Faith, Values, and Politics

fox-debateA recent survey that was conducted by the Pew Research Center involved a national sample of 2,009 adults. The results of this survey, that was take earlier this month, offer some interesting findings:

  • Being an atheist is a big liability for anyone who pursues the office of president.
  • 51% of adults indicate they’d be less likely to vote for a presidential candidate who is an atheist.
  • 37% of the respondents say they would be less likely to support a candidate who has been involved in an extramarital affair.
  • 41% of the participants say they would be less likely to support a candidate who has a history of financial struggles.

The chart below looks at the public’s perception of seven of the the people who have tossed their hat into the ring in an effort to become the next President of the United States.

reltableIs it important to you that the President of the United States is a person of strong faith and high moral character?    Do verses like Psalm 33:12 hint that our leaders should be people of faith, and do they influence how you would vote?

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

While the hope of the United States is found in Christ and not the President, the actions and decisions of those we elect to office will either help or hinder the health of our nation.  This is why we should heed Paul’s instructions to Timothy:

I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior  

~2 Timothy 2:1-3

The Fruit of the Faithful

lipsIf you’ve ever seen me in the fruit section of the grocery store, you may have noticed that I’m picky when I’m picking my apples.  I’m not a grab-and-go any-apple-will-do kind of guy.  I’m selective; I want an apple that’s red, colorful, tasty, and juicy.

While the fruit section is known by its apples, Jesus said we are known by the fruit we bear.

In Hebrews 13:15 the writer said you should, “continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of our lips that confess His name.”  This is possible when you realize that God has “put a new song in your mouth, a song of praise to your God (Psalm 40:3).”

What does the fruit of your lips say about you?  Is your disposition sweet or sour? What about that song in your mouth?  Is it a harmony of blessings and compliments or complaints that are sharp and edgy?

After a series of skirmishes and near fatal incidences, David reflected on the presence of God during these difficult times, and he, “spoke to the Lord the words of this song, on the day when the Lord had delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. And he said:

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;

The God of my strength, in whom I will trust;

My shield and the horn of my salvation,

My stronghold and my refuge;

My Savior, You save me from violence.

I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;

So shall I be saved from my enemies.

David was on the Most Wanted Listed, and his enemies hated him.  Even when he was encircled by those who hated him the most, he knew the presence of God was his refuge. In this refuge, he would never be a fugitive from His grace.

God’s presence is an asylum for the assaulted, a retreat for the weary, and a sanctuary of mercy for the masses.

Celebrating the goodness of God when everything is going right is easy, but David knew that God was still present even in the darkest hours of his life.  It was after one of these dark moments and deadly battles that God placed a song in his heart, and David said:  I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.

When was the last time you paused to give thanks to God and to sing to Him because He is worthy to be praised?  Giving thanks and praise, is the means through which you draw closer to God and increase your joy.

Sackomania and The Quarterback Sack

palmerAfter watching the gleefully satisfied look of the defensive players on the Broncos and Panthers, I’m adding a new classification to the list of impulse control disorders.  This list usually includes dysfunctional behaviors such as kleptomania, pyromania, trichotillomania. 

Impulse control disorders are characterized by a person’s inability to avoid behavior that might bring harm to themselves or others. Typically, the pot of anxiety is about to boil over immediately before the behavior occurs.   Committing the act is like opening a pressure relief valve, and in spite of the potentially dangerous consequences, there’s an immediate feeling of relief and even happiness:

  • Kleptomania: People who struggle with this disorder will steal when they get anxious or frustrated and find relief by doing so.
  • Pyromania:  This describes the act whereby a person feels a sense of excitement or relief after deliberately setting fires.
  • Trichotillomania:  This is the person you’ve seen who is constantly pulling and twisting her hair to gain a release of tension or a sense of satisfaction
  • Sackomania is the new classification that I am adding to this list.

Sackomania is usually observed on Sundays, and it most often occurs between the opposing goal posts on a field consisting of 100 yards.  If you watched the Broncos defeat the Patriots or endured the massacre of the Cardinals as they were devoured by the Panthers, you saw a classic case of Sackomania.

Some of the actions of the defensive players were characterized by their inability to avoid behavior that might bring harm to themselves or others.  In these instances, the harm resulted in very little pain to self, but Tom Brady and Carson Palmer, were left in crumpled piles of agonizing pain.

The NFL is the dream of many young boys, but football odds are stacked against them.  Out of the  310,465 high school seniors who play football, only 6.5% of them will make to the NCAA division of football; and, out of that number, just 1.6% of them will make it to the NFL.

Even though you probably won’t make it to the NFL, there is a 100% chance that at some time in your life, you’re going to struggle with an impulse—Mr. Temptation is going to knock on your door and invite you to come outside and play. No one is immune to the enticing power of temptation:

  • David struggled with it, and in the Psalm 46, he found hope in God as his “refuge and strength, and a very present help in trouble.”
  • James said, “Everyone is tempted by his own desires as they lure him away and trap him. Then desire becomes pregnant and gives birth to sin (James 1: 14-16).”

The impulse to yield to temptation can be managed by putting on the “whole armor of God,” and “hiding God’s word in your heart (Ephesians 6:11; Psalm 119:9-11).” The next time an urge or impulse is pulling you away from the safety of the shore and enticing you to engage in some questionable behavior, let me suggest you get into one of God’s RAFTS:

  • Resist the urge:  Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4: 7).
  • Align with God:  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4: 7–8).
  • Follow:  Pursue what has God’s approval. Pursue faith, love, and peace together with those who worship the Lord with a pure hear (2 Timothy 2:22).
  • Trust:  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
  • Seek God in prayer: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).

The Tennacity of Tennis


When you look at the picture to the left, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?  Is it tennis, effort, skill, or the disciplined regime that developed the muscled frame of France’s Gael Monfils?  The picture was shot at the Australian Open, and the first thing I focused on was Monfil’s shadow.

There’s something interesting about shadows—they’re universal.  Only about 1% of the world’s population will be born with red hair, but 100% of people have a shadow.

Shadows were the focus of Paul’s discussion in the third chapter of Colossians where he contrasted the shadow of your old nature to your new nature in Christ.  Paul challenged people to come out of the shadows and to live in the light. There are three things you need to do to accomplish this:

  • You need to “set your mind” or focus your thoughts in the right direction: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth (Colossians 3:1-2).”
  • You need to peel off the rags of unrighteousness and walk away from the shadows of your former life: “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you… in these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices (3:5-9).”
  • You need to wear a new wardrobe: “Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator…Put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, forgiving each other; And above all these put on love (3:10-14).”

To shake off the shadows, you’ll need to develop spiritual disciplines that are as demanding as the physical regime that’s practiced by Gael Monfils.  When you begin to do this, you will find that you are walking in the light and in fellowship with Jesus.







Manning’s Gritty Performance

manning20 to 18 was the final score, and the Broncos defeated the Patriots through the combination of a tough defense and an offense led by an aging quarterback.  Peyton Manning is the comeback kid of 2016, and he has been dreaming what has seemed to be the impossible dream.

Other than the Denver faithful, most people, including the odds makers, thought the boys from Boston were the kings of the mountain, and they would win this game.  Manning, however, has a history of trekking up the paths of rugged trails and scaling a mountain’s summit.

Manning is just half the age of another mountaineer.  When he was 80 years old, Caleb was still a man of grit.  His spunky nature and “can do” attitude is seen in his five-word request: “Give this mountain!”

Forty years earlier, the giants who lived on that mountain had spooked all of the Israelites except Joshua and Caleb, and the fearful chose the life of wilderness nomads rather than the promised land of “milk and honey.”

People like Peyton Manning, Joshua, and Caleb, are not deterred by challenging detours—they make mole hills out of mountains.

The many hardships these men overcame reminds me of the perseverance of the Apostle Paul, who said, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8).”

While there is a reservoir of strength that is available through Jesus, scaling the mountains you face will also require a little grit or what Webster calls, “firmness of mind and spirit, unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger.”

Old number 18 was pumped full of it on Sunday.

Finding Truth in 50 Words

Man opens a box and squints

In Colossians 3:11, Paul used just 6 words to convey a massive amount of truth:  “Christ is all and in all.” When I read this succinct statement about the indescribable Christ, I remembered a brief description of the Bible.

The Bible in 50 Words,  uses statements consisting of 2 words to describe the 66 books of the Bible:

      God made
Adam bit
Noah arked
Abraham split
Jacob fooled
Joseph ruled
Bush talked
Moses balked
Pharaoh plagued
People walked
Sea divided
Tablets guided
Promise landed
Saul freaked
David peeked
Prophets warned
Jesus born
God walked
Love talked
Anger crucified
Hope died
Love rose
Spirit flamed
Word spread
God remained

Along this same theme of profound brevity, I suggest there is one verse in the New Testament that summarizes the life of Christ better than any other:


Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh,vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.  ~I Timothy 3:16

I will close with this question:  What are the 50 words that define you?

Learning to Whistle While You Work

whistlework1There is an old German saying that addresses the importance of self-discipline and your priorities: “Whoever does not respect the penny is not worthy of the dollar.” The essence of this quote seems to be: If you neglect or ignore the small things, you can’t be trusted with larger things.

Neglect in one area of your life might be inconsequential if it happens once; however, when there’s a pattern of neglect it becomes a habit, and habits are the routines and practices that either confine you or refine you.

Most of us are like a stringed instrument, and we need to be re-tuned from time to time.  The word tune has several meanings:

  • As a noun it means, “a succession of musical sounds forming an air or melody, with or without the harmony accompanying it; a musical setting in four-part harmony; the state of being in the proper pitch.”
  • As a verb it means, “to give forth a musical sound; to be in harmony or accord; become responsive.”

It only takes a small incremental turn of the peg to make a big change in the tightness of a string and a dramatic change in the sound of a violin or guitar.  The same is true with your life—small changes can make a big difference.

To make these changes, I suggest that you:

  • Learn from Santa Claus: Make a list and check it twice.  Which of your habits are being naughty or nice to you, and which one help you live in harmony with God?
  • Focus: When you tune a violin or guitar, you don’t turn all of the pegs and adjust all of the strings at once.  You focus on one at a time. Instead of trying to develop several new habits and make multiple changes, make them one at a time.
  • Be Discriminate: Eliminate the non-essentials and practice the essentials.  The one sucks the blood of life out of you while the other revitalizes you.
  • Learn from the 7 Dwarfs: Whistle while you work, and find some joy in what you’re doing.  Be Happy, not Grumpy!
  • Circle the Wagons: When I was a kid, one of my favorite TV shows was Wagon Train.  At the end of the day, Ward Bond would instruct the westward bound settlers to “Circle the wagons.”  This provided a circle of safety for the pioneers.  If Ward Bond was speaking to you, he would tell you to “Circle yourself with good friends and people of character.”
  • Learn from David: In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch (Psalm 5:3).”  Meet with God daily to pray, and plan for success.

The power of small acts is found in the words of Samuel Smiles:

Sow a thought, and you reap an act;

Sow an act, and you reap a habit;

Sow a habit, and you reap a character;

Sow a character, and you reap a destiny.”

― Samuel Smiles

Decisions: 4 Questions To Ask

a-checklist-for-better-decision-makingUnrest, stress, and turmoil are the frequent companions of decisions.  As you wrestle with making a choice, the uncertainty can flood you with anxiety; and, once the decision is made, you can grow nervous as you contemplate the potential consequences.

Deciding what is right or wrong, and what is the best course of action can be perplexing.  Even the Apostle Paul prayed that the Philippians would “abound in knowledge and every kind of insight,” so they could decide “what is best, and thus be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ (Philippians 1:9-10).”

The next time you need to make an important decision, here’s a checklist of 4 insightful questions to help steer you in the right direction:

  • Helpful or Harmful: Will the results of my decision be a benefit to me and others or a detriment?
  • Embarrassment Factor: If the consequences of my decision became front page news and trended on social media, would my parents be embarrassed?
  • Here and Now or There and Then: Are you basing your decision on the intense but temporary pain of the here and now, or are you considering the long-term consequences of the future (there and then)?
  • Consistent: Will the results of this decision be consistent with Biblical principles?

I suggest that you look at the checklist again. As you read it a second time, think about the long-lasting power of your decisions that are seen in your words and deeds: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father (Colossians 3:17).”

The Real You in 72 Hours

real-meSaturday, Sunday, and Monday—what was your focus over the past 72 hours?  What does your focus say about the real you?  The 5 questions below may help you answer this question:

  1. What did you find to be funny?
  2. On what did you spend your money?
  3. What is it that you were wanting the most?
  4. What thought was the frequent focus of your mind?
  5. What did you do with your leisure time and with whom did you spend it?

After thinking about the questions above, compare your answers to the lifestyle that Paul spoke of in Romans 12:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Hate what is evil. Cleave to what is good.  Be devoted to one another with brotherly love; prefer one another in honor, do not be lazy in diligence, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord, rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer, contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless, and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Do not pretend to be wiser than you are.

Repay no one evil for evil. Commend what is honest in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

When you compare your answers to the qualities Paul discussed, is the real you a “doer” of the word or just a “hearer” of the world?

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man viewing his natural face in a mirror.  He views himself, and goes his way, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.

 ~James 1:22-24


MLK Day: More Than Monday


mlkToday is more than just another Monday.  It’s the day that has been set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Dr. King is remembered for his life of dedication, and his speeches that focused on forgiveness, peace, righting wrongs, and loving one another.

Since today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I share a few quotes to honor him:

  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
  • Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.
  • Only in the darkness can you see the stars.
  • We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
  • The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
  • It does not matter how long you live, but how well you do it.
  • When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows.
  • To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.

Please give some careful consideration to this last quote.  I suggest that you focus on it, and make it a prayer throughout this week:

Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.