politics. “[M]y information is that he is a sincere professor of Christianity—though not a noisy one,” Wortman wrote.

The campaign rhetoric was so vitriolic that when news of Jefferson’s election swept across the country, housewives in Federalist New England were seen burying their family Bibles in their gardens or hiding them in wells because they expected the Scriptures to be confiscated and burned by the new administration.

Anybody but a Presbyterian!

Although Jefferson’s beliefs drew the most attention, John Adams was not immune from political smears on account of religion. When President Adams recommended a national “day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer” in March 1799, political adversaries depicted him as a tool of establishmentarians intent on legally uniting a specific church with the new federal government. This allegation alarmed religious dissenters, such as the Baptists, who feared persecution by a state church.

“A general suspicion prevailed,” Adams recounted a decade later, “that the Presbyterian Church [which was presumed to be behind the national day of prayer] was ambitious and aimed at an establishment as a national church.” Although disclaiming any involvement in such a scheme, Adams ruefully reported that he “was represented as a Presbyterian and at the head of this political and ecclesiastical project. The secret whisper ran through all the sects, “Let us have Jefferson, Madison, Burr, anybody, whether they be philosophers, Deists, or even atheists, rather than a Presbyterian President.”” Adams thought the controversy, which drove dissenters into Jefferson’s camp, cost him the election.

Both men were deeply wounded by the vicious attacks on their characters and the ruinous campaign tactics. An anguished Jefferson compared his persecution at the hands of critics—especially among the New England clergy—with the crucified Christ: “from the clergy I expect no mercy. They crucified their Saviour, who preached that their kingdom was not of this world; and all who practice on that precept must expect the extreme of their wrath. The laws of the present day withhold their hands from blood; but lies and slander still remain to them.”

The bitterness lingered long after both men had left public office. In their declining years, they resumed a correspondence, slowly repairing their ruptured friendship.

Church and state

Jefferson enjoyed one pocket of support in staunchly Federalist New England: the Baptists. In October 1801, the Baptist Association of Danbury, Connecticut, wrote to congratulate the recently inaugurated president. The Danbury Baptists were a beleaguered religious minority in a state where Congregationalism was the established church. They celebrated Jefferson’s advocacy for religious liberty and chastised those who criticized him “because he will not, dares not assume the prerogative of Jehovah and make Laws to govern the Kingdom of Christ.” They expressed a heartfelt desire “that the sentiments of our beloved President, which have had such genial Effect already, like the radiant beams of the Sun, will shine & prevail through all these States and all the world till Hierarchy and tyranny be destroyed from the Earth.”

On New Year’s Day, 1802, President Jefferson penned a reply. The carefully crafted letter reassured the Baptists of his commitment to their rights of conscience and struck back at the Congregationalist-Federalist establishment in New England for shamelessly vilifying him in the recent campaign. The First Amendment, he wrote, denied Congress the authority to establish a religion or prohibit its free exercise, “thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

Jefferson’s wall, according to conventional wisdom, represents a universal principle on the constitutional relationship between religion and the state. To the contrary, this wall had less to do with the separation between religion and all civil government than with the separation between national and state governments on matters pertaining to religion. The “wall of separation” was a metaphoric construction of the First Amendment, which Jefferson time and again said imposed its restrictions on the national government only (see, for example, Jefferson’s 1798 draft of the Kentucky Resolutions).

How did this wall, limited in its jurisdictional application, come to exert such enormous influence on American law and politics? Jefferson’s metaphor might have slipped into obscurity had it not been “rediscovered” by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1947. Asked to interpret the First Amendment’s prohibition on laws “respecting an establishment of religion,” the justices declared: “In the words of Jefferson,” the First Amendment “erect[ed] “a wall of separation between church and State” … [that] must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”

This landmark ruling laid the foundations for a long line of legal decisions restricting religion’s place in public life. The “wall” metaphor, in particular, provided the rationale for censoring religious expression in schools, stripping public spaces of religious symbols, and denying public benefits to faith communities.

The bitterness of the election of 1800 has long faded from public memory. The partisanship and rancorous rhetoric that characterized the contest, however, have become familiar features of the political culture. An enduring legacy of the campaign is the perennial debate regarding the constitutional place of religion in civic life. Religion, argues one side, is an indispensable support for political prosperity, providing a vital moral compass in a regime of self-government. The other side, echoing Jeffersonian partisans, asserts that social cohesion and democratic values are threatened whenever bricks are removed from the wall of separation between religion and politics.

This debate is as old as the Republic and as current as the morning newspaper.

23489620-martin-luther-from-a-1525-portraitMartin Luther challenged centuries of vocational reflection.

THE NOTION OF CALLING has always been at the very heart of Christian identity. For Jesus’ earliest followers, entering into Christian community meant sharing in a calling that stood in strong tension with other identities (see “Called first to Christ,” pp. 8–12). As Christianity spread throughout the Mediterranean world and became the faith of the empire, however, that tension began to ease.

When Christianity transformed from an underground, persecuted sect into the Roman Empire’s established religion, monasticism soon emerged as a high-tension alternative to the increasing laxity and worldliness of mainstream churches. Monasteries issued a clarion call to drop everything for Jesus. As Basil the Great (329–379) explained in rules for his monastic community, “A beginning is made by detaching oneself from all external goods: property, self-importance, social class and useless desire, following the holy example of the Lord’s disciples. James and John left their father Zebedee and the very boat upon which their whole livelihood depended.”

This might seem like a recipe for disaster—after all, if all Christians are “called” to abandon their nets to follow Christ, who will catch the fish? Milk the cows? Tend the crops? Build the roads? Change the diapers? Maintain justice?

And yet, in the millennium that followed, monasticism proved to be one of Christendom’s most compelling and enduring institutions. It allowed Christianity, as philosopher Charles Taylor put it, to operate “at several speeds.” By restricting the term “vocation” to the monastic life, the church maintained an ideal of spiritual perfection, while acknowledging that not everyone—in fact, only a very few—is called to this sort of arduous asceticism. The ministry of those “in the world” could be pitched at a lower speed to accommodate the needs of the less committed, while the monasteries offered a fast lane for religious “virtuosos.”

Medieval writers typically divided Christian society into three parts: the church, the political order, and the economy. Eleventh-century bishop Adalbero of Laon put it, “God’s house, which we think of as one, is thus divided into three: some pray, others fight, yet others work. . . . The services rendered by one are a precondition for the labors of the other two, and each in his turn takes it upon himself to relieve the whole.” But by the later Middle Ages, this arrangement was starting to show signs of strain (see “Duty and delight,” pp. 14–19).

Enter Martin Luther.

a new lane altogether 

Luther (1483–1546) had tried life in the spiritual fast lane, and it had done him no good. “Though I lived as a monk without reproach,” he recalled, “I felt that I was a sinner before God with an extremely disturbed conscience.” As he lectured on the Bible in his post as theology professor at the university in Wittenberg, Luther gradually came to develop a radically different understanding of Christian salvation. It did away entirely with “fast lanes” and “slow lanes,” as well as with the idea that vocation necessarily implies a call to abandon one’s nets and leave the world for the cloister.

Luther’s revolutionary new theology of justification by faith alone was based on the insight that human life is lived out at the intersection between two basic relationships: a vertical relationship “before God” and a horizontal relationship “before humanity.” Before God, humans stand in a purely passive, helpless relationship. Luther argued that we, as finite beings, are utterly incapable of meriting our own salvation, or any good thing, for that matter. What makes the gospel “good news,” in Luther’s view, is that it reveals to us the righteousness God grants to sinners as a pure gift.

“What do we do to obtain this gift?” Luther asked. “Nothing at all. For this righteousness means to do nothing, to hear nothing, and to know nothing about the law or about works and to believe only this: that Christ . . . sits in heaven at the right hand of the Father, not as a Judge but as one who has been made for us [i.e. on our behalf] wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption from God.”

This righteousness, Luther argued, is given to us freely through the Word of God. In contrast to human words, which merely name things—for example, when Adam gave names to the animals in the Garden of Eden—God’s Word is powerful. It called the universe into being from nothing, and it was the same creative Word calling faith into being when Christ spoke to his disciples from the seashore, or to his church through Scripture, sermon, or sacrament.

This meant for Luther that vocation defined Christian identity. And “vocation” was not a special invitation to join God’s “fast lane” as a priest or a monk, but the transformative power of God’s Word uniting people to Christ in faith.

That may seem like a rather abstract point, but it had radical implications in the sixteenth century. In his Address to the German Nobility in 1520, Luther spelled these implications out with startling clarity: the distinction between religious and secular, between sacred and profane, is nothing more than a “specious device invented by time-servers,” for “our baptism consecrates us all without exception, and makes us all priests.”

For Luther this did not mean, however, that all Christians were called to perform the same duties or occupy the same stations. Since human beings are incapable of rendering anything to God in return for his grace, Luther argued that God does not need our good works. But our neighbors do. Therefore God so ordered things that each is assigned his or her proper task to help the body of Christ function. The vocation that unites people to Christ in faith always comes first. But “when I have this righteousness within me,” Luther explained:

I descend from heaven like the rain that makes the earth fertile. That is, I come forth into another kingdom, and I perform good works whenever the opportunity arises. If I am a minister of the Word, I preach, I comfort the saddened, I administer the sacraments. If I am a father, I rule my household and family, I train my children in piety and honesty. If I am a magistrate, I perform the office which I have received by divine command. If I am a servant, I faithfully tend to my master’s affairs.

In short, whoever knows for sure that Christ is his righteousness not only cheerfully and gladly works in his calling but also submits himself for the sake of love to magistrates, also to their wicked laws, and to everything else in this present life—even, if need be, to burden and danger. For he knows that God wants this and that this obedience pleases him.

 

the gate to paradise?

Luther experienced these “discoveries” as “the very gate to paradise,” and he was confident that his gospel would liberate “those who work” and “those who fight” to rediscover the joy of their salvation. But Luther’s critics, then and now, pointed out that this understanding of vocation seemed to underwrite a deeply conservative view of the social order. And much confirmed this. Luther made clear that justification by faith alone dissolves the distinction between the “spiritual” and the “secular,” but he left wholly untouched any secular distinctions.

Rulers are called to rule and servants to serve: “If you are called in slavery, then remain in the slavery in which you were called,” he said, and elsewhere, “We know that everybody . . . must be able to tell himself: ‘This is my office; this is my vocation.’ Such a person is pleasing to God. It is God’s will that I be a father or mother, a husband or wife.” And yet Luther always insisted—sometimes in the face of his own experience—that truly understanding vocation in Christ would transform how people treat others. Commenting on 1 Cor. 7:20, Luther responded to the question, “What if the Gospel calls me in a state of sin, should I remain in that?” by saying:

How can you sin if you have faith and love? Since God is satisfied with your faith and your neighbor with your love, it is impossible that you should be called and still remain in a state of sin. . . . This call brings you from the state of sin to a state of virtue, making you unable to sin as long as you are in that state. All things are free to you with God through faith; but with men you are the servant of everyman through love.

Luther was unwilling to use the gospel as a blueprint for reconstructing the social order. But he also insisted that a master who exercises his office sinfully, with no recognition that the gospel makes him “the servant of everyman,” fails to understand the gospel.

Luther’s ambiguous legacy on these points echoed through the centuries, as Christians wrestled with the question of when their vocation as Christians calls them to support the social order and when it calls them to change it. But through those centuries, his message of God’s universal calling also comforted many in knowing they were doing the work of God’s kingdom as they caught the fish, milked the cows, tended the crops, built the roads, changed the diapers, and maintained justice.

jesus-with-crown-of-thorns2The Apostle Peter (died ca. 64). Quoted in the Gospel of Matthew. “You Are the Christ!”

Usually the better we get to know someone, the less perfect we find them. The opposite was true for those who walked with Jesus in the first century. Put yourself in Peter’s place.

Peter has lived with Jesus for months. He’s seen him tired, hungry, and thirsty; he’s seen him angry; he’s heard him ask questions to gather facts the way any other person does. In other words, Peter has seen Jesus as fully human. In spite of these facts, Peter declares, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” —a statement which is shocking to first-century Jewish ears.

Twenty centuries later, western readers may not feel the impact of those words as Peter’s Jewish contemporaries did. The success of Christianity will have made it commonplace to think of sons and daughters of God.

First-century cultures outside Israel might not feel the impact either. In Greek culture, a son of a god is likely to be a thug and lecher like Hercules, behaving no nobler than the worst idols in his diabolical pantheon. In far eastern cultures, almost anything useful or interesting can be treated as an object of worship. But coming out of a Jewish culture that has rejected idolatry, Peter’s words are extraordinary.

Peter’s Jewish contemporaries think of God as high above all highness, pure above all human purity. To be a son of God is to have the character of God. For Peter to say this is to say, “I see in you, Jesus, a moral and spiritual character that puts you on an equal footing with God—a partaker of his nature.” This is either an astute observation or a terrible blasphemy.

Christ’s immediate reaction, however, is to praise Simon Peter: “Blessed are you, Simon son of John, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Peter has recognized a radical truth about Christ’s person that millions of Christians have endorsed ever since.

A short time after Peter’s earth-shaking declaration, the Pharisees scheme to have Jesus executed. One reason they give for their action parallels Peter’s great confession. According to the Pharisees, Jesus deserves to die because, “You, being a man, make yourself equal to God.”

Zac-Poonen-Quote-Mans-Greatest-Honor1It is our contention that it is the duty and responsibility of every Christian to vote and to vote for leaders who promote Christian principles. God is most certainly in control, but that does not mean we should do nothing to further His will. We are commanded to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4). In terms of politics and leadership, there is evidence in Scripture that God has been displeased with our choices of leadership at times (Hosea 8:4). The evidence of sin’s grip on this world is everywhere. Much of the suffering on earth is because of godless leadership (Proverbs 28:12). Scripture gives Christians instructions to obey legitimate authority unless it contradicts the Lord’s commands (Acts 5:27-29; Romans 13:1-7). As born-again believers, we ought to strive to choose leaders who will be themselves led by our Creator (1 Samuel 12:13-25). Candidates or proposals that violate the Bible’s commands for life, family, marriage, or faith should never be supported (Proverbs 14:34). Christians should vote as led through prayer and study of both God’s Word and the realities of the choices on the ballot.

Christians in many countries in this world are oppressed and persecuted. They suffer under governments they are powerless to change and governments that hate their faith and silence their voices. These believers preach the gospel of Jesus Christ at risk of their own lives. In the U.S.A., Christians have been blessed with the right to speak about and choose their leaders without fearing for themselves or their families. In the U.S.A., in recent elections, about 2 of every 5 of self-professed Christians took that right for granted and did not vote. About 1 in 5 self-professed, eligible Christians are not even registered to vote.

In our day and age, there are many who want to drive the name and message of Christ completely out of the public arena. Voting is an opportunity to promote, protect, and preserve godly government. Passing up that opportunity means letting those who would denigrate the name of Christ have their way in our lives. The leaders we elect—or do nothing to remove—have great influence on our freedoms. They can choose to protect our right to worship and spread the gospel, or they can restrict those rights. They can lead our nation toward righteousness or toward moral disaster. As Christians, we should stand up and follow our command to fulfill our civic duties (Matthew 22:21).

Psalm 72

Because government is instituted by God as His minister for good (Rom. 13:4), it functions best when leaders honor and obey Him. Throughout Israel’s history, God commended those kings who obeyed His laws and worshiped Him alone. The course of the entire nation was influenced by each king’s beliefs and behavior. Since this principle is still applicable today, righteous leaders have a tremendous potential to affect their nations for good. The Lord will guide and support those who fear Him and seek His wisdom and direction for their decisions.

As important as rulers are in determining a nation’s future, its citizens also play a vital role, especially in democracies where leaders arise from within the populace. An unrighteous constituency rarely elects a godly leader. Yet Christians who share their faith and raise children in God’s ways can have a tremendous impact on their nation’s values and, thereby, on its choice of rulers.

When both leaders and citizens value the Word of God, laws will be enacted which line up with biblical principles and commands. Every instruction in scripture is given for our protection and benefit. By aligning our laws with God’s, justice will triumph as the helpless are protected, the guilty are punished, and the innocent are vindicated.

When comparing this ideal to your reality, you might feel discouraged. But no matter what the condition of a nation, you can make a difference in your circle of influence by living righteously in an evil culture and reaching out to share the good news of Christ with a world that has lost its way.

Civic Responsibility

In one movie adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s book “War and Peace,” the narrator declares, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” What responsibilities do Christians have when they see their country heading in an ungodly direction? Let’s look at seven ways believers can stand up and take action. 


1. Choose wise leadership.

In this nation, we have the opportunity to select many of the people who will be in authority over us. Unfortunately, a number of Americans never exercise their right to vote. They rationalize that they don’t know the nominees, that none of the candidates are godly, or that one ballot can’t make a difference. But believers have a responsibility to investigate each contender and cast an intelligent vote.

  • What qualities should we look for when selecting a leader (Ex. 18:21-22)?
  • Do you educate yourself each election and exercise your right to vote? Why or why not?

2. Submit to authority.

God ordained the institution of human government, and He gives leaders their positions of power
(Dan. 2:21).

  • What are the consequences of failing to subject ourselves to human authorities (Rom. 13:1-2)
  • What does submission to government include (Rom. 13:6-7)?

The early church existed during the time of the emperor Nero, one of the cruelest and most ruthless persecutors of Jews and Christians. Under his rule, believers were fed to lions, crucified upside down, and burned alive.

  • Given the historical context, describe how believers might have responded to the instructions in 1 Peter 2:13-17.

Nero eventually committed suicide; the Roman Empire is no more. But Christianity thrives around the world. Our duty is to be obedient to the laws of our land and trust God to bring any change that is necessary.

However, civil disobedience—disregarding laws based on conscience—is appropriate on two occasions. We should not obey the state when it requires us to do something that God forbids or when it prohibits us from doing something He commands. (See Acts 4:19-20.)

  • Under what specific types of circumstances do you think you would disobey the laws of this land?

3. Cry out to God on behalf of our authorities.

When a country’s leaders are making unrighteous or unwise decisions, the most powerful thing Christians can do is to intercede. Ask the Lord to influence ungodly leaders and put righteous people in places of authority.

  • What is one result of praying for those in leadership (1 Tim. 2:1-3)?

Our problem is that we do far more complaining and accusing than praying. Many believers are apathetic and unwilling to invest time interceding for our land.

  • Explain why the following statement is unbiblical: “My prayers won’t make any difference” (Matt. 7:7).
  • Evaluate your own life. When was the last time you spent time praying for the President, your representatives and senators, or the Supreme Court judges?

4. Communicate with our authorities.

We have a responsibility to communicate what we believe to our leaders. Many people in this country have never contacted their congressional representatives. Perhaps they think, What is one letter, call, or email going to do? Maybe not much on its own. But when elected officials get multitudes of letters on the same topic, they will take notice.

  • What happens to a city (or state or nation) when godly citizens exert influence (Prov. 11:11)?

Contact information for representatives and senators is available at www.congress.org.

5. To cooperate with authorities for the good of the land.

As punishment for their idolatry, God’s people were exiled to Babylon, a foreign country.

  • What were the Lord’s instructions (Jer. 29:7)?
  • Wherever a Christian settles, that locality should be better off because he or she is there. How can you help your neighborhood or city prosper economically, socially, or spiritually?

6. Commend godly leadership.

Authorities who rightly take an unpopular stand need our support. One way to do this is to write an encouraging letter and let them know you are praying for them.

  • First Thessalonians 5:11-14 tells believers how to interact with others in the church. What from this passage could also apply to encouraging civic leaders?

Believers should honor those who hold offices of great responsibility—and do so in a godly way.

7. To condemn unwise, immoral acts and laws.

Even while we show respect for the position of our leaders, we should speak against ungodly and unwise policies.

  • How did Jesus illustrate that His followers should be a preserving moral force in their culture
    (Matt. 5:13-16)?
  • What attitude should a believer take when speaking the truth (Eph. 4:15)? Why do you think this is often difficult in the political arena?

Just as salt must leave the shaker to flavor food, believers need to speak up about social and political issues to make a difference.

Closing: If we as Christians are unwilling to exercise our civic responsibilities, we will reap a dreadful harvest of ungodly leaders, unrighteous laws, and ultimately, the judgment of God on our land. Responsibility and freedom go hand in hand. Don’t simply pursue spiritual and material prosperity for yourself and your family; fulfill your divine obligation as an inhabitant of this great land.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the clear instructions in Your Word that guide every area of my life. Show me how to take an active role as a citizen of America. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Romans 2:1-8

Our country was founded on the premise that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are “unalienable rights,” endowed by the Creator. In the mid-1900s, the Pledge of Allegiance was amended to convey a similar idea—that we are “one nation under God.”

Soon, however, morality in our land took a downward turn, and over the past 50 years, the Founders’ vision has become clouded. One indicator is the media—if a citizen in 1950 could have seen some of our current TV programs, he no doubt would have been shocked by the language, dress, and content.

Can the attempt to remove Jesus from the public square have anything to do with our crumbling values? Perhaps. A country that takes prayer out of schools and government meetings can easily drift from godly ways. We have even debated removing “In God We Trust” from our currency and “one nation under God” from the Pledge. What’s more, our nation is sometimes so accepting of “all religions” that Christians are persecuted for believing Jesus is the only way (John 14:6).

God is holy, so surely He doesn’t approve of all the actions sanctioned by our laws. Yet He has been patient—and we’ve been blessed beyond measure. But the Father’s patience won’t last forever (Neh. 9:30). America must repent of its choice to disregard His precepts.

Have you sat back and allowed ungodly values to infiltrate this land? As citizens, Christians have a responsibility to influence government decisions in the direction of righteousness. In the upcoming election I urge all Christians’ to vote the Bible and ask for God’s guidance as you determine how to stand up for Him.

 

 

BlessingsExodus 3:1-14

Our heavenly Father is looking for men and women who will dedicate themselves to His kingdom work. He seeks people willing to accept responsibility and carry out His “assignments” to completion.

The Lord commended Moses because he persevered in faith to fulfill the divine calling on his life. Chosen to lead the Hebrew slaves out of Egyptian bondage, Moses initially reacted by questioning, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh?” (Ex. 3:11). But God assured him, “Certainly I will be with you” (v. 12). His presence was a key part of Moses’ equipping as a leader. And the Lord’s response to us is the same. We can confidently accept the responsibility God gives us—whether it’s for leadership or some other role—because He has promised to be with us always (Matt. 28:20).

However, Moses wondered whether the Hebrew people would listen to him. He had been away from Egypt for a long time, and his last interaction with the Israelites had been a negative one (Ex. 2:11-14). What kind of influence could he have? God revealed that the only credential Moses needed to give them was that he was sent by God—the I AM (Ex. 3:14). When the Lord gives us a task, He will bestow the spiritual authority we need to carry it out. In addition, God gave Moses a helper—his brother Aaron. Our heavenly Father will also provide us with the people necessary to fulfill His plan.

God has promised to equip us for His work. What is your response when asked to serve?

 

Proverbs 3:5-6

Too often we let our circumstances determine our attitude. If life is going smoothly, then we feel good about ourselves; when it gets hard, our mood drops. But we don’t have to live this way. Like the apostle Paul, we can learn and practice the secret of being content.

Contentment means accepting things the way they are—in other words, not wanting anything more or different. This requires developing an “I can through Christ” attitude. It means learning to bring God’s power into our weakness so we can accept and adapt to changing circumstances.
When we respond to life with that kind of thinking, we move beyond our feelings to living by faith (2 Cor. 5:7).

Submission and trust are needed for such a lifestyle. First, we must surrender our will to God’s: in every situation, we are to yield what we want and accept whatever He allows. Our desire to control events is replaced by reliance on Him. This option becomes more appealing when we realize that the alternative—fighting against our circumstances—brings anxiety and distress. The second step is to trust God to oversee our specific situation. If we believe He is working out His perfect plan for us, then we will experience the joy that comes from trusting Him. Contentment will be ours.

Paul submitted his life to God and trusted Him. He faced insults, rejection, and many difficult trials but was still content. When we surrender control to the Lord and believe He has our best interest at heart, we will experience contentment too. Who is in charge of your life?