Voting from a Place of Hope: A Christian Perspective on the 2020 Presidential Election

As I write this post, it is 2:00 am. I really was not wanting to get up and write, but I could just sense the Holy Spirit tugging on my heart and mind to get up and write, so here I am. The thoughts this morning that are on my heart and mind are about hope. What our hope is in. Where we put our hope, and how that affects how we respond to life. How that either makes us fearful, angry, frustrated, joyful, or peaceful.

The topic of hope is pertinent for in just a week’s time the 2020 Presidential election will be upon us. For some of us this brings about excitement. Excitement that there is a new candidate to replace the current. Excitement that injustices can be addressed, that new ideas can be put in place, and that long time wrongs can be made right.

Others of us are fearful. Fearing the change in the status quo, fearing the possibility of changes to our rights, freedoms, and finances and fearing the party itself that may put itself squarely in power in Washington. I can understand both sides, the fear and the excitement, because I’ve heard them both loud and clear from my friends and family over the past few months and I myself feel these same emotions.

Yet, if we are in Christ, though we may feel fear, excitement, or both, our hope remains unchanged. Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and the American Government is not our Savior. Jesus Christ is, and within Him lies our constant hope.

As I lay in bed, unable to sleep, a verse came to mind in regards to hope.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21).

Now you may be asking yourself, what does this verse have to do with hope? I’m glad you asked. It took me some examining to make the connection as well.

To summarize what Matthew is saying here is that our heart is drawn to what we esteem as valuable. And that what we esteem as valuable is what we will focus our time, energy, effort, and resources towards. In essence, what we treasure is at the center of our hearts, and our hearts reveal our treasures.

For instance, if a man treasures his family above all, then he will make time for them, spend time with them, protect them, provide for them, and neglect other things to be with them. If a woman’s treasure is her career then she will spend long hours at the office. She will do whatever she can to keep or get ahead in her career. And to be clear, to treasure something, to find value in it, is not a bad thing.

These are just a couple examples of what treasures we can hold within the center of our hearts, and how these treasures can dictate our actions, choices we make to move towards one thing, while neglecting or negating other things. The list of treasures can be quite expansive and subjective.

So we know what treasures are. We know what they do for us. But have we ever asked the why question in regards to treasures?

Why does one person esteem family over finances while another esteems finances over family? Why does someone treasure something?

And this is the connection. Hope. We treasure certain things because our hope is connected to them.

When we treasure something, it’s because we hope in that thing. We treasure security because we believe that it provides us with the hope of control. We treasure family because we believe that it provides us with the hope of love and connection. We treasure finances because we believe that it provides us with the hope of options, freedom, security, and happiness. We treasure alcohol, narcotics, sexual activity because we believe it can give us pleasure, as well as an escape from the pain, even just momentarily, and provide us with a numbing agent. We treasure success because we believe that if we’re successful we can control others perception of us. These are all generalizations, and I understand that, but each one of us, has something that we hope in, and that thing that we hope in is at the very center of everything that we do or say whether we realize it or not.

Are all hopes created equal? No. Do all the things that we hope in deliver on their promises? No. It’s important for us to not only recognize what we esteem, value, and hope in, but it is also equally important to recognize that all hopes outside of Jesus Christ fall short. They do. Why? Because they weren’t created to be our one and only hope. Jesus was meant to be from the beginning, and He came to earth to show us that very thing.

We see this in the Bible over and over again. Jesus encountering people looking for hope in so many different areas, and Jesus intentionally crossed paths with them, to show them that He was the one who they could truly put their hope in. From the Samaritan woman at the well, to the woman caught in adultery, to the blind man, to the man possessed by a legion of demons. He proclaimed that He was the one and only hope that was not an empty well run dry. That He indeed was hope in human form.

“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:16-21).

So I ask you today where is your hope? Is it Jesus, or somewhere else?

Is He your treasure? Is He your hope?

I ask all these questions because I believe that where you put your hope will dictate not only how you vote, but it will also dictate your response to the results of this election. Because it will affect the thing that you treasure in, hope in, either in a positive or negative way.

But if your hope is in Jesus, then your hope, your treasure cannot be moved. It cannot be swayed. By a Presidential Election. By the possible losing of rights and freedoms. It cannot be swayed by policy changes, and raising or lowering of wages. It cannot be taken from you in the loss of your job, the relapse to an addiction. It cannot be swept away by a flood or the quaking of the ground.

“For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you” (Isaiah 54:10).

So get out and vote if you haven’t already, but vote, not out of fear, not listening to the fear mongering going on either side, vote with your hope in mind. Vote with Jesus in mind. Vote knowing that Jesus has you regardless of what physically happens in the world. Vote in confidence knowing that no matter what, your hope is constant, in God, who is constant and unchanging.

Blessings.

Learning how to win: How Defeat prepares us for Victory

Defeat. In life, it’s something we experience. We fall. We make mistakes. And many times we make them over and over again before we even begin to make progress in whatever area of our life that we are trying to gain traction. Defeat is tough, but many times, within defeat, there are the keys to our next victory. In defeat, we can either choose to get better, learn, grow, or we can stay bitter and believe that we just can’t win. Victory is not only something that is earned, it is also something that is learned. We may have to fall many times, before we finally learn how to truly take hold of the victory in life that Christ has already won for us by His death and resurrection.

I am an Atlanta Sports fan, and with that has come many, many gut wrenching moments. We play well in the regular season, and at times in the playoffs, but in the most important moments, we choke. We give up the lead. We collapse. For example, the Falcons losing to the Patriots in the Super Bowl after being up 28-3. And then again last night, the Dodgers storming back from a 3-1 series deficit to force a Game 7, and eeking out a 4-3 hard fought win to advance to the World Series.

While most will focus on the collapse of the Braves, maybe there should be more focus given to the Dodgers. They’ve endured just as much heart break as the Braves. The past four postseasons, the Dodgers have lost two World Series. They’ve lost in the NLCS. And they’ve lost in the NLDS. The Braves, just won their first postseason series in the past 11 tries, and they even made it to the NLCS for the first time since 2001. Those are big accomplishments. The Braves are just experiencing what it’s like to win big games. The Dodgers have been there and done that.

And now the Dodgers get a third crack at the World Series for the third time in five years. Whether they win it or not, we’ll find out soon. But they have experienced the heart break of defeat. You have to think that all that experience losing has got to count for something in this season’s World Series. But we will see.

Anyways, what does the Braves collapsing, and the Dodgers winning have to do with anything? Well, I’m glad you asked. In life, just like in sports, there is victory and defeat. We all wish that our current circumstances and hardships would just go away in an instant. We pray for instant healing and instant victory, but many times that is not how it works. In life, just like in sports, we have to many times fall before we learn how to stand. At first, just like a newborn, we crawl, because we don’t have the strength to stand. And then we begin to get the strength to stand. But with that strength, comes the risk that we take to stand, even though we may fall. And then when we stand we may totter and wobble about and then fall again, but then we have to get back up. The more though that we totter and wobble along, eventually we will gain the balance to truly walk. And then after learning how to walk, and gaining the confidence to walk, then we begin to jog, and then from jogging to running, and then from running to sprinting.

While victory is a point A to point B destination, the route is never that simple. Victory is a process. Defeat is inevitable, yet it’s how we respond to those defeats, that will determine if we stay bitter in our falling, or if we get better. If we decide to stay bitter, and continue the narrative that we just can’t get over the hump, then we will stay in our anger, frustrations, depressions, and disappointments and never achieve the plans that God has for us. Instead though if we choose to feel the pain of the falls, learn from our mistakes and sins, and grow, we can get better. We can learn how to claim the victory that has already been won for us in Jesus.

How will you respond to your defeats?

Will you stay in your bitterness? Unbelief? Sin?

Or will you look closely, examine, pray, learn, grow, and begin to get better?

Will you learn to crawl? And risk it all to stand? To walk? To jog? To run? To sprint?

The choice is yours.

“For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity” (Proverbs 24:16).

Right now, I’m still in the process of learning how to stand holistically in Christ. I’m still kind of tottering and wobbling about, but I know each and every day that I’m learning from my past defeats, and failures. I’m learning how to stand firm in Christ, and that in Him is where my hope, joy, peace, and strength is found. I’m learning to let others in. I’m learning how to be held accountable. I’m learning how to endure. And I’m growing.

Each day, I take a step, trusting that God has got me, trusting that He is teaching me how endure the pain, to lean on Him, to not try to do it on my own. Each day, I become more balanced, I gain more strength, and I am beginning to walk with just a little less wobble, and more clarity, and more strength. And you can too.

Picture taken from: https://www.talkingchop.com/2020/10/18/21521758/2020-mlb-playoffs-nlcs-game-7-braves-vs-dodgers-final-score

Blessings.

Returning Home: The Restoration of Exiles

It is easy in life when we fall down, to not get back up. Maybe we have fallen once or hundreds of times, but each time we fall, it costs us something. Maybe it’s the falling to an addiction in the recovery process. Maybe it’s the failing in a job, or a personal disappointment. The struggles we face in a marriage, or a broken relationship with a family member, and it’s easy to get discouraged. To accept defeat. To see the mountain ahead of us and to throw in the towel. To say to ourselves, to others, and to God, “I have tried to climb this mountain before. I have tried to change. But I just cannot.” I’m thankful though that God, in His ever present love towards us, knows the end of the story. He is bringing us back to the places where we have been pushed out of, and the victory He promised is coming.

Imagine you are the nation of Israel is 598 BCE, and you are invaded by Babylon. Your city is destroyed. Your temple is destroyed. Your officials are taken captive, and maybe you or your family are taken captive, or at best escaped, but dispersed into Egypt and the surrounding areas (http://otl.unitingchurch.org.au/index.php?page=jeremiah-31-27-34).

What would you be feeling?

Anger? Confusion? Sadness? Loneliness?

I would have so many questions for the Lord.

“God, I thought we were your chosen people, and now we’re gonna spend 70 years in exile and captivity? I don’t get it. I thought you were for us, and not against us.”

Imagine now for the next 70 years you are prisoners of Babylon, or that you have been dispersed, and you are living apart from your family, or loved ones. Living in a place that you have never known. With people you have never known. Displaced. Dispersed.

How would you be feeling?

I can imagine that it would have been extremely, extremely difficult. To go from life as normal, in a place that you have lived most of your life, to all of sudden being uprooted and living in a foreign land. I can imagine there was a lot of frustration and sadness. A lot of fear. But most importantly, I would feel as though God had forgotten me and my loved ones.

Just a few chapters earlier we have the famous Jeremiah 29:10-11 verses where Jeremiah says “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Now I cannot even imagine being in captivity or in dispersion for 70 years, but I do know that I’m forgetful. And impatient. And easily frustrated and angered. I’m sure for some period of time, the Israelites remembered the promise, even though it came on the end of a statement of suffering, but I’m sure they forgot. Or gave up. Or became indifferent to this promise. And eventually settled for the fact that this was their life now. Their life in captivity. Their life in dispersion. Their unordinary life became ordinary. Their shackles became the norm. Their loss of freedom became just another day.

Like many of us that is the case. I know that has been the case for me. We have become comfortable in our misery. It is not worth it in our minds to recover, to heal, to get the help we need. We live in defeat, because we truly do not trust God at His Word that their is victory for us out there, because either we have tried and tried and tried and failed over and over again, or because the victory has not come in our timing. So we concede to the mundane jobs, the normal schedules, the same sins, and we live comfortable lives that our ultimately full of misery.

That’s why Jeremiah 31 is so good. God is coming for His people just like He promised, and He will make all things right. Read with me.

“At that time, declares the Lord, I will be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be my people. ”Thus says the Lord:
“The people who survived the sword
found grace in the wilderness;
when Israel sought for rest,
the Lord appeared to him from far away.
I have loved you with an everlasting love;
therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built,
O virgin Israel!
Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines
and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.
Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria;
the planters shall plant
and shall enjoy the fruit.
For there shall be a day when watchmen will call
in the hill country of Ephraim:
‘Arise, and let us go up to Zion,
to the Lord our God.’”For thus says the Lord:
“Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,
and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;
proclaim, give praise, and say,
‘O Lord, save your people,
the remnant of Israel.’
Behold, I will bring them from the north country
and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,
among them the blind and the lame,
the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together;
a great company, they shall return here.
With weeping they shall come,
and with pleas for mercy I will lead them back,
I will make them walk by brooks of water,
in a straight path in which they shall not stumble,
for I am a father to Israel,
and Ephraim is my firstborn.“Hear the word of the Lord, O nations,
and declare it in the coastlands far away;
say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,
and will keep him as a shepherd keeps his flock.’
For the Lord has ransomed Jacob
and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.
They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion,
and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the Lord,
over the grain, the wine, and the oil,
and over the young of the flock and the herd;
their life shall be like a watered garden,
and they shall languish no more.
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
and the young men and the old shall be merry.
I will turn their mourning into joy;
I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.
I will feast the soul of the priests with abundance,
and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness,
declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:1-14).

I encourage to read to read the rest of the passage because there is so much more good stuff here. Also, there is not enough room to unpack all of what these verses say in this blog, but I do want to point out a few things.

I. “When Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away” (vs 2).

It was when Israel finally got to the place of being tired of being stuck where they were, that they recognized that it was God and God alone who could save them from their life of just surviving to a life of thriving. And the Lord heard their cry, and brought them out. True rest only comes when we seek it from the Lord. True rest only comes when we see God as our one and only option for true rest and peace. The people of Israel got to that place, and the Lord delivered them from their captivity. Are you tired of living in comfortable misery? Are you tired of going to the same well looking for water only to find that it is dry? Jesus says come to me all you who are weary and I will give you rest. If you are tired of the norm that is life sucking and debilitating, look to Jesus, the author of true rest. In Him, you will find all that you need.

II. “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (vs. 3).

Even in the midst of captivity, God continued to love His people. He had not given up on them, nor forsaken them. The years of captivity and dispersion were meant to once again draw God’s people to Him. In our case, God continues to love us even in the midst of our own self made captivities. When we choose other things over Him, He loves us, even though His heart breaks for us choosing those things which are not Him. Yet, He is faithful, and will continue to be faithful to us. Will you recognize His faithfulness and continuous love towards you even in spite of your own failings and sins? He’s waiting for you to once again return to Him. He has never left.

III. Again (verses 4-5).

God keeps his promise to Israel. I will restore you He says. “Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O Virgin Israel! Again you shall adorn yourselves with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria.” I love this. God keeps His promises. Even though He promised 70 years of captivity in Babylon, He also promised restoration, good plans, prospering. Israel would return to their land. They would rebuild their city, temple, and their lives, and their joy, and their hope, and their love, would all return. Again says the Lord. I’m not finished with you yet. The Lord says the same to us. I have victory in your future. Victory that you can’t even imagine. Yes, it will be a lot of hard work, but as we see here, God is committed to the rebuilding process of our lives. Will we join Him in this? Will we not see the wreckage in our life as defeat, but an opportunity for God to rebuild us stronger. May we join Him in what He has promised to do in our lives if we will only submit.

IV. “Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the pregnant woman and she who is in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here” (vs. 8).

Another example of God keeping his promises. He will go and gather Israel from all the places they have been scattered. From jail cells, to market places, to street corners, to hospitals, and not just the people that we think are worthy of being returned to restoration. The blind, the lame, the pregnant woman who is in labor. People who didn’t have much to offer in the rebuild and God says I’m coming for you. We’re going back home, and we’re going to rebuild. Wherever you are at today, however far away from home you have run, God is saying come home. Whatever you have done, whatever you have lost, whatever you feel like have to offer, God is saying to you and to me, come home. Come rebuild. Come experience victory. You’re never too far gone. You’ll never have done too much to come home to Him. And He is not done with you until you breathe your last. So come home.

V. “For the Lord has ransomed Jacob and has redeemed him from hands too strong for Him” (vs. 11).

Israel had no power in and of themselves to rescue or ransom themselves from captivity. The good news? God did. He made it clear to the nations, I’m coming for my people, and there is nothing you can do that can get in my way. Yes, the hands of the nation of the Babylonians were too strong for Israel, we see that in their capture and continued captivity. But Babylon was no match for God. He, like He promised, came and got His people. And He will do the same for us, if we would only ask. I get it. I know that what many of us face is too hard for us. That we don’t have the strength or energy or clarity to overcome what we are currently facing. Good news? God does. He is Omnipotent and nothing, nothing will stand in the way of what He has for us, not even ourselves. Recognize that your power comes from Him, and stay humble. Move forward with the recognition that in the coming days and weeks, things may be hard, but that God is well able to lead and guide you through to the promised land.

VI. “I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow” (vs. 13).

Not only does God restore the people of Israel to their homes, and to their lives, but he also restores their hearts, minds, and spirits. Their mourning would be turned to joy. Their loneliness and frustrations would be comforted. Their sorrow would be replaced with gladness. And He promises to do the same for us. To make us whole people who are filled with joy, freedom, peace. He promises to meet us in our hurts, disappointments, losses, and frustrations. He will be our comforter. He will lead and guide us not only physically to new places, but to new hearts, that are no longer captive to our feelings, our own desires, and instead, day by day, are being molded more into a heart that looks and acts like His.

VII. “My people will be satisfied by my goodness, declares the Lord” (vs. 14).

Of all the places that the Israelites had turned (idols, earthly leaders, sexual pleasures) all of these things had led them to destruction. The satisfaction that the people of Israel were looking for was found in the goodness of God, and so it is with us. We spend so much of our lives chasing after these things of this world, hoping that one day, it will get to a point where it will finally be enough. Enough sex, money, pleasure, entertainment, a good enough spouse, good enough kids, but God this whole time is saying to us, satisfaction is not found in all these earthly pleasures and treasures but in His very personhood and goodness. I pray that we would stop chasing after that which will not fulfill us, instead turning to the One who by His very nature is the One who can truly give us what we are truly seeking.

I know that was a lot, but I pray that you were encouraged today. I pray that you will know that God loves you with an everlasting, unfailing love, and that all He wants you to do is to come home. He’s waiting for you, and at the same time, pursuing your heart even as I write these words.

Blessings.

God has not Given Us a Spirit of Fear

In today’s culture and climate, fear reigns supreme. Fear was already an issue before Covid 19, the rearing of the head of racial injustice, and this divisive political time period, but these things have just exacerbated our fears.

We fear the loss of our jobs in a turbulent job market. We fear the upcoming presidential election and what will happen in the next four years. We fear Covid, and the potential to sicken ourselves and our loved ones. Fear, fear, fear. It’s pervasive, and you see it on every news network, and in the speech of our politicians and leaders.

BUT God is not the author of fear. Even though there is much uncertainty going on in this time of complete chaos in our culture and world, we do not have to fear, for God still sits on His thrown unchanged. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful that He has not given us a Spirit of fear.

_______________________________________________________________________________

I’ve recently been attempting to recover from a stronghold in my life. And it’s been tough. I’m worn out, drained, frustrated, and accompanying all that has been a lot of fear. I have gotten to the point where I usually get to, and it feels like the temptations are just breathing down my neck. Like how much longer can I hold on and live in obedience.

This morning I woke up still in this fearful state, and I went to the Lord in prayer, and he brought this verse to mind, and it really helped change my perspective on things.

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self control” (2 Timothy 1:7).

What this verse helped me recognize that even though fear is present in our lives naturally when hard things come, that fear does not have to control us. Fear is not from God, nor does he give us a Spirit of fear if we are His. Instead the Spirit that He has given us is a Spirit that is characterized by love, power, and self control.

The Apostle Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:3-4 “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”

God has not only given us a Spirit that is characterized not by fear, but love, power, and self control, but He has also given us everything that we need to live a godly life. This should be an encouragement to us.

Today, whether you are like me, and facing the uphill battle of overcoming a stronghold, or whether you are dealing with the effects of the global pandemic, or anxiety over the decision of who to cast your vote for, or the pain of racial injustice, I pray that you would look to God, and look to Him as not the author of fear, but the author of peace, reconciliation, joy, love, and self control. That in these moments of fear, that you would look to Him, and see that He has got you, even when it feels like you are just free falling off a 150 foot cliff into a abyss that leads to nowhere.

I pray that you would know that God has a great plan for your life, and even though that life is not devoid of pain and suffering, that on the other side there is joy and freedom and peace, and that He will get you there. Your victory is coming.

So today, don’t let your pervasive fear of whatever you are experiencing in this life dictate how you live your life. Look upward. See the Father sitting on the throne, in control. See Jesus, seated at the right hand of the Father, who has interceded for us through the cross, and is continually interceding for us on our behalf. See the Holy Spirit giving us the strength to believe, convicting, encouraging, and bringing about change in our innermost parts.

In a world that is filled with pervasive fear, strife, anger, frustration, and division, we don’t have to have fear. We can have power. Love. And self control. And we can live lives that show that we will not be tossed about by every passing wind and storm, for our God is control, and He never changes.

Here’s a great song by Lauren Daigle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBzg4B3_yS8&list=RDVBzg4B3_yS8&start_radio=1

Blessings.