A Time to Pray

My heart is broken for our nation. Having refused to love the Lord, we now find the ability to love one another slipping through our fingers. Why are we surprised that we cannot obey the second greatest commandment when we have failed to heed the first? If what is divided is to be brought together and made new, we must be dependent upon the Great Physician who heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

I don’t have simple solutions, profound answers, or innovative plans that would make everything right. Even if I did, they would be a brittle, fading, and insufficient response to the present need. To trust in any person – a friend, a teacher, a leader, or myself – is both dangerous and disappointing. It is better to fall helpless and broken, in need of wisdom and grace, at the feet of an all-sufficient, ever-present, and enduringly trustworthy God.

Understanding cannot come through tireless thinking, or agreement through ceaseless arguing, or rest through endless effort. No human endeavor can suffice when a God-sized solution is required. Only Jesus can change hearts of stone to flesh, only He can break down dividing walls of hostility, and only in His love can we learn what love truly is – not a warm and fuzzy feeling, but a perfectly complete, wholly undeserved, and entirely selfless sacrifice.

In the spiritual battle we face today in our country, I refuse to surrender to human vision, or capability, or reasoning, or reassurance, or willpower. I look to the Captain of my salvation, whose weakness is stronger than the greatest human might, whose foolishness is wiser than the accumulation of all knowledge, and whose love is more powerful than any earthly attempt to find reconciliation and peace. Nothing and no one else will do.

I think it is best to follow in the footsteps of those counted faithful before us – Abraham, Moses, David, Esther, Daniel – and pray with humility, intercede with expectancy, and find strength in our God. Perhaps you would like to join me in praying

For a mind to understand the times, how God is working, and what we ought to do

For the discernment to recognize the Spirit in a world of many spirits that are deceitful and false

For the strength to hold fast to truth in the midst of lies

For feet that walk in justice, mercy, and humility before our God

For the decrease of our own kingdoms, and the glory of His

For the composure to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves

For the ability to forgive when we are wronged and seek forgiveness when we wrong others

For an ear that listens, not prepared to win an argument, but ready to minister with compassion, truth, and gentleness

For the wisdom to recognize needs and the grace to satisfy them

For an open heart that shares generously

For a hunger to hear from God daily in His Word, and for a thirst for righteousness

For the boldness to share the gospel in season and out of season

For the dignity to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry

For the meekness to possess a righteous anger that does not sin

For hands that are willing to wash the feet not only of friends, but of those who will betray us

For eyes always fixed on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

I don’t know if God will reach down in mercy to heal a land that has turned its back on Him, but I know that He can heal you, I know that He can heal me, and perhaps through us He might begin to bring healing to those around us. In the midst of the mighty winds, raging fires, and terrifying earthquakes, may we perceive the quiet whisper of that still, small voice and follow the One who speaks.



Saturated by Gratitude

“Let our love of God go into the minutest details. Let us be earnest in all essentials but never indifferent to the non-essentials. God’s lovingkindness goes into detail, and so should my obedience. May gratitude to God permeate my entire life; may it flood all my faculties, and may it saturate me through and through.”


When the Magnolia Blooms (For Those Who Wait)

Spring is a time of new life. The air is ornamented with bird songs, sweetened by the fragrance of trees blooming, and kissed with hints of warm breezes chasing away the deadness of winter.  All nature seems ready to explode with a whirling dance and a joyful noise announcing life abundant.

The subtle yet surprisingly swift changes outside echo the events of life as summer approaches. Spring means anticipation and change, tears and laughter mixed as endings and beginnings collide.

Oberlin is home to several tall, graceful magnolia trees, and their blooms always came just in time to usher the campus into a season of exams and papers, juries and competitions and performances. Seeing those large pink flowers assured me that the battle with cold and snow was past and that the perseverance of many months of hard work was about to reach its conclusion. Year after year, those magnolias told me I could breathe a little easier, while at the same time making my heart beat a little faster as I dreamed of the possibilities on the horizon.

In my final year at school, my anticipation of the magnolias meant that my senior recital was inching closer. I began to hope that they would bloom just in time for the big event, a joyful celebration and sign of the culmination of my time at conservatory. How glad I was to share the sight and smell of those lovely flowers with my friends and family as they visited for my performance! It seemed so fitting that the magnolias blossomed that spring just as I felt I was finally blossoming myself.

But what happens when the season changes and life does not? What do you do when the days grow long but the waiting stretches even longer? What are you supposed to feel when the birds sing, but the voice of God seems silent? What happens when the magnolia blooms, but life stands dreadfully, defiantly still?

When we are young, we learn how Jesus provided an abundance of fish for His disciples, and we are taught to thank God for our food and all the blessings He bestows on us. As we face the challenges of life, we are reminded that Jesus was there in the wind and waves, ready to calm the storm and bring His friends safely to shore. But what directions are we given for the times when we are caught in the doldrums? How do we respond when there are no miracles, no signs from heaven, and no other side of the sea in sight?

Waiting is an inevitable part of living, and perhaps even more so for the Christian, as God teaches and trains His children, equipping us for holiness and every good work. James tells us, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Paul writes, “Not only that, but rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3-4). Waiting is certainly the great endurance test of faith.

Abraham, the believer, the friend of God, was given some of the greatest promises recorded in Scripture. Among these was the promise of a son and heir, yet he and Sarai found themselves childless in their old age. Why, they must have thought, did the Lord delay in fulfilling His word? So they went ahead of God, making their own plans that fell short of the goodness He had in store. Though he never wavered in unbelief, Abraham needed to be strengthened in his faith. It would be thirteen more years before God was ready to act, but act He did, and Isaac was born, the next in a family line that ultimately gave us Jesus.

Waiting, in its time and purpose, is truly a calling. It is a privilege and an honor. All of God’s great servants have waited – think of Joseph in prison, Moses in the wilderness, David in pastures and caves, Jesus in the carpenter’s shop. In waiting we become like our Lord; we bear the brand-marks of Jesus and are molded into His image.

Waiting is the essence of faith. It is submission and obedience. It is the offering of quiet and confident trust. It is the willingness to abide and rest in the Lord, to endure lowliness and piercing heartache for the sake of His plans. Waiting is the silent confession that “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8).

Our God declares the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done. His counsel shall stand, and He will accomplish all His purpose (Isaiah 46:10). He knew all the days formed for us when as yet there was none of them (Psalm 139:16). The One who is sovereign over all promises to instruct us and teach us in the way we should go, counseling us with His eye upon us (Psalm 32:8). So let us trust Him with all our heart, not leaning on our own understanding, assured that when we acknowledge Him in all our ways, He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Let us wait for God’s good and perfect timing. Let us wait when the waiting seems reasonable, and let us wait when it all seems empty. Let us wait when we are weary; let us wait beyond the limit of our strength. His grace is sufficient, and He will not leave us defenseless. Let us be unmovable, unshakeable, and altogether faithful for Jesus. He gives “strong support to those whose heart is blameless [literally, whole] toward Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

And even if He should slay us in our waiting, let us praise Him. Those who went before us “all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth… But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13,16). Let us follow their example. Let us walk in the footsteps of our Lord, saying, “But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7).

May we be as patient with the Lord as He is with us. Someday our magnolia will bloom. Our God makes everything beautiful in its time.

Wait for the LORD;
Be strong, and let your heart take courage;
Wait for the LORD!
Psalm 27:14


Set Free

Hallelujah! I have found Him
Whom my soul so long has craved!
Jesus satisfies my longings;
Through His blood I now am saved.1


What a beautiful and perfect covenant it is that satisfies the infinite righteousness and eternal love of the Lord of Hosts yet is mindful of me, to satisfy the searching of my soul. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).

“The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22:17). How glorious that we who are thirsty and desiring of the water of life may still take it freely. How cool and sweet and pure it is! It is beyond price and obtained without payment. In great mercy and grace the Lord has passed through my Samaria and has spoken such curious and good news – that I need not draw water from earth again. He has met me at my broken cistern and shepherded me to a fountain that never runs dry. And there I have found the Scripture to be true, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).

Our Father is faithful to provide for my every need. The least of His riches are far better than the sum of the world’s treasures. Just a drop of His grace outweighs oceans of human striving. His name is the LORD who Provides. As He sent the manna in the wilderness, He daily sustains me by His Word. And though it is not I who bring payment or provision, it is He who Sees for Himself a Lamb.

Truly no man can ransom another
or give to God the price of his life,
for the ransom of their life is costly
and can never suffice.
Psalm 49:7-8

But He is merciful and says,

Deliver him from going down to the pit;
I have found a ransom.
Job 33:24

As when He began His work in me, so it has continually been thus far. He knows all the days ordained for me and the needs of each one. “As your days, so shall your strength be” (Deuteronomy 33:25). For it will never be my strength, but only His:

He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might He increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31

How I need to remind myself every day of what the Lord has done for me! How I need to trust the great love He lavishes on me! How I need His heavenly perspective to assure my heart. Because He remembers me continually, because I am inscribed on the palms of His hands, He has willingly forgotten my sin and no longer holds my transgressions against me. He chose me before the foundation of the world and predestined me for adoption, and not an adoption at arm’s length, but by a Spirit crying “Abba! Father!” He has made me accepted – now, despite my imperfections – in the Beloved.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with jewels.
Isaiah 61:10

Jesus took on my humanity and bore my sin that I might be clothed in His righteousness. What more can I do? What more do I need? My God and Father has caused me to stand holy and blameless before Him according to His will and has seated me with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. I need not say with Adam, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10). I need not cover my sin with the blood of bulls and goats or the dirty rags of my good deeds. No, for He has carried my cross on His shoulders and placed His royal robe on mine, and I may boldly come near to the throne of grace and dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

How lovely is Your dwelling place,
O LORD of Hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
to the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may lay her young,
at Your altars, O LORD of Hosts,
my King and my God.
Psalm 84:1-3

It is a peculiar truth that as a bondservant I am free, that I who once was a slave to sin, to fear, and to my accuser, should find freedom under the shadow of my Master’s wings. My Redeemer has bought me at the highest price and set me free.

Forever Free.

May I cease striving and know that He is God, that He will be exalted among the nations and in all the earth, that He does as He chooses, and nothing can stay His hand. All that He says will come to pass, and He has assured me that He will keep me from stumbling and present me blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy. The only God, my Savior, began His work in me by the Spirit and will complete it, not by my works in the flesh, but through His own righteousness credited to me and perfected in me by the power that raised Jesus from the dead. Nothing more can be added; it is finished.

It is finished, it is finished,
No longer need I labor for His love,
For Christ fulfilling the Law of God
Was deemed by God to be enough.2

I need to stop – stop trying to earn God’s love, stop trying to prove my stature as His child, and stop minimizing His grace by casting it in the shadow of a looming mountain of requirements and religious inventories. I need to stand firm and not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

I am no longer under law, but under grace and led by the Spirit. I am no longer instructed by the tutor, but by the Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God Himself. He has high standards, but it is not I who live, rather it is Christ who lives in me.

So I will stand in the gospel. I will build all my life and hope on the bedrock of grace. And I will rest, knowing that the battle is the Lord’s, that it has already been won, that my enemies have been put to open shame, and that I can walk day by day beside the Lord with my head held high as more than a conqueror.


1.  “Satisfied,” Clara T. Williams
2. “It is Finished,” Jimmy Needham


Thus Far the Lord Has Helped Me

“Thus far the Lord has helped me.”

As another year comes to a close, this truth still abides. It was true for the Israelites, delivered from the Philistines even while Samuel offered a lamb and cried out to God (1 Samuel 7). It will always hold true, since the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, who delivers me from my enemies, will intercede for me all of my days and reign forever as King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Rock that will never be shaken.

The Lord has helped me – there is no better way to describe this year. Or any given day. Or, I pray, my life. I am a jar of clay in order that God’s surpassing power may be known. The One who created out of nothing can surely heal my brokenness, and each year brings me closer to the Day when I will be fully, deeply, eternally whole. My failures have shown me that His faithfulness endures forever, that even when I stumble I cannot fall headlong. My successes have been evidence that His grace toward me is abundantly more than all I could ask or think.

I have learned that love is obedience, endurance, and self-sacrifice. I have learned that I don’t very much like the idea of dying to myself, but I have also learned to trust that when I make that choice, it is the Lord who provides. In love there is shelter, and I need not be anxious to look out for myself, for the Lord of Hosts Himself takes care of me. I have learned that apart from Him I can do nothing, absolutely nothing, because I have tried and found out my own weakness. Yet He prunes and waters and gives life and strength so that as I abide, His Spirit in me bears fruit. I have learned that my sufficiency is not my own, but His.

I have seen that when I come to the end of myself, time and time again He restores my soul. He inhabits the highest heavens and the deepest seas, and He knows all my ways. When I have sat in silence and waiting, He has been the one who sings over me with song of deliverance and joy. I know my hope in Him is not in vain. His testimony is true.

This coming year, and always, may I trust my Lord Jesus as He burns away all the dross of my old self, because I know that all the silver I own has come from Him. May I be so consumed by His love that nothing remains but that which is totally surrendered to Him. May I work not in my own strength, which is liable to falter at any moment, but in His, which is everlasting. May my mind be always ready for action and my spirit established in the understanding that when I am afraid, I will put my trust in Him. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me (Psalm 56:3-4)?

The world is moving a mile a minute and changing hour by hour, but God is unchanging; therefore even when all may be lost I will not be consumed (Malachi 3:6). His Word will never fail, and thus I have a sure and strong foundation, and I shall not be moved. If all forsake me, I will never be alone, for I am in the arms of the One who loves me and will never, ever, leave me. This is my God, my God forever and ever. He will guide me even beyond death. (Psalm 48:14).

“Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen” (Jude 24-25).


Into Darkness Shines Everlasting Light

Among my favorite things about the Christmas season are the lights – hung on trees, fastened on light posts, strung on banisters and rooftops and storefronts. There is a quiet elegance to tiny bulbs illuminating chilly evenings and grey, winter landscapes. Anticipation fills the stillness, and as I drive home a gentle comfort whispers that perhaps the darkness is not quite so deep as usual tonight.

Even such small lights can bring hope. But the joy they proclaim comes and goes so quickly – soon Christmas will be over, we will grow tired of the decorations, and the lights will be put back in boxes where they will dance themselves into preposterous knots and inconceivable tangles over the next eleven months.

Perhaps they bring no joy at all. At times the lights act as mirrors, surrounding us with visible reminders of our emptiness, loneliness, or fear, or causing us to reflect on memories we would rather bury deep inside, and so the season of hope only serves to bring us one step closer to the outer edge of hopelessness. Perhaps it is all too much.

“Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me” (Micah 7:8).

Jesus, the King of Kings, was enthroned in splendor and shining with unimaginable light and glory – as our eyes cannot gaze at the sun, so no person could look upon Him in the fullness of His radiance. Even so, He did not consider it all a thing to be grasped, but rather “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). Even the bright star that led the wise men to His cradle must have seemed, though beautiful, yet in comparison as common as those lights we string in celebration each December.

The world was dark, and still the Lord entered it, not to save glorious angels or the host of heaven, but to redeem us who were in the darkness, walking in the darkness, and clueless as to where we were going because the darkness had made us blind (1 John 2:11). “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Because of His mercy and love, God “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13). He came, not so that we could celebrate for a day, or even a season, but that we  should rejoice with Him for all eternity.

As His followers, we ought to walk as He walked (1 John 2:6). But how did He walk? How did He who knew infinite light submit Himself to walk through the valley of the shadow of death? Even in our world of darkness, He walked in the Light. Jesus is Light, but He is also in the Light (1 John 1:7). He chose to abide in the Light, to make the Light His dwelling place, even in a world in which He had no place to rest His head. His unity with the Father and the Spirit was His source of light, a Light that could not be dimmed even by the power of death. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5).

I know what it is like to have Christmases that are anything but merry, when carols are replaced by crying and panic seems to overpower the tidings of comfort and joy. If you are in that season, please keep holding on; but don’t just hold on, hold on to God. He is holding on to you. When He feels far off, know for sure that He is near. Though you fall, you shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds your hand (Psalm 37:24). Remember, His ultimate design is to wipe away all of your tears; for now, trust that He keeps each one in a bottle, close to His heart. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). And yes, there is a morning. If necessary, there is a night, but there is always a morning.

“Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of His servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God” (Isaiah 50:10). He is good, and even when we cannot understand, He is worthy of our trust. Abide in His Light. He is the God of the poor, the mourning, the destitute. Jesus, who was honored with costly gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh many years ago is pleased to receive from us a broken spirit and a contrite heart. When we have no great riches or beautiful words to lift up to Him, let it be our joy and worship to lay down our cares, our fears, and our sadness at His feet.

This Christmas, whether surrounded by twinkling lights or somber shadows, let us look with eyes of faith on the One who is our Light, our everlasting, ever-satisfying, and all-sufficient Light. The night is not so deep as it once was, for “light dawns in the darkness for the upright; He is gracious, merciful and righteous” (Psalm 112:4).

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has Light shone” (Isaiah 9:2).


Why I am Voting in the Presidential Election

N.B. Our nation is facing one of the most crucial elections in its history. What happens on November 8 will have consequences for years to come. I feel compelled to speak my mind about this, or rather write it, specifically regarding the way I believe Christians should respond to a presidential race where both major party candidates seem to be morally disqualified. Can we even vote in such an election? Can we not vote in such an election? I have taken inspiration for this post from many knowledgeable people and what they themselves have written. I owe them many thanks but could not possibly name them all. I pray that you would approach my opinions as just that – my opinions. I have done my best to humbly, prayerfully seek God’s will in this situation, to be like the men of Issachar “who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel [or America] ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).

“If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (John 7:17).


Sometimes, decisions are easy. Or at least, it’s easy to tell what the right answer is, if it is not always easy to follow through.

However, sometimes knowing right from wrong, wisdom from foolishness, is really, really hard. How do we choose between two bad answers? Do we choose at all?

If you’ve never encountered such a situation in your life, you will once you examine your 2016 ballot.

We must look to God and His Word for the answers. Certainly His wisdom is there to guide us in situations where the answer is clear, but His understanding is also there for the times when all that this broken world offers us are murky, muddy, unpalatable options.

When the world is full of darkness, and were are forced, by sheer fact of living, to walk through that darkness, let us choose to walk in the light. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5b). The darkness is as light with Him. So, although He has not yet called us out of this world, and since it is He Himself who has sent us into the world, let us begin by remembering not to fear. He is with us. His rod and His staff comfort us. The devil wants us to look at our options and throw our hands up in despair. But dismay, resignation, hopelessness – these are not the ways of God. He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind, and He commands us to be strong and courageous.

Though we walk in the midst of uncleanness and all things that are an affront to holiness, we can rest in confidence, and we can remain vigilant as we are instructed to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. When all we see is darkness, the Lord is a light to us. Let us not worry that we cannot see a good answer. He is our good answer, and though we cannot yet see Him, with eyes of faith and a heart renewed by His New Covenant we can see His ways.

Let us remind ourselves that it is God who gives authority to every ruler on earth, whether good or evil:

“He changes times and seasons;
He removes kings and sets up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding” (Daniel 2:21).

“So Pilate said to Him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You and authority to crucify You?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over Me at all unless it had been given you from above.” (John 19:10-11a).

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).

Yet we must also remember that God’s sovereignty never excuses us from our responsibility. We are saved when grace meets faith, and though God causes us to walk in His ways, day to day we must choose to follow Him. We must learn to discern what is pleasing to our God. We must seek His will in every aspect of our lives, and on November 8, that includes our ballots.

As citizens of the United States of America, we have a role in the government, a position with a sphere of authority. Will we be good stewards of this right? If we believe that God is the giver of authority, then it follows that He is the one that has given us this responsibility. Whether our power be great or small, let us use it wisely and for God’s glory. If God is at work in politics and government, then why not His people, His hands and feet, His salt and light? I don’t know about you, but I think our country needs a bit of saltiness and light in our festering and dark government. It needs to be touched by the hands and feet of the One who out of holiness, justice, and love redeemed us from lawlessness to make us zealous for good works.

We can follow the example of godly men and women throughout the Word who honored God in their interactions with rulers who were often anything but godly. They glorified Him with the mundane, everyday things; they entrusted themselves to Him when in positions of great authority; and they followed Him with everything in between. Remember Jesus, who in wisdom reasoned that we should “render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Remember Paul, who exercised his rights as a Roman citizen to fulfill God’s will, that he would be Christ’s witness in Rome. Remember Joseph, Daniel, and Esther, who were given power in empires hostile to their God in order that He could work through them to accomplish His word; perhaps we likewise have come to the kingdom “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

We have an unspeakably urgent responsibility – will we stand up for what is right, will we as citizens lead our country in a way that honors God, or will we relinquish our measure of control to those who have replaced our one true God with the god of self-determined righteousness, with the god of that which is the very definition of sin? Our government will either be godly or evil; as far as we have the ability, will we give voice to the direction we would choose? Whichever candidate is elected with have the opportunity to lead our country one way or the other, and unless God chooses to intervene, one of the two major party candidates will be making that decision; which candidate’s reality would you prefer? Not necessarily desire, but prefer? Then vote for that person.

It is very tempting to look at these two options and to say that we cannot vote because both candidates are too sinful, vile, or wicked. It is tempting to walk away from this election, to wring our hands and walk as fast as we can in the opposite direction of the voting booth. I know, because I have thought of doing this myself! It is precisely in these times, when faith meets the road, so to speak, that I believe we must look past our surroundings and fix our eyes unwaveringly on the heart of God. Let’s consider the ways that our next president might deal with Israel, with abortion, with marriage, and with religious liberty, for example, remembering that not only will he or she directly influence these spheres, but will also impact many future decisions with the appointment of new Supreme Court justices. Then compare these prospects with what we find about God’s heart and ways in Scripture:

“I will rejoice in doing them [Israel] good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all My heart and all My soul” (Jeremiah 32:41).

“They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into My mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin” (Jeremiah 32:35).

“He answered, ‘Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female,  and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate’ (Matthew 18:4-6).

There may come a time when our nation, like many others throughout the world, becomes so diametrically opposed to God that we will find ourselves having to choose between obedience to God and obedience to the laws of our country. “But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29). Which candidate will allow Christians to worship freely and openly, to operate their businesses according to their beliefs, to bring their Bibles to their classrooms? In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, the Lord instructs us to pray for our rulers in order that we might “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” If this is truly our request, then doesn’t it follow that we might, in God’s will, vote and act accordingly?

I think there is a difference between endorsing and voting for a candidate. I cannot endorse either of the two major party candidates because I cannot excuse or endorse their behavior; however, I can vote for one of them. I can also vote in every state and local election, and I hope that you will prayerfully join me in doing the same.

No matter what happens, it is important to me that I can look back and know that I did what God called me to do; He is in charge of the rest. Whatever happens on election day and the days that follow, we can praise the Lord for His goodness and be thankful that His will is always done. He is always glorified, whether by godly rulers over a godly people or by unrighteous over a people that have turned their backs on His name and Word. His judgment shows His holiness and power as well. We know that ultimately, the hope of the world cannot rest on any candidate, political party, or government; hope – sure and steadfast hope – can only be found in the One on whose shoulders the government rests. Only when He returns to rule with there be unwavering peace and unfaltering justice. While we wait for Him, may whatever our hands find to do be pleasing in His sight.

“He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)


Jesus Understands

This summer, I studied the book of Mark and learned ever so much more than I could have hoped; the Lord is a good teacher! (That’s just how He works, isn’t it? He always exceeds expectations!) I learned about our mighty and loving God by looking at the way Jesus acted and the words He spoke, never once failing His Father or the people He came to redeem. He saw entire crowds with compassion, feeding them with both bread and truth, shepherding them in love. At the same time, He would go great distances just to find one of His lost and lowly sheep, whether a child, a tax collector, or a beggar. He had the power to perform miracles, yet those disciples who saw Him transfigured on the mountain also watched as He meekly laid down His life to save us while enduring the taunting of those who thought that He could not even save Himself.

Sometimes, as we study the Bible, God teaches us something completely new, and at other times, He gives us a new understanding of something that we’ve already heard. Several of the most important lessons I learned this summer fall into that second category, and I thought that I would share one idea in particular that stood out to me. We spent several weeks looking at the final chapters of Mark, carefully observing the time from the last supper through the resurrection. It was good to slow down and really process the unfolding events. As we looked at all that Jesus endured, I realized, in a new and deeper way, that Jesus understands.

Jesus understands.

I knew that Jesus suffered for me, died on the cross, and rose again. I knew that He lived a sinless life so that by His death He could satisfy the penalty for our sin and by His blood cleanse us from our own deadness to walk in newness of life for all eternity. But there was always a part of me that thought, oh, it must not have been that difficult for Him. He is God, after all. Jesus came to earth, but being born of a virgin without the sinful seed of man, He didn’t have a sin nature. So it was natural for Him to live a perfect life, not once giving into temptation, right? Could He really know what we face? Could He relate to my pain, my bad days, my heartache? Could He truly understand what it’s like for me?

Studying Mark changed my understanding of what it meant for Jesus to be not only fully God, but fully human. It’s a concept we’ll probably never quite grasp. But Jesus was fully human. He inhabited the same sinful and broken world that we do. He experienced what we experience – pain, sadness, loneliness, exhaustion – because He was a real person. He wasn’t some made-up superhero in an imaginary world; He was a real hero who faced trials and overcame them when no one else could stand. “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then His own arm brought Him salvation, and His righteousness upheld Him” (Isaiah 59:16).

Hear some of His words from the night in Gethsemane, when His brutal torture and crucifixion were awaiting Him: ‘And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And He said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.’ And going a little farther, He fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Remove this cup from Me. Yet not what I will, but what You will’” (Mark 14:33-36). Jesus was greatly distressed and troubled. He was sorrowful even to death. Luke’s gospel tells us that He was in such agony that His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground.

It would be impossible for us to do what Jesus did, so perhaps we cannot truly understand how difficult it was.

Jesus, being God, knew what would happen. He had been telling His disciples over and over again what was coming. The Scriptures were being fulfilled. He knew the excruciating pain, the humiliation, and the loneliness that He was facing. He knew what it would be like to become sin for us, to become a curse for us when He hung on that cross. He knew what it would be like to carry on His raw, bleeding shoulders the enormity of every single sin and hurt and sorrow that has ever existed in this world. He knew. And He, being fully human, the Son of Man, did it anyway.

“The Lord God has opened my ear,
and I was not rebellious;
I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who strike,
and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
from disgrace and spitting.
But the Lord God helps me;
therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
and I know that I shall not be put to shame.”
Isaiah 50:5-7

Jesus prayed three times the same words; Jesus, the Son of God, asked that if it were possible, God would relent and spare Him from what was coming. In His humanity, He didn’t want to face the suffering, yet from Jesus we can learn one of the greatest lessons, which is that what we want does not have to become our will. Like our Lord, we can set our face like flint and determine to submit to God, knowing that His purpose for us, even in the midst of trials, is good, and that He is our loving Father. As our Father loves us, so does Jesus. Look how much He loves us! “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end” (John 13:1). In complete unity with the Father, He determined to lay down His life so that He might bring life and light to us, His brothers and sisters through adoption. Mocked, tortured, forsaken by God, through all of these things He loved us and counted it as joy that He would redeem us to Himself.

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.  For surely it is not angels that He helps, but He helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore He had to be made like His brothers in every respect, so that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because He Himself has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb. 2:14-18)

He understands. He is merciful and faithful as He helps us. When we are tempted, He offers guidance and a way of escape, having fled temptation Himself. He can relate to our difficulties and temptations much more than we could ever relate to His. In His infinite wisdom and love, our Lord provided not only for our forgiveness and new life, but for our daily needs; from His own experience He now sustains us through every moment as we await His return. “For it was fitting that He, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the Founder of their salvation perfect through suffering” (Heb. 2:10). Jesus, who Himself sought God’s help, now helps us. He leads us in victory as only a Good Shepherd would, walking before His sheep so that they might follow in safety and peace. He traveled the road before us, and now He travels it with us.

When I face trials, He is my refuge. When I am tempted, He is my wisdom. When I sin, He is my Advocate. When I endure, He is my reward. Day to day, He carries me through life. His grace is not begrudgingly given; His love for me is steadfast. He knows that my troubles are sometimes messy, but He cares for me anyway, and nothing can separate me from His love. He is there to help and build up; would He tear down the ones for whom He gave His life? “But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:3). My concerns are not too trivial, my wounds are not too deep, my problems are not too disgraceful. In my weakness He draws near in strength, because His love transcends all. Nothing is hidden from before Him, and He doesn’t want me to hide – He wants me to run to Him, to draw near and be cleansed and abide in Him. He knows. He cares. He heals.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).


Finding Rest

“As He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?’ And Jesus answered them, ‘See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.’”   Matt. 24:3-12

These days, the world seems to be falling apart all around us. Events that would once have defined the sadness of a generation now grieve us on a daily basis. We weep with those we weep, we mourn and cry out to God. We search for ways to be the hands and feet of the Lord who delights in steadfast love, justice, and righteousness, and who even now practices these things in the earth. As obedient and beloved children, we seek to imitate our heavenly Father, to do the good things He has prepared for us to do, to be the people whom He redeemed to be zealous for good works.

But day after day, week after week, we hear stories that make our hearts sink, and we realize that for each story that threatens to tear apart our souls there are a thousand more we will never see in the headlines. Sometimes it seems to be too much. Who can keep going? Where is there any shelter from the pain so common it grows dull, from the weariness that seeps into our bones, from the fear that leads to restless nights and anxious days?

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30).

In these troubling times, it is the Lord who gives us rest and peace that surpasses all understanding, peace that the world cannot give because it does not know Him.

We live in a world that is terribly, irreparably (from a human standpoint) fallen and broken. If you search for peace, you will not find it. Are you finding it in the news? Do you have faith in something that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt will get you through today? Have you found anyone that can sincerely take away all the fear and sadness of the past, present, and unknown future?

The days to come may look bleak, but even in the storm that never seems to end, there is hope. There is One who created the universe with the mere words of His lips, who by His Word brings good news and a promise of a better future. “But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matt. 24:13-14). There is salvation. There is life that cannot be taken away, that continues even through death. There is an end when all tears and pain will be wiped away and forgotten forever. There is a kingdom where there will be no injustice or deceit, no chaos, hunger, or loneliness, a kingdom where the brightest days on this earth will seem as dark as night in comparison to the light of His countenance shining upon us as we see Him face to face.

This world will not satisfy us; it will not bring us abundant life or peace or comfort. These things can only be found in one place, and that is in the Person who in Himself is the way, the truth, and the life. No human plan or effort will create a lasting remedy for all that is wrong on this earth. To find any hope or solution, we must turn to the God who has overcome all things. He is our stronghold in this life as we sojourn in a world to which we do not belong, and He is preparing a place for us, waiting to receive us into a glory that is far beyond all comparison. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,  who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).

I am, without Christ, a person who struggles with heavy burdens of anxiety. I am prone to worry, stress, and fear. But my Savior is a Good Shepherd who brings peace. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Truly, truly, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear, because He is with me.

You see, my God is a Father who cares for His children. We are helpless infants. We do not and cannot understand His ways – they are higher than ours, and His thoughts are not like ours.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements—surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk,
or who laid its cornerstone,
when the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” ( Job 38:4-7)

Even so, He has told us ahead of time the things that are to come, just enough to get us through without unnecessarily burdening us, as a parent would prepare a young child. “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). He gives us comfort when He tells us these things; He knows what will happen, and even when it is painful and we don’t understand, He is sovereign over all. Completely, 100%, no exceptions. We must trust that He does not afflict from His heart or grieve the children of men. We must trust that His faithfulness is great. We must trust that He does indeed have a plan, a plan that has not failed and that will prevail as He watches over His word to perform it.

These things must come to pass, and though He is patient toward us, He is coming quickly. The disarray crafted by the evil one will only serve to prepare the way for the kingdom of the Son of Man who destroyed Satan’s power long ago; though we do not yet see it, there is nothing outside our Lord’s control. Though we do not know the day or hour, we can be sure that the Messiah who once entered Jerusalem on a donkey, the Jesus who is the Prince of peace, is coming on a white horse, soon proclaiming Himself undeniably as the King of kings. Let us never forget that our Lord Jesus Christ, who died and rose again for our forgiveness, did so not only because He is love, but also because His name is righteousness, and in His own blood He satisfied the need for justice in the sight of a righteous God. He saved us out of His incomparable goodness, a goodness that is not only compassionate but holy, a goodness that is more worthy of worship than we will ever comprehend. As we cannot plumb the depths of the priceless meaning of our salvation, so we cannot perhaps understand what a serious and awful thing it is to rebel, as all have done, against the great I AM.

As throughout the ages, even so today He warns us. He calls those who have not yet come to Him and offers them the chance to be His own children, to plead for forgiveness and escape His wrath that will completely eclipse even the terrible things that are here right now. Our sin drags us down to Sheol, but the Lord lifts us up in grace. He calls us to believe Him and worship Him in faith, knowing that “in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom. 8:24-25). Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe, who have not seen Him and yet love Him. When this world is soon stripped away, only those things rooted and grounded in Him will last.


A Well-Tuned Heart (About)

Jesus is sweeter than life. There is nothing and no one that is His equal. He is freedom, peace, truth, and the longing of our souls, and I’m learning that nothing really seems to matter compared to knowing Him. As Paul said, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:7-8a).

When we place our faith in Jesus, all our sin is washed away, our debt having been nailed to His cross and paid in full. The Lord in His grace and love promises that we are a new creation, reconciled at last to Him. He takes away our heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh, one that is free to beat in sync with His, one that is transformed “to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). A miracle has taken place.

Even so, there is still much to be done. Our Father sees that our hearts, though free, need to be strengthened – tested, refined, and proven. The road is narrow and difficult, but the journey and its end are worth more than gold; only on this path can we learn to truly know His heart, to listen and follow, to keep in step with Him, to glorify His strength in our weakness now sustained. A heart that beats in tune with His own must be a beautiful thing to God, useful to Him who rejoices over us with loud singing. Will my life be in return a song to Him, a melody of worship worthy of the One who knew before the creation of the world that He would someday call me, know me, and hear all that is in my heart? As the hymn says,

“Come, Thou fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.”

And, in another song,

“My soul, bear thou thy part,
Triumph in God above,
And with a well tuned heart
Sing thou the songs of love.
And all my days let no distress
Nor fears suppress His joyful praise.”

My desire is that every day would find my heart more in tune with His, and that by His strength I would boldly sing of His grace with joy, thankfulness, and courage.