Wednesday, November 9, 2016

One Christian’s Response to the 2016 Election

God Is Still Large and In Charge 

Holy cow! What just happened?

Today some people are celebrating! (I spoke with one man on the phone this morning who sounded as if he had just won the lottery! He was so excited about Trump’s win.)

Others are weeping. (One individual texted me and said she was sobbing as she described her fears about our future.)

24-hour news channels are wondering why they paid their so-called “experts” who completely and totally blew it! (How many political experts does it take to change a light bulb? Not a dang one! Real people just do it, while they sit around and talk about how it needs to be done…)

So, for what it’s worth, here are a few of my reflections on the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. 

1.     God is still sovereign!

He wasn’t biting his nails last evening at 2 am waiting for the results to come in from Pennsylvania. He wasn’t blindsided by the primaries that left us with two of the most unlikeable candidates in history. God is sovereign! He is large and in charge.

A Jewish prophet by the name of Daniel described God like this:

Daniel praised the God of heaven. 20 He said, “Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he has all wisdom and power. 21 He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings…” —Daniel 2:19b-21a NLT

And then, in Daniel 4:17, the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world. He gives them to anyone he chooses even to the lowliest of people.” (Cross Reference Daniel 4:25)

One more… Romans 13:1 gives us this challenge: Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.”

This morning someone asked me if I stayed up last night watching the election results. Absolutely not! Instead of listening to the so called “experts” continue to pontificate into the wee hours of the morning, I decided I would go to bed early, knowing that regardless of who “won” during the night, when I woke the next morning,

Jesus would still be King, and,
God would still be sovereign!

Further, anything that happened over night would all be part of God working things together for His great glory and our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).

Today is not a day for gloating if your candidate happened to win.

It’s not a day for overdosing on Xanax or posting memes of a Trump piñata if your candidate lost. 

It’s a day for humble worship! God is still sovereign! Jesus is still “on the throne” 

2.     People still matter.

During each election the thing that I’m almost always most disheartened by is how many Christians place their hope in a political candidate or party. How we often post memes that are unloving, unkind and many times downright nasty, cruel and divisive.

How we dehumanize others simply because we disagree with their political point of view. How we forget that the very people with whom we argue, debate, or call names are the very people for whom Jesus died! How we too easily forget that people matter to God and they’ve got to matter to you and me!

People who call themselves “Republicans” matter to God!
Those who call themselves “Democrats” matter, too!
The people on “the Trump Train” matter!
Everybody who was “with her” matters!
Libertarians matter!
Independents matter!

So, before you post that clever smack down to somebody on “the Trump train,” before you put that Hillary supporter in their place, remember that the person you’re about to pick a fight with is a person Jesus died for.

“…the love of Christ controls us, because we believe that Christ died for all…”
—2 Corinthians 5:14

Jesus died for Hillary, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Donald Trump! He died for all their supporters, too! “…Christ died for all…”

This morning this verse came up in my devotional reading plan.

“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” —Philippians 4:5 NIV

The Message reads like this: Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.”

Wow! I needed that! Instead of arguing with people about my political opinion, somehow I need to “…make it as clear as I can to everyone I meet that I’m on their side, working with them and not against them.”

I can’t change Washington!
      I can’t change the United States!
            I may not be able to change Birmingham!
But it’s possible, I can let God change me, and if I change, then maybe I can change one person’s life by letting them know, “I’m on your side!” 

3.     Prayer still makes a difference!

I know, I know… Reconciling the sovereignty of God, human responsibility and the power of prayer is a mind bender and way above my pay grade. Seriously! It’s way above my pay grade and out of the stratosphere in regards to my intellect… But I sincerely believe in all three.

So, Trump isn’t your “cup of tea”?

Maybe you feel somewhat put off by some of his comments about women, immigrants, Muslims, etc.?

Maybe you feel he’s somewhat impulsive or reckless?

Could I suggest that you pray for him. Just pray for him. In fact, according to the Bible, this isn’t a suggestion, it’s actually a command.

 “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.” —1 Timothy 2:1-2 NLT

4.     Resist fear. Lean into hope!

Going into this election, there were a few issues that were really important to me as a guy who wants to follow Jesus.

(1)  The sanctity of human life

I believe that every life matters – from conception to the grave – every life matters. (Psalm 139)

(2)  Religious freedom and liberty

In recent years, government has been ever so gradually and systematically chipping away at the freedom we have to walk out our faith in a humble, quiet and peaceful manner (1 Tim 2:1-2; Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

(3)  Respect and support for Israel

Call me foolish, but I still believe God blesses those who bless Israel, and that those who curse Israel, He will also curse (Gen 12:3; 49:9; Num 24:9; Psalm 122)

(4)  Financial sanity

The debt we’ve created as a nation is a legacy our children and grandchildren will inherit. At some point, this issue will have to be addressed.

While I wasn’t convinced that either of the major party candidates had plans to fully address any of these issues, I ended up voting for the one I believed presented a platform most likely to honor these values.

Now, it’s time for me to trust God to do what God and God alone can do.

“The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases.” —Proverbs 21:1

Throughout history God has used some very flawed individuals to bring about His purpose and plan. Every week, I’m amazed by the fact that God uses a broken, messed up guy like me to lead a2 Church. Go figure...

Today and for the next four years, I’ll be praying that God will once again demonstrate His extravagant grace, absolute sovereignty and unceasing faithfulness by using President-Elect Donald Trump to accomplish His purpose and plan for this country that I so love.

God is still sovereign!
Jesus is still King!
People still matter!
I refuse to live in fear! 
I choose to live with hope!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

HACKSAW RIDGE —“Lord, help me get one more…”

HACKSAW RIDGE is by far the best movie I've seen this year! (You can watch the trailer here.)

Without a doubt, it is the best war movie since "SavingPrivate Ryan" and takes its place with SPR as one of the best war movies in film history.

HACKSAW is also  the most reverent and meaningful depiction of faith in film I've witnessed. I highly recommend it!

Set against the backdrop of one of the most violent and brutal battles in World War II, the imagery is breath-taking and heart-breaking. Please note, the violence is graphic. There are scenes that were difficult - almost impossible to watch. But in the midst of the horrors of war, we see the beauty of courage, love, fidelity, honor and grace!

The story of Desmond Doss is epic, though the man himself was incredibly humble. While he feels called to live out his service to country in a specific manner, he never presents his calling, values or morality as being superior to others. Yes, he is firm in his convictions, but he is also kind and graceful in his attitude. (By the way, Andrew Garfield is amazing in his portrayal of Doss. Amazing!)

It's been a while since a movie moved me this deeply and profoundly.

See this movie.

Don't rush out of the theater too quickly after the movie.

Take a moment to think about what you just witnessed!

Take a moment to thank God for all of the brave men who fought on that ridge...

Take a moment to thank God for all the courageous men and women who have fought so valiantly protecting our freedom as Americans.  Thank God for the sacrifice they've made. For the sacrifice many continue to make...

Also, take a moment to think about the implications of your faith.

Most of us will not be called upon or required to make the same kind of heroic decision in the same kind of war zone that Doss was required to make. But we all can live out the values of love, beauty, grace and compassion day in and day out - in our homes, in the work place, in our community...

Think about the value of one life. About all that could change if you reached out to, touched, shared God's love or the beauty of the gospel with just one more... "Lord, please help me get one more", Doss prays in perhaps the most powerful scene in the movie. 

Finally, how would the current dialogue in our country shift, if those of us who are Christians modeled more and more the grace and love of Christ that seeks to save and heal, instead of participate in the rhetoric that chooses to label, judge, divide and destroy?

This morning my Bible Reading had me in Romans 12 which ends with this verse:

"Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." —Romans 12:21

After I read this verse, I thought of the story of Desmond Doss and HACKSAW RIDGE. HIs story is a demonstration of how one man lived this verse out.


Monday, October 31, 2016


“You will never CHANGE YOUR LIFE until you change something you do daily. The secret of your success is found in your DAILY ROUTINE.” —John Maxwell

I really believe that statement. That’s why over the years I’ve established the following routine. It’s critical to my approach to life. Seriously!

1)   Rise Early

Getting up early is not difficult for me, and I really feel like it gives me a head start on the day.

I love it! I love the part of the morning when no one else is up, no one is stirring, and none of the electronics in my house are on… It’s just the lamp, the coffee maker, my dog, and me.

“It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.” —Aristotle

“The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years.” —Thomas Jefferson

2)   Time with God

Beginning every morning with God is a daily goal. This is not a religious routine or legalistic exercise. If I miss a day, I don’t allow guilt and shame to overwhelm me. But I’ve discovered that I’m actually desperate for God. I need Him. Beginning each day with Him establishes God as the number one priority of my day and my life.  

So, I attempt to begin every morning by spending time with my Father. Here’s what that looks like for me.

  • Reading my Bible
“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” —Psalm 119:130 provides several helpful Bible reading plans. Two of my favorite plans are the following:

I do my morning Bible reading on my computer, but do not allow myself to open email, Slack, Google, etc. during this time. (I get so easily distracted.) So during this time, I usually open BibleGateway, which allows me to pull up four translations of the Bible at once (NIV, NLT, ESV and The Message), the Bible Reading plan I’m working through on, and my journal.

My primary translation of choice during my morning routine is the NLT. But if something really speaks to me, I can easily check out the other translations to get clarity on the passage.

By using my computer, I can also easily copy and paste a passage that is especially meaningful to me into my journal.

Every day I keep a journal that includes my Bible reading, prayers I feel led to pray, meaningful quotes I may run across during the day, and thoughts that I want to keep track of… I’ve been keeping these digital logs since 2012.

  • Prayer

I’ve never felt very competent when it comes to prayer. While I love to read the Bible, prayer has often been challenging for me.

A few years ago I ran across a recommendation from someone that suggested that we simply pray the passages of Scripture we’ve read during our personal time with God. That resonated with me. So, now I usually take portions from my Bible reading and turn them into prayers to God. Sometimes I write these prayers out. And at others times I simply pray.

By the way, prayer lists have also been helpful to me. I’ve been praying over some lists for years…

  • Worship / Express Gratitude

Sometimes I begin my time with God with worship. At other times worship concludes my time with God. This involves stuff like singing, writing out prayers or thoughts to God, meditating on God, meditating on a Scripture I just read and / or just expressing my love to God using my own words.

Worship and gratitude are great ways to begin a day!

“Morning is an important time of day, because how you spend your morning can often tell you what kind of day you are going to have.” ——Lemony Snicket 

3)   Exercise

After spending time with God, I love to exercise. This can involve a brisk walk, a jog or a workout in the gym.

Physical exercise is critically important to me. It clears and refreshes my mind, energizes my body, elevates my mood and helps me to keep the goals I’ve established related to physical health. Further, as a guy who has battled with depression, I’ve discovered that exercise is even critical to my mental and emotional health.

4)   Listen to podcasts or music

During exercise, I almost always listen to a podcast. I use the 1.5x or 2x speed to increase the rate at which I’m able to listen. This also helps me to stay focused. Last week I provided a list of some of the podcasts I love to listen to…

Then, on some days, like today, I listen to music. I love music! Love it! Today I used a playlist I created on Spotify and it really accelerated my jogging time and also encouraged and inspired me!

I’ll just “bullet” the last three items on my daily routine, because they really speak for themselves…

5)   Get ready for work

6)   Eat a healthy breakfast

7)   Take my vitamins

Okay, that’s what my routine looks like. I’m not perfect at it, by any means… But when this stuff happens, it sets me up for a great day!

How about you? Have you established routine that helps set the tone for your day?

“We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.” ―Jim Rohn