Stash Your Problems On The Gospel Shelf

When life falls apart, Christians often close their Bibles and turn to anyone and everything else for help. Afterall, the gospel seems to know little of Instagram bullies, chronically depressed spouses, and teenagers overdosing on opioids. The gospel bookshelf deals well with the issues of life, rebirth and death. But the Jesus shelf appears to weak and awkwardly shaped to hold the massive and never-ending series of short and long stories entitled “My Issues.” To make it through life, we stick these books onto the self-help bookshelf, or display them on the social media bookshelf, or jam them into the therapeutic bookshelf. In so doing, we miss out on some of the best aspects of our salvation and sanctification. Those books that contain our sorrows, sins, and trials belong on the gospel shelf. It is strong enough to hold them all. More importantly, it is the only place that can make sense of our pain, sorrows, and struggles.

Micah and the Hope of the Gospel

In Micah 5:1-6, the Old Testament prophet and his audience faced an existential crisis. The Assyrian army stood outside their gates intent on Judah’s death. All political options had been exhausted. The bribes for peace had been paid. The God’s Holy temple and the palace of the Davidic king had been stripped of their gold. The nation had been humiliated And still, the Assyrian army came, seeking more plunder

Seeing their panic and fear, the prophet Micah could have counseled the nation to adapt a new form of taxation, to have developed new geopolitical alliances, or to have reinvested into their national defense. The prophet did none of those things. He pointed his people to Bethlehem Ephrathah.

We do not have to impress God to gain salvation. Jesus did not come from Jerusalem. He come from Bethlehem. He came from nowhere to save nobodies.

Micah focused on the city of David because it represented the King who had arisen out of obscurity to defeat Goliath and to establish the kingdom of Israel. It was a story of redemption and salvation that pointed to the great salvation would be accomplished by the Messiah who would also come from the tiny, humble town of Bethlehem.

Jesus’s origin story reveals that he knew we were weak. He does not find our sins, failures, and weakness offputting. He knew we would face armies of adversity that we could not conquer. He came because he knew we needed help, his help. We do not have to impress God to gain salvation. Jesus did not come from Jerusalem, the land of the kings and the powerful. He come from Bethlehem. He came from nowhere to save nobodies.

Jesus arrived tiny and lowly in Bethlehem intent upon ransoming captive Israel. Times of sorrow wrapped in falleness drop into our lives. Back pains strike us unexpectedly and neighbors persecute us for our faith. The Egyptians enslaved Israel. The nation of Judah would go into exile. But the our fall is never the end of our story for we are tied to the gospel story, the story of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. According to the gospel, the birth pains of sorrow that we experience in this world always point to our salvation: redemption and new creation.

The Hope of the Gospel

We hope and trust that God will work in our lives today, because he has saved us. He has redeemed us, the children of Adam and Eve, from the exile of our grandparents. Like them, we too had rebelled against God. And yet, Jesus still came and brought us back as brothers and sisters (Micah 5:3). Jesus lived, died, and rose again to transform rebels like us into sons and daughters of the king when we repent and believe. But that is not all.

Christ does not save men and women and then leave them to figure out what to do next. God guides his children to eternity. He walks with us as we struggle with temptation, failures, and disappointments, reminding us of God’s glorious promises. He protects us from false teachers, evil friends, and fools who seek to ravage our souls. And he empowers us to victory over sins and death. Theologian David F. Wells helpful captures the transforming hope of the gospel when he writes:

Hope…has to do, biblical speaking, with the knowledge that “the age to come” is already penetrating “this age,” that sin , death, and meaninglessness of the one is being transformed by the righteousness, life, and meaning of the other, that what has emptied out life, what has scarred and blackened it, is being displaced by what is rejuvenating and transforming it…hope is hope because it knows it has become part of a realm, a kingdom, which endures, where evil is doomed and will be banished.

Above All Earthly Powers

When we make the gospel our hope, we discover that our problems are not the measure of the power of God’s promises. Jesus is the guarantee of success. Micah proclaims, “He shall deliver us from the Assyrian (5:6).” God is at work. Friends do not despair of today’s problems, assuming you will be defined by brokennes. Place them into the gospel. Redemption, the return from exile, the new creation, is coming! The cosmic story of redemption will transform our lives. Don’t hide your problems from the gospel. Stick them right in the middle of it.

Do you trust the gospel with your problems?

Bad Polls, Fear, and the American Psyche

The prophets of the American political industry have failed the American voter. Days and in some cases only hours prior to election day 2020, a majority of pollsters predicted that a blue wave would sweep across America and would gently deposit Vice President Joe Biden on the lawn of the White House. According to the Real Clear Politics polling average, Vice President Biden possessed a 7.2% advantage over President Trump in the national vote. FiveThirtyEight said Biden had an 8.4% advantage. The Vice President was also projected to take Michigan by a 4.2% to 8% margin and Florida by a 1.1% to 2.5% margin. He was then supposed to speed across North Carolina and eventually contest if not flip Ohio, Iowa, and Texas. Few of those things occurred. Trump had almost a 4-point advantage in Florida, and a 6-point advantage in Texas. Though he seems to have lost Georgia, he has held firmly onto Iowa.

If readers dive into the Senate races, they will discover even greater polling inaccuracies. For example, Susan Collins was supposed to lose Maine by 6%. She won by more than 9%. Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham were also supposedly fighting for their political lives. McConnell garnered a 20-point victory and Graham had a 10-point victory.  At the end of the 2020 election cycle, the polling industry appears to be as credible as the physic hotline industry. Or to use the words of the Atlantic, the polling industry faces, “serious existential questions.” They do. Let’s tackle some of them.

Why Were the Polls Wrong?

Undoubtedly, the polls’ inability to capture the sentiment of the American voter reveal something of the biases of those who run the industry. But the phenomenon also exposes a fundamental problem with the American psyche, a psyche that has fallen victim to fear.

Fearful Pollsters

Americans like winners. If the polling data rummaging around the internet reveals that candidate A will most likely lose to candidate B, some of candidate A’s supporters will choose to avoid the polls on Election Day. After all, what is one more vote for a lost cause? By the nature of their societal position, pollsters have the power to both report and to shape public opinion.

The gross discrepancy between the election and the polls indicates that some pollsters may have exploited their position and played statistical gymnastics with the data they have collected. They appear to have published reports that reflected their wishes for the American voter instead of the electorate’s wishes for their nation.

Left to itself, the American electorate possesses the ability to choose both great and not-so-great candidates. To prevent the ruin of the nation that they love, some pollsters have stopped listening to the voters and have attempted to manipulate them through social engineering. Their misstated data promises to bring out certain voters and to suppress others, helping the “great” candidate win. The ethics involved in such a decision prove problematic because they express of fear of neighbor. In short, some pollsters fear the electorate lacks the wisdom to choose its own leaders.

Though the pollsters fear the average voter, they also covet that voter’s approval. To get that approval, pollsters must provide the electorate with meaningful data. Speculation that candidate A may win proves far less exciting than a poll that says candidate A has a 7-point lead. That seven-point advantage proves relevant because of the pollster’s margin of error. The margin represents with a 95% confidence level how much variation could occur if another pollster ran the same poll with the same respondents and questions. Most polls claim a margin of plus or minus 3-points. If candidate A was polling at 54%, the margin of error would allow that her real numbers could be between 51% to 57%. Thus, voters would conclude that candidate A appeared to be on the path to victory. The information proves insightful and noteworthy.

But according to a UC Berkley study, the margin of error is almost twice that of what the average pollster reports. When polls are compared against election results, the margin of error for most polls doubles to 6%. If we go back to our imaginary poll and apply this correction, candidate A could now be polling at either 60% or 48%. She could be on her way either to a huge victory or a close defeat. Such a poll proves far less definitive and by extension far less newsworthy. Instead of admitting their human frailty, most pollsters say that their margin of error still hovers around the 3% range. Fear of the electorate and of rejection drives many pollsters to distort and exaggerate reality, undermining political discourse.

Fearful Voters

But the fault for the erroneous polls does not lay only at the feet of those crunching numbers on their laptops. The American electorate is also becoming increasingly fearful. Pollsters have noted that fewer and fewer voters will participate in polls. Voters will not share the information that pollsters need to create accurate polls. The head pollster for the Trafalgar group reported that a majority of those who participate in polls possess either deep partisan affiliations or large amounts of boredom. Essentially only those willing to die for their cause or those so desperate for human interaction that they welcome a telemarketer call talk to pollsters. The average voter who looks to the polls for guidance about what tomorrow will bring proves to be the very person who will not respond to the pollsters’ phone call, text message, or email.

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Seemingly, the American electorate increasingly fears the pollsters. The average voter has seen the press, the pollsters, and the Twitter mobs dub some candidates to be the embodiment of racism, intolerance, and hatred. The electorate fears that going on the record to support the manifestation of Satan or supporting a satanic cause could result in their Twitter account being suspended or the termination of their job. Though the pollsters promise confidentiality, the American voter cannot help but wonder what would happen if some unscrupulous employee released the polling database and exposed their answers to the American public, a group that increasingly criminalizes and then asks questions. The average voter fears both the pollster that he doesn’t know and the neighbor he does know. Discourse which helps American politics to thrive and adapt has been broken down by fear.

For the sake of full disclosure, I need to admit that I too felt this fear in my gut as I came to the final question of a YouGov survey. I thought to myself, “Do I really want my name attached to this data? Will I be punished?” I wasn’t sure. So, I sat staring at the iPhone screen.

The Explanation and Solution

Why are the polls so off? Why is the American psyche shaped by the fear of neighbor instead of the love of neighbor?

The American voter has become increasingly less religious, less Christian. According to a 2019 Pew research poll, only 65% of Americans identify as Christians, a decrease of 13% over the last ten plus years. When Americans drift away from Jesus, they wander away from the embodiment of love which cast out fear. The soul that trusts in Jesus has no reason to fear its neighbor. Jesus has conquered the shame of sin and the fear of death when he died on the cross and rose again. He bequeathed the liberating power of the cross to all who trust in him for salvation and unites the heart of his children to the love of God. Thus, the Christian is not defined by his neighbor’s vote, approval, or disapproval but by the love of God, a love that can never be lost (Rom. 8:38-39). Since God loves the Christian, he or she can enter the political discussion without fearing either the electorate or the pollster. The Christian does not have to fear the American voter for that subset of individuals cannot elect a politician that will separate the Christian’s soul from God. And the Christian voter does not have to fear the pollster because a leaked survey or suspended social media account will not separate the believer from the love of Jesus.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18).

At the end of the day America does not need an infusion of better pollsters. The electorate needs an infusion of the faith that casts out fear.

…and that YouGov survey…well if you want to know how I voted, I encourage you to check out the results of the November 3, 2020 YouGov election poll. My opinion is hidden somewhere in all their data.

Thanks for visiting the If you have other insights or thoughts on the 2020 polls please drop a comment below.

Don’t Post…Pray

As the post coronavirus world spins about with seemingly little regard for the axis of sanity, men and women find their hearts weighted down by tomorrow’s fears. Like the soothsayers of old, they dissect the animal of social media, seeking to extract messages about the future. Equipped with unverified tidbits of truth, they take to social media, believing a barrage of tweets and articles linked to their Facebook page will convince the world that social distancing will lead to the downfall of the United States. Others fear a lack of facemask will result in thousands of needless deaths. Regardless of the fear, most American seek the same anti-dote: social media validation. This should not be the practice of the Christian. We should find our hope in the sweet closet of prayer, tucked away from buzzing highway of social media.

David wrote Psalm 3 as his world descended into chaos. His son, Absalom, had declared himself king. As David fled Jerusalem, his top advisor joined the rebellion. In the space of a few hours, the comforts of home were replaced with the fears of death. The whole world had gone against him. David writes, “Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God (Ps 3:2).” Though David’s world lacked sanity, David did not lack hope. He knew God was his shield. Though men had turned against him, David knew God had placed him on Israel’s throne. God’s could not be overthrown by a rouge prince. David placed his trust in God.

Christian have even more cause to place their trust in God because he has died for their sin. The Christian’s glory is the glory of God given to her at salvation. God died to save her, lifting her from death to life. Since God saved her, she has every reason to trust God with her coronavirus fears.

Facebook post cannot keep you or I from catching the nasty virus. Twitter battles cannot prevent the downfall of our nation. But God can. Not only can God protect us, we can trust him to protect us for he hears our cries for help. David writes, “I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill.” Though David slept in a tent while Absalom slept atop David’s castle, God heard David. Though fears may dance atop our hearts, God still hears and answers our prayers from the pit of chaos.

The Christian’s Instagram post will not change the thinking of the President, of the Governor, or of the mayor. They will not hear the Christian’s theory about what the doctors are really up to. If the truth-be-told, most of our friends will not take our concerns seriously. But God hears the cries of his people. The ruler of the universe who directs the hearts of kings and who laughs at the armies of earth hears our prayers. Our Facebook posts cannot prevent anarchy. But, God can. Our Twitter wars cannot heal the sick. But, God can. Our Instagram posts cannot keep the church from mishandling the coronavirus crisis. But, God can. E.M. Bounds notes,

National affairs need to be prayed over…Lawmakers, law judges, and law executives need leaders in Israel to pray for them. How much fewer mistakes if there was more praying done in civil matters?

Do you fear death, the destruction of the economy, or a police state? Follow David and pray to the God who hears you. To whom will you take your fears?