Some thoughts about the flag, standing, and kneeling

What we love about this country – what the veterans served and died for – is more than a flag, it’s an ideal, a system of values. Freedom.

So we respect the flag, not because of what it is but because of what it stands for. We support those ideals and we understand how much better life is with that freedom intact.

But don’t Americans also wish for everyone on earth – and especially other Americans – to enjoy those same freedoms? Those who abide by the law and who work to preserve the ideals that our country’s forefathers have given to us should certainly be blessed to bear the fruit of freedom and the American way.

Do we turn a blind eye to the cries of our American neighbors simply because we disagree with the way they make their voices heard? Are their struggles real? Are their complaints valid? Do we even care enough to find out?

Or does the flag only represent what we want for ourselves and our family, with total disregard for the welfare of others? In other words, is our pursuit of the “American way” rooted in selfishness or in the pursuit of the wellbeing for all human beings?

I don’t know how Americans should respond to all of this. Some think everyone must stand to honor the flag and those who served to defend it. Others think that those veterans served and died to give people the right to stand or not to stand.

But I do know how Christians should respond. They should, “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Pet. 2:17). They should love their neighbors as themselves (Mat. 22:39). They should treat other people with respect (Mat. 7:12) and love (Rom. 13:8). They should consider others before themselves (Phil. 2:3-4), serving them (compare Mat. 20:28), rejoicing in their happiness and weeping with their pain (Rom. 12:15; Mat. 25:31-46). They should love God with their entire being (Mat. 22:37-38), seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mat. 6:33).

Whatever we do, we must do that.

For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s (Rom. 14:8).

Abortion in America

AbortionInAmerica

Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you;
Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer. 1:4-5).

I’m coming to you today in defense of those who cannot defend themselves. They have never taken a step or uttered a word. They are unborn babies who have been aborted.

Abortion is the strategic, intentional destruction of an unborn human being in the womb. It is dismemberment. It is poisoning. It is death.

Statistically speaking, 18-20 unborn children are aborted every 30 minutes or so. There have been more than 57 million abortions in the United States since the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down in 1973. The number of children aborted each year nearly equals the number of American deaths in the Revolutionaly War, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean, Vietnam, and Persian Gulf Wars combined.

What is wrong with our society?!

Why is news of a pregnancy met with disappointment instead of joy? Why has our culture turned the conception of a child – something that used to be the product of love between a wedded man and woman – into something that is the unfortunate product of lust or fornication? Why are there unborn children who are unwanted and unloved?

My opinion is that the sexualization of our world has something to do with it. Have you noticed that everything in our culture is sexualized? You don’t have to watch very many commercials to figure that out. The result of all of this is that our sense have been blunted. There is no such thing as moral “oughtness,” as right and wrong, as righteous indignation. These things have been thrown aside.

Here’s what has come about as a result: just over one million abortions are performed annually in the United States. Thirty percent of those – that is, 327,166 abortions – are performed by Planned Parenthood (according to 2013-2014 stats).

I’m sure you have heard about the release of several undercover videos in which the Center for Medical Progress attacks Planned Parenthood. The first video, released July 14, 2015, showed Dr. Deborah Nucatola, the senior medical director of Planned Parenthood, casually discussing the sale of organs from aborted babies. While reaching for her salad with her fork, she says that there is a great demand for fetal livers and that “a lot of people want intact hearts these days.”

The saddest part of the video to me is the blatant disregard for the sanctity of human life. How could someone discuss something like that while eating? Clearly, there is on regard for the moral – yea, biblical – view of abortion and human life.

Let’s wrap it up: The Bible says that the Lord hates “hands that shed innocent blood” (Prov. 6:16-17). America needs to wake up and realize that the blood of over 57 million unborn children is on this nation’s hands. Christians cannot sit silent in the midst of this decades-long moral crisis. That’s why I’m coming to you today – and all this week on The New You – in defense of those unborn children who cannot defend themselves.

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TheNewYou1400 This is a partial transcript from my weekday podcast, The New You, where we focus on maintaining and accentuating the new that Christ created in each of us as Christians. A new episode is available each Monday through Friday on The Light Network. Click here to see all of the episodes.

Realize the Reason

RealizeTheReason

What’s wrong with our culture? Why is our country spiraling into moral calamity? Why are people lashing out in rage against others? Today, I want us to be honest with ourselves in identifying the problem. My friends, this is not really a gun control issue, nor is it an issue about any kinds of flags or anything else. The problem is sin.

If we will just realize the reason behind these senseless acts, we will be motivated to do something about it. You remember how Jesus contrasted Himself with Satan in John 10:10:

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10).

Overlay John 10:10 to our culture and you see it, don’t you? Satan wants to destroy our lives, ripping apart relationships and interjecting violence and hatred into our lives.

You know, the evil that we see in our world stems from sin in people’s hearts. Jesus said,

For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies (Mat. 15:19).

He also stated that

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things (Mat. 12:35).

A world that is comfortable in sin reacts harshly to Christ and His disciples. Jesus said that “everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:20).

The sin problem is taken one step further when we – as God’s people – allow sin to be S2E4-Sinamong us. Some people are going to take issue with that statement because we are imperfect people. I get that. But doesn’t the Bible still identify us as the called-out ones, ekklesia, the church? Doesn’t the Bible still say we are to “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16)? To be holy is to be separate, consecrated for God’s service. Christians are called “saints” (1 Cor. 1:2), referring to holy ones, and 1 Peter 2:9 calls us “a holy nation.”

Christians, please listen carefully: You cannot allow sin to be in your life while still calling Jesus your Lord (Luke 6:46). You must intend to be faithful the Lord. You must dedicate your life to doing His will (Col. 3:17). You must be holy.

Let’s wrap it up: Sin is our world’s problem. It always has been the world’s problem. Prior to our relationship with Christ, it was our problem. Jesus’ blood washes away our sins in baptism (Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4), and His blood continues to cleanse us as we walk in His light (1 John 1:7).

As a Christian you have the opportunity to shine the light into the world’s darkness. Further, as a Christian, you have the responsibility to be holy. Separate yourself from the world’s evil practices. Realize that sin is the reason why there is so much violence, unrest, and hatred in the hearts of men today. Let that motivate you to more holiness and faithfulness to Christ.

[divider]

TheNewYou1400 This is a partial transcript from my weekday podcast, The New You, where we focus on maintaining and accentuating the new that Christ created in each of us as Christians. A new episode is available each Monday through Friday on The Light Network. Click here to see all of the episodes.

We Ought to Obey God Rather Than Men

On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court handed down the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. The 5-4 decision mandated the legalization of same-sex marriage in all fifty states, and, in so doing, fundamentally redefined marriage.

Sunday, July 5, I preached a sermon at North Charleston in which we looked at the decision itself, the effects of this decision upon American Christians, and what we should do now. I hope that it can be a blessing to you.

As I emphasized in the sermon, I don’t hate anyone. The last thing I want to do is to make anyone feel as though I hate them. The motivation behind this sermon is to communicate love. The Bible is God’s word (2 Tim. 3:16-17). To study and apply the Bible’s teachings is to apply the love of God to your soul, and to secure the hope of heaven. That is why I preached this sermon.

Click the play button above to listen to the sermon. You can view the slides and download the outline from the sermon below.

[button color=”orange” size=”medium” link=”http://roberthatfield.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/ObeyGod.pdf” target=”blank” ]Sermon Outline[/button]

Why is Tolerance So Tempting?

Last night, I preached about the church at Thyatira from Revelation 2:18-29. After a few words of praise, Jesus quickly moved into a serious problem that needed to be addressed in that church:

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols (Rev. 2:20).[/box]

I see a three-fold problem:

  1. Tolerance – He said, “you allow that woman…” They didn’t do anything to stop the terror that she brought to that congregation.
  2. Teaching – “… to teach…”
  3. Taking – “… and seduce My servants…”

It occurs to me that the issue of tolerance is one that we’re facing in our culture, too (as is the case with most, if not all, of the issues that Jesus addressed to the seven churches in Revelation). I wonder why. What makes tolerance such a temptation for God’s people that they would struggle with it in the first century as well as in the twenty-first century?

I think part of the answer has to do with the definition of tolerance that we’ve been given. The New Oxford American Dictionary (the dictionary app on my Mac) defines tolerance as follows:

[box type=”shadow” align=”aligncenter” ]tolerance |ˈtäl(ə)rəns| noun 1 the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with: the tolerance of corruption | an advocate of religious tolerance.[/box]

We understand that there are certain situations in which it is healthy to accept a difference of opinion or behavior. The truth about religious matters, however, is not one of those areas. Jesus said that God’s Word is the truth (John 17:17), and that we can know that truth (John 8:32). It is God-breathed, inspired, and thus intended to be understood (2 Timothy 3:16-17). I’m not advocating that Christians declare war on unbelievers. That’s not the peaceful lifestyle that we’re to be living (Romans 12:18). At the same time, though, I’m not advocating that the relativism that permeates our culture is ok. It isn’t. God has revealed His Word and He expects us to study it, to understand it, and to live by it.

I think that most members of the church sincerely want to do what is right. There must have been a time when many of these Christians in Thyatira were on fire for the Lord. According to the commendation section of Jesus’ words to them, they were still involved in many good works (Rev. 2:19). So, what is the real draw for tolerance? I submit four reasons why tolerance is so tempting for Christians:

1. Tolerance is the path of least resistance. I do not like conflict, and I do not enjoy awkward, tense situations, but Jesus said that our way will not be easy. In fact, He said it will be difficult (Mat. 7:13-14). The tolerance that Thyatira exhibited, and the tolerance that many people in our culture are going for simply doesn’t match up with the Scipture’s view of Christianity. We’re not trying to pick fights with people, but we certainly don’t expect everything to be easy, do we? Read 2 Timothy 3:12.

2. Tolerance satisfies culture. Paul said this would happen. After charging Timothy to preach the Word, the inspired apostle warns him that a time will come when men-pleasers, “having itching ears,” will arise. Peter and John would not approve (Acts 5:29).

3. Tolerance takes the pressure off of Christians. The famous passage is still in the Bible: “judge not, that you be not judged” (Mat. 7:1). Even a candid look at the verses that follow will show the glaring truth that Jesus was teaching that day. He describes two men: one with a beam in his eye and one with a speck in his eye. The beam-eyed guy is trying to remove the speck from his brother’s eye. Jesus says this isn’t the way to go about teaching people the truth. He says that one who desires to help another spiritually must first purify his or her own life through obedience to the Savior. I think the concept Jesus addresses there explains a lot about why our culture is so infatuated with tolerance. Christians today know that, when they try to offer the Bible’s guidance in someone’s life, their own spirituality is going to be scrutinized. We’re imperfect people. We’re trying our best, but we still come up short (Rom. 6:23). God expects faithfulness, not perfection (cf. Rev. 2:10). I’m afraid many Christians, instead of seeking to do their very best to be pleasing to God, simply keep quiet for fear that their faith will be placed under a microscope.

4. Tolerance eliminates hell. If everyone is accepted and ok, then doesn’t it follow that hell is not a real place? If so, what is its purpose? Who will go there? Jesus taught that hell is just as real as heaven is (Mat. 25:46). He said that people will actually go to hell (Mat. 7:13-14). Christians cannot act as those these passages do not exist. Hell is real. The prophets talked of false teachers who went about proclaiming, “Peace! Peace” when there was no peace (Jer. 6:14; 8:11; Ezek. 13:10,16). May we not be among the number who act as though – or even teach that – everything is ok, when everything isn’t ok.

Finally, I’d like to hasten to add that God is patient with mankind (1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:9). He loves us, and He wants all of us to be saved. His delay in ending time, however, is not His tolerance of the evil that is being done here. Instead, it is another opportunity to obey.

QUESTION: Why do you think tolerance of sin is such a temptation for Christians?

How iPreach on a Political Topic [Podcast]

[highlight]Click here to listen to the episode of iPreach from The Equip Network.[/highlight]

Not long ago, I was privileged to join Adam Faughn and Dale Jenkins on their famous iPreach podcast during their summer series. What an honor to be on their great show! They assigned me the the following topic: “How iPreach on a Political Topic.” The realm of politics can get really sticky really quickly, can’t it, preachers? Here are my humble thoughts. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

1. Preach biblically. It’s not about your opinion or political persuasion. Let those to whom you preach hear it from inspiration. This really applies to any sermon we preach, doesn’t it? We speak from God’s authority, because the power is in the message, not in the messenger (Rom. 1:16). Remember that it’s not about the right or the left; it’s about being Christ-centered. Address contemporary issues from a Christian worldview.

2. Preach boldly. We aren’t the only Christians to have lived in a world of political land mines. The OT preachers preached boldly against many of the political tactics of either the Israelite nation or a nation under whom the Israelites were captive. Spend some time contemplating the messages and the missions of the great Old Testament men and women. People like Daniel, Jeremiah, Esther, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Obadiah, Nahum, and others. Then, bring it into the New Testament age by considering Peter and John (Acts 4:13, 19-20, 23-31).

3. Preach persistently. The temptation is to avoid those “hot button” issues. Perhaps you have preached previous sermons on those topics that have resulted in criticism. Maybe you’re afraid that the people won’t listen to what you have to say. Your message is important! It’s God’s Word! Preach on, brother. Remember that Jeremiah wept over the hard-heartedness of the people to whom he preached, yet he continued to preach the Word (Jer. 20:9).

4. Preach respectfully. As you stand before the congregation, you are likely addressing people on both sides of the political fence. When discussing political figures (either candidates running for office or those who are currently serving), remember that no candidate is perfect. You cannot unreservedly endorse one side over the other side. Further, remember that you have a spiritual obligation to pray for them (1 Tim. 2:1-2). When Paul stood before Felix and, later, before Agrippa, he spoke to them respectfully, acknowledging their authority in the civil government (Acts 24:10; 26:2-3).

5. Preach faithfully. My preaching on a political topic should reflect my allegiance to Christ, and not to any political party. After all, I belong to Him (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23). If you’re going to follow Jesus’ example, you will love righteousness and hate iniquity (Heb. 1:9, KJV).

6. By all means, PREACH. We simply cannot remain silent on these issues. Preaching on political topics, when done appropriately, will make the pulpit relate to ever day lives. These types of sermons move past the pew into hearts and help Christians to grow on a personal level. They speak to HEARTS and, hopefully, mold hearts to conform to the image of Christ.

What do you think? How should preachers go about preaching on political issues? Leave your thoughts below.

Election Reflections

Today’s post finalizes the Election Weekend series.

Like many across the country, I was disappointed Tuesday night. I wanted a change. The reason why I wanted change was based on moral grounds.

While I know that no candidate is perfect, I hoped that America would select a candidate who chooses life over abortion, God-ordained marriage instead of same-sex marriage, work instead of misuse of welfare, and many other issues. The results of the election speak volumes for the state of the union. Has our country drifted away from God to the point of no return? Will God give our nation more time to repent, or has He delivered America to her inevitable doom? As I have considered these questions over the last few days, one realization continues to rise to the top: the answers to these questions are solely God’s business and not my business. God is responsible for the judgment of the nations. He is in control – both of my country and of my life. That being the case, it is beneficial to remember what are our responsibilities. What does God want Christians to do?

1. Remember that God still rules in the kingdoms of men (cf. Dan. 5:21). The sun rose Wednesday morning, and life resumed as we all began our day. That is not said to downplay the election or its impact on our nation; rather, it is said to emphasize the fact that God is in control. He causes the sun to rise, and He causes it to rise on the just and the unjust (Mat. 5:45). Because God is in control, His people should take comfort and rejoice (Phil. 4:4)!

2. Now, more than ever, Christians must rise to action (cf. Rom. 13:11; 2 Cor. 6:2). Noah’s world was morally decayed, but Noah kept preaching and obeying God. Jeremiah wept for his nation, but preached and warned them to return to God. Our first century brethren refused to give up – even when the government of their day attempted to silence their message (cf. Acts 4:19-20). God’s people today must rise to action! Let us be involved in right living, not laziness (1 Pet. 2:13-15). Let us be involved in right teaching, not tolerance (2 Tim. 4:2). Let us have the right hearts, not hearts of hatred (John 13:34-35). Let us pray the right prayers (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Remember that Jonah’s message moved a nation! We must “strengthen the hands which hang down” and “pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:12-14).

3. Remember that righteousness is required of all people in all nations. There is no land – regardless of the primary religious beliefs in that land – that is exempt. Righteousness means obeying the commandments of Jehovah God (Psa. 119:172).

4. America must remember God’s blessings. The Israelites became too prideful, forgot the great blessings with which God had blessed them, and drifted from God. This cycle repeatedly runs its course in the Old Testament. There was a time (perhaps even a long period of time) when America flourished and prospered by God’s hand. During that time, many of her citizens attributed their successes to God and praised Him for the great things He had done in their lives. America must continue to attribute her successes to the One, True God. “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2).

5. Christians must remember God’s promises. The Word of God is replete with promises to the faithful. We must remember that, regardless of world conditions, these promises hold true. The Lord said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mat. 28:20). The Lord said that those who will seek first the kingdom of God will be blessed with everything they need (Mat. 6:33). God, the Father, has made this promise to His people all through the ages: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Our response to that should be, “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (Heb. 13:6).

6. Remember your dual citizenship as a Christian. We can sing that old song with confidence: “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.” The Scriptural validity to that sentiment is found in Philippians 3:20-21. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”

May God’s people increase their faith, increase their trust, and lean on the everlasting arms (cf. Deut. 33:27)!

Church and State

Today begins an Election Weekend series. Just two parts, the first of which you are about to read, and the second of which you will read tomorrow, the Lord willing.

What responsibilities do Christians have to governing bodies with whom they disagree? Did your candidate lose Tuesday night? Do you have an obligation to follow a government for which you did not vote? Must you submit to the government even though your ethics are drastically different from theirs?
I think Romans 13 has some important words for us to consider. Remember that, when Paul penned these words, the great Roman Emperor, Nero, was in power. The government under which our first century brethren lived was a heathen government that promoted heathen values. In fact, the government not only promoted those values but attempted to strongly enforce those heathen values to the point of silencing Christians – through threats, imprisonments, beatings, and even death. And yet inspiration guided Paul to write Romans 13.
I strongly encourage you to read Romans 13:1-7 in light of our recent election. Below are a few observations I’ve noticed from reading and studying this great chapter. I see a natural division in these seven verses: first, the responsibilities of the government as commanded by God, and, second, the responsibilities of Christians to the government as commanded by God.
I. The Responsibilities of the Government as Commanded by God:

1. Governmental power is ordained by God (13:1). God has appointed these authorities for the purpose of accomplishing His will. The word translated “appointed” (NKJV) or “ordained” (KJV) was written in a Greek tense which indicates that these authorities were appointed and stand appointed by God. God allows for men and women in positions of governmental authority to possess that authority. As a result, leaders in our government should seek God’s Will first rather than the will of their constituents. 
2. Governmental power is given by God (13:2). No power exists apart from God. Note this discourse between Jesus and Pilate during Jesus’ mockery of a trial: 

Then Pilate said to Him, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” (John 19:10-11, emphasis added).

The government exists to fulfill the Will of God. That was the case under Pilate’s rule, and it is the case today. “The Most High rules in the kingdom of men” (Dan. 4:17)! During the time of the Israelite kings and, later, during the time of the captivity, God’s Almighty power was clearly exercised over the governmental authorities. In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar learned this lesson the hard way.

And at the end of the time I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me; and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation.  All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven And among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?” (Dan. 4:34-35)

The power is God’s. Political leaders on any level (federal, state, or even community leaders) are merely exercising God’s power as they govern (cf. Dan. 2:21; Psa. 75:7).
3. Governmental power is regulated by God (13:4). Note that Romans 13:4 states that the civil government is “God’s minister to you for good” (emphasis added). Governmental authority is appointed by God for the purpose of serving Him and His people. Governments must maintain order and discipline by reprimanding evildoers. Isn’t it interesting that, just a few verses back, Paul instructed Christians, saying, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (Rom. 12:19)? Now, in 13:4, Paul specifies that the governmental leader is “God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” There seems to be a natural connection between 12:19 and 13:4. One of the ways that God renders vengeance is through the authority that He gives to the government. Therefore, when our law enforcement groups exercise their authority on the evil, they are doing the Lord’s work. When our law makers sign bills into laws for our protection and wellbeing (so long as they are in accordance with the Will of God), they are doing the Lord’s work. This task should not be taken lightly – either by our elected officials or by those of us who are electing them to serve in our behalf.
II. The responsibilities of Christians to the government as commanded by God
1. Christians must submit to the government because of judicial wrath (13:5). Those who disobey the law of the land disobey God, with one exception (see point 5).
2. Christians must submit to the government in order to stand before God with a clean conscience (13:5). Gareth L. Reese points out in his commentary that the word translated conscience can have basically two meanings in New Testament usages. First, it can refer to the innate faculty within us that prompts us to do what we believe is right and that criticizes us when we do what we believe to be wrong. Second, the word can refer to an awareness of something to be true. The use of this word conscience in Romans 13:5 creates an incredible truth! As God’s people, we must submit to our governmental leaders because, first, we are aware that God commands it, and, second, our moral compass, trained by a study of God’s Word, demands that we do (cf. Rom. 14:23).

3. Christians must submit to the government to continue to enjoy protection and safety from evildoers (13:6). Our tax money helps to continue the work that the government is commanded by God to do.
4. Christians must submit to the government because they have a respect for those in authority (13:7). Paul says that we should render to all what is due to them. Compare these thoughts with Peter’s inspired writings: “Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Pet. 2:17).
5. Christians must submit to the government only inasmuch as the government’s laws do not contradict God’s law. If you have been reading the aforementioned points and thinking, “But America’s government is hardly like this!” then you have observed the corruption that exists in our governmental bodies. Paul’s purpose in this chapter is not to condemn governmental wickedness, but rather to encourage Christians to submit to civil authority. However, Paul implied that God’s power trumps the power of the government in what he already stated. He said that the government’s power comes from God. Therefore, God is Supreme. Peter and John put it this way: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Coming tomorrow: “Election Reflections”