How You Should Vote

How should you vote?

The country is in a tizzy over who will be the next President of the United States. And, while it’s incredibly early to place much weight in polls and predictions, it’s never too early to begin praying about the outcome.

The Republican field is wide; the Democratic ticket not so much, but come November, the competition will be narrowed to two or three (if someone announces they’re running as a different party.)

The issues inciting voters are not so varied either. The economy and international relations are at the top of the list. There are plenty of moral issues at stake as well—the right to life and racial tension. And, for the most part, the American public is tired of political games—tired of politicians.

So, outside of the debates and the arguably biased news coverage of each candidate, how does a Christian make a well-informed decision about who to vote for? Is there a single set of standards anywhere that can help believers draw clean lines between the options?

I never expected to find such a precise set of standards in the book of Psalms. But, it shouldn’t surprise us. After all, much of the the book was penned by King David of Israel. And the rest were penned by those who knew him and were affected by his rule.

The Bible describes David as “a man after God’s own heart.” It makes sense then, that David’s personal and prayer life can guide us in making godly decisions about those who govern our own lives.

“O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” Psalm 15:1

While the president himself doesn’t spend much time on Capitol Hill, many other elected officials do and—for better or worse—the president has great bearing on the decisions made there. So let’s paraphrase this verse slightly: Who should dwell on Capitol Hill? The following verses give great detail:

“He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend … “ Psalm 15:2-3

These verses speak very obviously to the campaign season. How many candidates spend much of their air time slandering their opponent or speaking evil against him—often times even taking up a reproach against a former ally for the sake of popularity? And, while none of us on our own can claim to be blameless, a man or woman who has accepted the free gift of Christ’s sacrifice for sin is completely blameless. They also seek to do right and speak the truth.

“ … in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change … “ Psalm 15:4

This verse brings us to the moral issues. Which candidate consistently calls good good and evil evil? A specific case in point: Who is willing to stand up for life? Politicians are notorious for saying one thing during their campaign and doing another once they’re in office. The Bible tells us to look for a man who swears to his own hurt and does not change—this man or woman will not change their stance for truth even when it’s not in their personal best interest.

“ … who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved … “ Psalm 15:5

This verse covers a whole gamut of issues. As voters, we must vote for the candidate who—to the best of their ability—manages the country’s finances well, refuses to be bought and protects the innocent.

Finally, the last sentence sums it up. Do we not want to be a solid, unmovable country? This begins with an uncompromising, strong, unmovable leader.

The Bible tells us clearly how to vote. Is our responsibility as believers and patriots to determine who to vote for.

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How to Be a Faith Hero

What would it take to be listed in the “Hall of Heroes”, Hebrews chapter 11? What made people like Abraham and Sarah, Barak and Rahab, David and Daniel and the others stand out? Do you think you have heroic faith?

Romans 4:19 says, “And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.”

Maybe that’s what it takes—maybe the kind of faith God wants us to have never doubts, never weakens, struggles or asks questions.

Before you get too discouraged and give up, knowing you’ve already had a few doubts or questioned God a few times, let’s take a close look at Abraham’s life.

In Genesis 17, God told Abraham that He would give him a son and that through Abraham God would make a might nation. But Abraham was already 100 years old and Sarah was really old too! It hardly seemed possible that they could have a child. Abraham reminded God of this fact:

“Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. ‘How could I become a father at the age of 100?’ he thought. ‘And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?’” (Genesis 17:17)

Abraham laughed at God! At first, he didn’t believe that God could really do what He said.

Later on in Genesis, Abraham was following God on a journey toward a promised land. He came to a city called Gerar. There, he told his wife, Sarah, to lie and say that she was his sister, because he was afraid that the king of that place might kill him in order to marry Sarah himself because she was very beautiful.

God never tells us to lie. But Abraham doubted that God would protect him, so he took matters into his own hands.

If we look through the rest of the Bible and examined the lives of the other faith heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11, we’d find that they sinned, failed and doubted God sometimes, too. Gideon did not believe that God would deliver the nation of Israel through him. David disobeyed God and committed adultery. Jacob deceived his father and stole his brother’s blessing. Rahab was a prostitute, and Samson rebelled against his parents and acted pridefully.

God doesn’t expect us to have perfect faith. Even the men and women that the Bible commends for their strong faith, doubted sometimes.

One of my favorite Bible stories is in Mark 9. A man came to Jesus asking Him to heal his very sick son. Jesus told the man, “‘Anything is possible for the one who believes.’” With great honesty and humility, the man replied, “‘I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!’”

At the end of the story, Jesus did heal the man’s son.

Don’t be ashamed if your faith wavers, if you have questions or difficulty believing. Ask God to help you with your unbelief and to strengthen your faith. The Bible says that God knows our hearts. Tell God about your fears and questions; He is big enough to handle your doubts and to give you answers.

The Answer to Your Heart’s Cry

When thankfulness heaves dry,
And prayer is stillborn,
Listless lips, somber heart
Percussion of praise halts,
And the Army halts,
The prayer warrior falters…

Daughter, glory in My verdancy,
Marvel at Me.
How is it that you could be lonely
in My presence?
Hear Me speak in the rush of rain,
The charge of damp angel feet through the balsam trees.

I have come, in response to your prayer.
I have heard and answered.
I have come for your joy and My glory.
Both complete the other and find permanence there.

I have never needed you,
But I chose you,
And love you as sister, daughter, bride, friend.
Find your hope, inhale My faith for you.
Sit back, rest and watch My glory.
And let all your longings be fulfilled and overflowed.

The banks of your loneliness will
Erode in the power of My Life-giving flood.
Watch Me. Behold Me. Taste Me.

Be still and know that I am God.
Taste and see–
I, The Lord, am good.

Verses for further study and encouragement: 1 Chronicles 14:13-15, Psalm 34:8, Psalm 116:1, Matthew 23:9, Hebrews 2:11-13, Isaiah 54:5

How God Gets In You

Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
John 2:19,21-22

When I was growing up, summer meant neighborhood barbecues and spontaneous games of softball. My sisters and I spent a lot of time with our best friends from across the street. We shared secrets, sleepovers and homemade ice cream. Our friendships always deepened in the summer because we spent so much time together.

Did you know that God wants to live close to you and spend time with you so that, just like a good neighbor, you get to know Him really well?

Mishkan, is the Hebrew word for tabernacle, the tent-like structure God told them to make for Him to dwell in before they built the temple. About the tabernacle, God said, “And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.” (Exodus 29:45)

Shakhen, the Hebrew word for neighbor is from the same root as mishkan. When God told the Israelites to make the tabernacle, He meant it to be the place that He would live among them; in a way, be their neighbor.

Even better? Because Jesus saved us from our sins through his death and resurrection, we don’t need a tabernacle to live close to God. John 14:23 says, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.”

If you believe in Jesus, God lives inside of you. He wants to spend time with you. He wants you to know Him.

This was first published in the digital magazine: Tween Girls and God.

Abandon Your Calling

the-cavern-1382369-mWorry is that bastard emotion–the one that sneaks up on you when you imagine you’re in control and mocks all that you’ve tamed and called your life.

You know it comes partly from within you. You can feel it well up inside, birthed from a dark place that you’d rather forget or not acknowledge–a memory, a bad experience.

On the other hand, you can’t identify where worry comes from. Sometimes, it rises from places you’ve never seen before, circumstances you’ve never endured–a fear, imagination or predilection. The terrible thing is, no matter worry’s origin, it finds its counterpart in you. It thrives on your waking hours, stalks your dreams and plays with your mind. It feels like pesky flies circling your good intentions, your attempts to concentrate, pray or ignore it. 

I found a page in my journal recently where I had cried out to God, “I want you to be my one pure and holy passion! One singular longing not simply above all the others but replacing all the others. I want my thoughts so fixed on you, my eyes so mesmerized by you that for once, this pesky worry–no matter where it comes from–is rendered mute and inconsequential!”

The best part? He answered me:

Beloved. And hear me say that again, Beloved. You are deeply loved and cherished, no amount of wrangling in your mind can undo that. But you are far too obsessed with figuring out and mapping the flow of your life. You thrive on routines, demand a well-defined calling, seek a respectable agenda or vision. But these longings keep you from being relaxed and organically guided by my Spirit. And it is organic, because I am your Creator, your breath, your pulse. Every cell and the tenor of your future are mine.

And that measure of safety and stability you long for? That too is found in me. You know my character, it is unchanging (Malachi 3:6). How can your road be treacherous when you have a well-traveled, attentive Shepherd?

Have your thoughts ever buzzed with high-pitched fervor through your brain? Whether it be simply anticipating guests or bigger like distress in a relationship, the state of your faith, illness, fear or anger–all of these can manifest as worry, which simply means “distress, unease”.

Take it from a well, worn warrior. Stop looking for the straight and narrow. Stop searching for the plotted path, the intended direction. Stop seeking your calling or “what you’re supposed to do”. Abandon perfect. Abandon the map.

Were you ever told the Bible is your roadmap to heaven? It’s not, so it’s safe to abandon the map! The Bibleshepherd-2-853654-m is a spotlight on Jesus. It points you to the Shepherd.

Start looking at the Shepherd. Follow the well-traveled Guide. It will be a wild ride and you will rarely, if ever, know what’s coming next. But you will always, always be going the right way.

More than you know

The Prodigal Son charged into his father’s chambers and demanded, “I want all that you have for me right now. I don’t want it within the confines of your authority. I don’t want to wait for your perfect timing and I don’t plan to spend it on anything that would please you.” Essentially, give me my eternity now, I’d rather have a full and frivolous today than wait for the revelation of your mysterious promise of eternal riches.

Plodding my way through this familiar story on my “through the Bible in a year” plan, I was suddenly hit with a new perspective. I am not immune to society’s constant quest for youthfulness, perfection, wealth, security and self-preservation. My eating disorder is proof that I fell for the lie that today is all that matters and that I am the only person who can create my perfect destiny.

So I stole my inheritance from my Heavenly Father, this body, created personally for me. I took this brief, beautiful life and charged into the world determined to make the most of this moment, this life, right now and do it my way. It didn’t take long.

The Prodigal quickly wasted his inheritance. There is only so much to be purchased, briefly enjoyed and used up in this world. In no time, I too discovered limited returns on my ventures and unsuccessful attempts to obtain my imagined perfect life. I was unable to craft perfection, incapable of establishing my own lasting value.

Is that the critical error of man, to struggle for the fountain of youth, convinced that this is all there is to live for? What if we returned?

The Prodigal Son gathered  the remnant of his miserable days and trudged home. He planned to offer himself to his father for hire. He knew that even a second rate life, under the care of his father was better than he could do for himself.

So I gathered the scraps of my body, the tendrils of my sanity and limped back to my Father. There, I promised to clean myself up, hoping then He would take me back. I’ll try really hard, just please, please take me back. I’m dying. 

Our stories meld together. Just like in the story, my Heavenly Father laughed with joy and ran to meet me. He exclaimed that I would never have to work for his favor and that my squandered inheritance was pennies compared to the abundance I would partake of in his home.

The story of the Prodigal Son is the story of my recovery. I confess that I forfeited the good inheritance that my Father gave me. This body that is mine, ultimately belongs to Him. But I took it and manipulated it. I ravaged it for the sake of my own longings.

It took years for me to return. I languished in my misery, too humiliated to return to my good and loving Father. But when I did, I discovered that all He has is mine. He has spread a bountiful life before me. From now on, I plan to dig in.

Colliding Christians

My mind feels like it’s firing on 16 cylinders and none of them are intelligent enough to start a volley of thought on one topic. So spare me if this post isn’t quite up to snuff. (:

A myriad of colliding persuasions have assaulted me in these recent weeks of reading Apocalypse Code and Christ’s Prophetic Plans. It seems every Christian is poised on pins, holding bated breath, hovering over the newspaper – wondering if this is it.

Is it soon? Will all the Christians disappear and start a seven-year countdown? Are we in the middle of the tribulation? How do we know?

It seems every generation has posed this question. In Matthew 24:3, the disciples weren’t the first to wonder even then. In our age, a quick Google search of “how will we know the end times” results in a .52 second search yielding 89,700,000 results. So wonder away.

In an unrelated study, I recently heard Beth Moore say, “When you completely figure out the Scriptures you will have gained authority over them. And you will never gain authority over Scripture.” It is our duty to spend our lives studying Scripture and never fully containing God’s infinite plan in our tiny minds. Perhaps there’s joy and true excitement in pondering, wondering, waiting. And while we wait, grasping the hands of our fellow believers and sharing the thrill of anticipation.

I think of two children waiting anxiously for Christmas presents. Though one is certain that Santa will leave their presents in time for them to open them on Christmas Eve and the other doesn’t expect his packages until Christmas morning – will they argue over the certainty and joy that Santa will come?

I am straying now from a strict book review, but I am suddenly inspired to pursue every theologian’s opinion and to inductively determine what I believe God’s word says about the end times. To that end, I offer you two resources. The first is a video by Hank Hanegraaff. In it he gives an overview of Dispensationalism and why he does not subscribe to that eschatological view.

The second is a link to David Brickner’s ministry, Jews For Jesus. I heard him interviewed last week by Janet Parshall who is a Futuristic Premillennialist.

I think one thing that has become crystal clear to me as I lay these two opinions alongside each other is that the hope of Jews and Gentiles is the same. I have no doubt that Jesus intends a wonderful reunion and ingathering of all Jewish believers. I believe He has that same plan for every Gentile believer as well.

“In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the Lord who does this. Amos 9:11-12

Chazown – Your Reason for Living

I confess, I haven’t finished my journey through Chazown.

Chazown is a Hebrew word meaning vision. Chazown is an online resource produced by LifeChurch.tv to help Christians discover God’s vision for their life.  Through an in-depth six step process, followed by related resources Groschel leads participants to discover the reason that God created them. Do you ever wonder, “Why me?”

I do. I know a lot of other women who do. Many of us think there must be something more, we must be missing something big, something we’re supposed to do. Do you believe you can figure that “one thing” out? How would it change your direction (your perspective, even) of your own life, if you knew the one thing you were meant to do.

I have learned so much already. I found purpose in whole seasons of my life that had once appeared to be wasted pain.

Imagine, reasons for loneliness, reasons for failure, reasons for people and places and a path through the past that led you to right here.

In step 4, Groschel has you write a purpose statement. At the first of June, before I began this journey, I would never have written something like this. Honestly, I probably couldn’t have put any purpose statement together. I’m so excited. What I am learning has fueled me with courage to take on somethings I’ve been afraid to do because now I understand that they are a part of God’s purpose for me. And His purposes never fail.

FIND YOUR CHAZOWN. 

Is. 55:11 So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; and it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

Comical Perspective

Let’s add some levity to the subject of perspective that I brought up on Monday. A change in perspective almost necessarily requires learning to laugh at ourselves, our circumstances and sometimes our frustrations. Let me tell you about the week of Rachelle’s wedding… and the week after we got home.

The second week that I had been living out of a suitcase, I was sleeping in my parents’ basement. I had just driven from Dallas, TX to Wichita, KS, arriving at about midnight. Talk about perspective – I thought midnight was the witching hour and I never stay up that late. Well, given the right incentive (spending time alone with my mom and the excitement of wedding preparations and the fact that I was needed in KS) suddenly, midnight was totally possible.

I woke the next morning to a cryptic email from my business partner with Moms Who TRI, Kristen Hench, who is also my dog-sitter. “Call me, it’s about Brave!”

I bolted out of bed and stood trembling as the phone rang. “He’s not getting out of bed, he wet himself on the floor, he’s shaking and he’s barely eating.” Here’s the point where I lost perspective. Sobbing hysterically, I hung up with Kristen, called the vet, cried to my mom and prepared my sister that I might have to fly home and skip her wedding – my dog was sick. Let’s not yet discuss my lack of perspective. To keep a very long and embarrassing story short, I wrestled with God concerning my perspective and priorities. Finally, after two expensive trips to the vet, Brave began to recover from a UTI and was back to his normal self.

Next, hurdle. Smaller, Patrick’s luggage got lost in Atlanta on his way to the wedding. It was found and delivered at some heinous hour. Hysterics averted.

Next hurdle. As a writer, my computer is practically an extension of my fingers. It’s not quite my livelihood, but writing is my passion and the computer is a necessary tool. I opened my cherished Mac Book Air on Sunday morning to find the equivalent of a “blue screen of death.” Another unplanned expense.

Next hurdle. I always struggle returning from a trip, trying to re-assimilate myself into my own, real life. This time I had a workable schedule in mind, certain things to do on certain days for my first week back in VA. Tuesday morning, I hopped in my car and cranked the key… nothing… not a click. After two jump starts, I was afraid to turn the car off. I drove to a Jiffy Lube where they laughed at me when I told them I needed a battery that fits in the trunk of my car. When I called the Miata dealership, they had one single battery left. I traipsed through VA traffic (again a matter of perspective) and waited for over an hour while they did a $200 battery replacement.  Tuesday’s agenda shot. Another whopping bill. Perspective.

This is not meant to be a pessimistic or “poor me” post. I don’t want to imply “it can always get worse.” But I’m grateful to my Heavenly Father and the work of the Holy Spirit in me. In the past, the accumulation of these little setbacks would have had me in tears. This time, one at a time, I rode through them and found my joy intact. Perspective.