Faith is a refusal to panic.
Faith is a refusal to panic.
In a previous post, I explained why I absolutely refused to vote for Obama or Romney. Today is a brand new day and we have the same old president but, after watching and reading many Christians as they discussed this election, I’d like to explore two attitudes I found pervasive and particularly disturbing. First, most of the Christians I talked to were thinking like Republicans, not Christians. And second, fear seemed to be a greater motivator than faith.
Thinking like Republicans, not Christians
I can’t tell you how many Christians were convinced that our only option—nay, our only hope!—was to vote for Mitt Romney because…well… he was the Republican candidate. Did Christians have no other possible course of action? Based on what I’ve heard and read, we actually don’t! It sounded to me like our only hope hinged on the outcome of the 2012 Presidential Election!
Equally disturbing was the mentality that the last thing we could possibly do was vote for a third party candidate. That might require us to maintain our integrity and do something unpopular and likely to fail! Instead, our only option was to capitulate to the slightly better of two undesirable choices—one a liar, the other a deceiver—for the sake of political expediency.
In short, our goal wasn’t to support the best, most desirable candidate; our goal was simply to knock Obama out of the White House. We weren’t thinking about the Kingdom of God and we certainly weren’t concerned with maintaining our integrity, we were merely concerned about the good ol’ USA.
The truth is, God has not called us to win elections in His great Name; God has called us to transform our culture and that begins in our neighborhoods not the courtrooms. Our faith is to be placed in Christ’s atoning work on our behalf, not the legislative performance of our elected officials. Do you think God cares that abortion is legal or that abortion happens? Do you think God cares that our system is corrupt and greedy or that our hearts are corrupt and greedy? My point is, instead of trying to change the laws of the land, we need to try and change the hearts of ourselves and our neighbors. But what fueled this perception?
Operating from fear, not faith.
The reason we had no choice is because, let’s face it, we are all afraid of Obama—especially because he no longer has to worry about being re-elected and has nothing to lose. (And if Obama doesn’t worry you, then I don’t think you pay very much attention.) None of the Christians I heard or read were reasoning from a place of faith in God. They were arguing from fear of Obama. It wasn’t “in God we trust,” it was “in Obama we fear.”
I never heard anyone say, “I have approached the throne of God with this issue and feel compelled to vote for Romney.” It was more like, “Well, the last thing we want is 4 more years of Obama” or even, “Remember folks, ABO: Anybody but Obama!” We were like Peter when he tried to walk on water (Matthew 14:29-31). We took our eyes off Christ and began to look at the storm and the crashing waves. We got scared. But I don’t think it has to be this way.
Every time I watch a documentary with lions, hyenas, or other predators, I always wonder what would happen if the bison (or zebras or gazelles or whatever) stood their ground or, better yet, stampeded the predators. While it’s certainly likely that some of the bisons would be injured or die, it seems even more likely that the lions would realize they were outnumbered 50-to-1 and retreat. There are entire food chains that are perpetuated by fear and the perception of helplessness. In the same way, I can’t help but wonder what would happen if Christians stood their ground or—*gasp*—actually unified.
So, I challenge all three of the people who will read this to ask themselves two questions when engaging in politics. First, will you maintain your integrity or will you compromise? I challenge you, instead of bending to the pressures of the world around us, to stand firm in your convictions and vote for the candidate you actually believe will be best for our nation. Second, will you walk in faith or fear? Christ calls us sheep; let’s put our faith in the Good Shepherd and stick together. Let’s stand up to the wolves because we trust in our Shepherd’s ability to protect us. And finally, let’s pray for those who have been elected. Let’s pray that God will guide their heart of our president and all our elected officials.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. (Proverbs 19:21)
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord ; he turns it wherever he will. (Proverbs 21:1)
While taking a class with Professor Carl Laney, I ran across an excellent list of “Themes in Proverbs.” This is his list but I thought it was worth sharing. He starts by saying “The individual proverbs are not generally grouped together topically or in a thematic series. They are quite mixed and any one chapter may contain a great variety of topics. Some of the more important themes and topics in Proverbs include the following: Continue reading Themes in Proverbs
Sin damages our self-identity, changes our relations with God from love and trust to fear and mistrust, damages our loving union with one another to become a war of wills against one another, and sin also has cosmic effects—we find the world to be red in tooth and claw.
Every sin damages. Not just the big ones.
Scot McKnight, Why Doesn’t Anybody Talk about Sin?
Faithfulness is our business; fruitfulness is an issue that we must be content to leave with God.
There’s a song I heard a while back on the radio and I really liked it. So, a couple weeks ago, after getting an iTunes gift card for my birthday, I decided to buy it. It’s called Breakeven (Falling to Pieces) by The Script:
I’m not sure why, but I had never actually heard one of the lines until I bought it. Here is the first verse:
I’m still alive but I’m barely breathing
Just praying to a God that I don’t believe in
‘Cause I got time while she got freedom
‘Cause when a heart breaks no it don’t break even
It’s that second line that really caught my ear: “Just praying to a God that I don’t believe in…” Isn’t that very, very telling? Regardless of why the songwriter doesn’t believe in God, and regardless of his opinion of Christians specifically, he knows that God should be able to give him comfort during a time of heartbreak.
Every time I hear that line I think of 2 Corinthians 1:3-4:
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
God gives us comfort so we can comfort others; it shouldn’t stop with us. God guides us through our heartbreak so we can guide others through their heartbreaks. Today in class we talked about the Book of Job, specifically the theme of trusting God through suffering. One of my classmates shared that he and his wife had experienced five miscarriages. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been for them. Thankfully, God comforted them, He sustained them through their trials, and he eventually blessed them with two full-term children. Since then, they’ve been able to minister to numerous other couples when they go through miscarriages. God comforted them, and now they are sharing that comfort with other couples going through the same thing.
Here’s where it breaks down for me though: far too often I’m more inclined to simply cover up any of my heartache. I’m afraid to be transparent about my struggles, so I simply miss out on the chance share my comforts. My classmate inspired me. Perhaps it’s time for us to start being more vulnerable about our pains, struggles, and trials. Perhaps it’s time to start being more open to other people. God will comfort us, but it’s up to us to comfort others and use that as an opportunity to share the source of that comfort: Christ.
Many Christians appeal to the Ten Commandments as the ultimate example of God’s moral desires for us. And yet we (I say “we” because I’m guilty too!) quickly dismiss that one about taking a day off! So really, many of us point to the Nine Commandments as the ultimate example of God’s moral desires for us and we don’t even bat an eye at our casual dismissal of the Sabbath. For some time now God has been prompting me to reconsider whether I know better than He does and whether skipping the Sabbath is wiser than deliberately entering into a day of rest.
Long story short, I’ve had an exhausting semester thus far and I haven’t taken a full day of rest since it started. Last week was particularly exhausting because I was busy all day Tuesday; granted I went to the David Crowder* Band concert and it was amazing. But it essentially took up an entire day and left me tired and dehydrated Wednesday. I had trouble concentrating but did as much homework as I could that Wednesday. Then I woke up Thursday and did homework almost all day. Then came Friday where I had class from 8–12, then had Air Force commitments Friday afternoon and most of the day Saturday. I stayed up until around midnight translating Greek on Friday. Sunday, I did a bunch of homework until I felt like I couldn’t think anymore, then had another cup of coffee and went at it for a few more hours.
Then came Monday! I woke up early to go for a run and hopefully clear my head. I did a little more review, and then I had class from 10:30 A.M. to 3 P.M. and from 6 P.M. until 10 P.M. And oh, by the way, I realized that I had forgotten to do my mid-term for my second class so I spent my 2.5 hour break playing catch-up!
I woke up yesterday morning utterly discouraged and feeling like I was completely out of gas. I honestly didn’t even want to get out of bed. I had two voices in my head: one told me to suck it up an get to work and the other kept whispering that I needed rest. The truth is, I hadn’t taken a day off in so long because I didn’t trust God. I didn’t trust God to come through for me and give me rest or energy. I didn’t trust God to come through so I refused to take a day off. After months of listening to the first voice, I decided to see if it was just possible that God might have an idea of what He’s talking about concerning the Sabbath. I rested! I watched a movie. I hung out with my dog. I spent time alone. And perhaps most importantly, I refused to feel guilty for resting and instead chose to trust that God would give me refreshment from the past weeks and energy for the coming week. It was great!
Today, I woke up and I felt recharged. I feel ready to attack my homework for the rest of the week. I feel like I wasn’t working as effectively as I could have last week because I hadn’t rested at all. It was like trying to run a race without sleeping the night before. You might be able to finish the race, but you won’t finish well. I’ve decided that I want to take God’s instructions about rest more seriously. I want to feel rested, refreshed, and energized and I want to give Him the glory for giving me strength.
Do you take a day of rest? When was the last time you felt refreshed? I encourage you to carve out a day where you rest. Take a day to allow God to refresh you. Take the day in faith, trusting that God will give you energy for the rest of the week. You will never regret the times that you honor God.
God used a 9-year old boy and my dog to teach me something. A few days ago, one of the boys in our neighborhood was petting Petunia, our 25 lb mutt. Kids love her and she does a great job of tolerating all the attention. However, much to their dismay, Petunia is usually more interested in smelling her environment; she’s part hound, so she experiences the world primarily through her nose. Because she kept wandering off, Jadon, the young boy, kept calling her back. “Come, Petunia, come here!”
He tried every variation of a dog call he could think of. Petunia wasn’t listening at all, so finally, in an exasperated and comically desperate manner he asked, “What will make her come?” To which I simply replied, “My voice.”—
At that point, I said, “Petunia, come” and she ran over to us happily and rolled on her back so we could pet her. Which got me thinking…
Doesn’t Jesus say something about His voice? In John 10:4, Jesus-while describing Himself as the Good Shepard and us as his flock-says that “the sheep follow him [Jesus], for they know his voice.” I couldn’t help but wonder how often I fail to faithfully follow the voice of God. It also made me consider how patient God is with me when I repeatedly fail to hear His voice or, even worse, when I simply ignore it completely! Like Petunia, I’m far too easily distracted by my environment (TV, books, hunger, people, etc.) and it’s easy for me to wander. But Jesus is our Good Shepherd, going out ahead of us and leading us.
Do you realize that Jesus knows and calls you by name? I find this to be pretty amazing! Jesus knows me, Jesus leads me, Jesus calls me by name. In fact, Andreas J. Kostenberger says “there is evidence that Palestinian shepherds used to give nicknames to some of their sheep. (John – Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)” The idea of Jesus knowing me well enough to give me a nickname-and to call me by name- inspires me to trust His voice (Jn 10:14). The image of Him going out ahead to lead me inspires me to follow His example (Jn 10:3. The reality that He laid down His life for me inspires me submit to His Lordship (Jn 10:11, 15, 17, 18).
Amen! May you be inspired by the Good Shepherd to trust, follow, and submit to the Good Shepherd.
“Hey listen, I’d really appreciate it if you’d take some time to worry about something for me…”
“Okay everyone, we need to stop what we’re doing and take some time to really just worry about what to do next.”
“You know, I just worried, and worried, and worried, and before you know it, I was through my trials. The worry is what carried me.”
Has anyone ever said anything like this to you? No? Really? Seriously?!? Not surprising, right? No one has EVER asked me to worry on their behalf. No one has ever advised me to intently worry about something to help get it done. No one has ever read any Bible verse that encouraged me to worry. I’ve never had anyone claim their spiritual gift was worrying for other people. Worrying is not listed as a fruit of the Spirit. I’ve never encountered a worry-centered ministry and I’ve never seen a book that helped people become better, more effective worriers.
So why are you worrying so much?!?
I’m going to show a couple translations of the same verse, but look at what Jesus says in Luke 12:25:
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (New International Version)
“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” (New Living Translation)
“And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span?” (New American Standard Bible)
I know your problems are big. I know your trials are hard. I know the next step in your future seems unclear. I know… I know… I know… And perhaps you’re thinking, “Actually Daniel, you don’t know.” And perhaps you’re right. But surely Jesus knows? Surely Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said that worrying doesn’t add a single hour to your life. So please, do yourself a favor and stop worrying.
Jesus continues that thought in Luke 12:26 by saying “Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” (The “very little thing” is add a single hour to your lifespan.) Jesus is saying that since you can’t even add an hour to your life by worrying, why are you worrying about everything else? Is it helping? Not a chance. Is it hurting? Possibly. Just take a moment to consider how effective or helpful your worrying is. It doesn’t take long to realize that worrying is not helpful or effective. So please, do yourself a favor and stop worrying.
Stop worrying and turn to God. He is so much bigger and larger than any of our tiny problems. He is eternal; our problems are temporary. He is infinite; our problems are limited. God big; problems little. So turn to a great, big God and, whether or not He takes your problems away, refuse to worry. Instead, trust.
Trust that God knows what He’s doing. Trust that God has it all figured out. Trust that God can and will use your trials to bring glory to Himself.
When I first found out that I wasn’t going to Iraq or Afghanistan I was pretty disappointed. This may sound odd to my non-military friends, but it’s the truth. I was disappointed because I wanted to go somewhere were “the action” was; somewhere exciting! I got tasked to go to one of those non-disclosed locations in Southwest Asia. One of the things that I assumed was that no one would be searching for God at a deployed location with a swimming pool and trips off base. I had foolishly put God in a box and decided that, because people were not in immediate danger outside the wire, no one would be considering the bigger things in life.
Give Him the chance by opening yourself up and God will surprise you. Always! Part of my prayer on New Years day was, “I surrender 2010 to You, for Your glory.” I actually wrote that down. I think God prompted me to write it down so I would remember my surrender. At the beginning of the year, and at the beginning of my deployment, I decided to let God do His thing. Isaiah 55:8-9 is one of my all-time favorite passages. It reminds me that God is God and I am not. He knows what He’s doing. Sometimes I don’t know, but He always knows. Faith isn’t having all the answers, it’s trusting in a God who has all the answers.
I originally deployed with a very skeptical attitude. Like I said earlier, who would be taking God seriously at a deployed location with a swimming pool and trips off base? God surprised me because the fellowship I enjoyed there was some of the best I’ve ever had. I also met a lot of people who wanted to grow closer to God during their deployment and I met a few who came to know Christ during their deployment.
In fact, my deployment turned out to be an amazing experience. Surprise! The Chapel had Bible studies every night of the week. The worship band had about nine members including a former Tops in Blue performer and they sounded amazing every week. The Holy Spirit used me to lead a friend to Christ. I made friends who I will keep in touch with for life. I saw people grow and mature in their walks with Christ and learn more in those six months than they’d known their whole entire Christian life prior. God taught me more than I could ever share (although I am trying).
I say all of this because God surprises me. All the time, He surprises me. It’s foolish for us to put God in a box and assume anything about Him. He is God. He is bigger than any box we could put Him in. As I stated in a previous post, God puts people in the right place at the right time so that His will can be done. Hindsight is 20/20 and I know, looking back, that God put me in the absolute right spot at the right time.
If you’re reading this and you’re not sure why your life is the way it is right now, all I can tell you is to trust God. Trust that He knows what He’s doing. Surrender your life to His purposes, sit back, and be amazed. You might just be surprised!