10/29/08

No Fear of 'Fright Night'

I’ve never loved horror films. Whether it’s Fright Night, Amityville Horror, Night of the Living Dead, or any other classic horror flick, I don’t watch them. I figure, there’s enough terror and evil in this world without filling my mind with media versions. Unfortunately, our culture is deluged with a horror focus during this time of year. Halloween gives television and movie houses an excuse to indulge in horror and fear.

I am so thankful that, as a Christian, I don’t need to dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8 gives me focal points for my mind: things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. (Not much room for “horror” there.) Verse nine says that if I will focus on these things, the God of peace will surround me with a sense of His presence. I prefer that to thoughts of “horror” any day!

Halloween is a good time to discuss fear with children, whether you participate in holiday events or not. Christian children need to be firmly grounded in the love of God, and understand Jesus’ power over evil. (See Matthew 4:1-11 - a good story to share with children at this time). Children who do not know Him need to understand that the forces of evil are not going to win. Halloween is a powerful opportunity to share the truth about God and Satan. One of the best choices you can make at this season is to turn children’s eyes upon Jesus. Help them look “full in His wonderful face,” and away from the fears of “Fright Night.” Overcome evil with good (Luke 14:31).

10/22/08

How to Choose a President--It's Tough!

This is going to be longer than usual, but it’s a crucial topic for the days ahead. Please read prayerfully.

Are Christians ever supposed to choose “the lesser of two evils” (or as some would say, the “better of two evils”)? The simple answer is, “No.” Spurgeon said (though the quote has also been attributed to Luther and Chesterton): “When faced with the choice of two evils, choose neither!”

This gets sticky in light of the political season. A lady recently asked me that question in regard to candidates and elections. As you know, politics is difficult, and often a “dirty” business. We have to remember that in November we’re choosing the better of two candidates, not the better of two evils. (Why do we not phrase it, “choosing the greater good”?) Someone will indeed get elected, and God wants us to choose wisely.

Politicians often say what people want to hear, and their pronouncements sometimes don’t match up with who they are or what they believe. We have to study candidates’ words and actions. I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but I will say this: Before you make any political choice, pray! Ask God for wisdom. And while you’re praying, pray for candidates who will guard the landmarks of Christian heritage in America (Proverbs 22:28).

Also, consider these points:

(1) Be a realist. In regard to politics, understand that there are no perfect candidates. Even the best rulers have flaws and personal agendas. A vote is not a blank check—we won’t agree with every choice a candidate or president makes. King David (though not elected by man’s vote) was a man after God’s own heart (I Sam. 13:13-14), but he was not a perfect ruler. We’re not to trust in men; we’re to trust God (Ps. 118:8). Ultimately, God is in control of the affairs of men, and the heart of the king is in His hands (Prov. 21:1). Note: God can even use the ungodly to accomplish His will, as happened with Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, who God used to protect Daniel and his Jewish friends.

(2) Be biblical. Determine for yourself where the candidates stand. In your examination of candidates’ positions, ask whether biblical truth is being violated, or if there is simply a difference of opinion.

(3) Be practical. Determine whether you can “live with” a candidate’s personal or political platforms, in order that another candidate with worse priorities does not win office.

(4) Be determined. Please don’t stay home from the elections. Treasure your vote, and use it—even if you cannot in good conscience vote for every position on the ballot. Millions worldwide would die to vote like we can in America. Many in America have died to ensure your continuing privilege to vote.

(5) Be selective. As an American, select someone who will strictly uphold the Constitution—someone who won’t waffle on what America stands for or “sell” America down the river. Just because a person calls himself or herself “Christian,” that may not equate to competent leadership. Go beyond surface “labels” or media puffing and critiquing. Look for leadership, experience, and courage.

(6) Be discerning. As a Christian, vote for worthy candidates who will be standard-bearers in philosophy and practice—as much as is possible in the political realm—for biblical principles. Look for character, wisdom, and clear examples of godliness.

(7) Be persistent. Stay involved in the process. When the election is over, your voice still counts. Letters and phone calls to members of Congress or the Senate regarding various issues carry tremendous weight.

Some of these points may seem contradictory, but as I said, politics can get sticky. Ultimately, it’s a matter of your conscience, guided by the Word of God, trying to decide what is best for our country.

In post-modern America, we’re probably not going to get perfect biblical candidates—though we can pray for that!—but we must choose the best candidates we can. Pray before you choose, and then sandwich your choice with more prayer after the election! Regardless of who wins in November, we’re headed down some rocky paths and our trust must truly remain in God.

10/15/08

Reasons, Not Excuses

There really is no personal growth or progress until we stop making excuses for bad behavior, bad habits, and wrong choices.

As a young pastor’s wife, I remember counseling a woman and hearing her litany of excuses. Finally, when I could take no more, I lovingly but firmly said, “Those are all reasons—maybe even valid reasons—for you to feel the way you do, but they are not excuses for your behavior, because you have the living Holy Spirit dwelling in you, and He can empower you to do what is right.” The woman seemed stunned. She stopped talking, blinked at me a few times, and said, “You know, you’re absolutely right. They are reasons, not excuses.”

Now that kind of counsel is easy to give, but hard to follow. I’ve struggled in my own life with a list of excuses—and God’s Spirit kindly returns the counsel that I’ve given to others. When it comes to making wise, biblical choices, there is never a place for excuses after the fact. We simply chose not to do what we knew was right. We may have been motivated by lies. We may have had ulterior motives. We may have chosen to fear man rather than God. We may have lacked faith at that moment, or hope. We may have given in to our emotions rather than living by the truth of scripture. There can be hundreds of reasons for wrong choices.

God wants us to own up to our wrong choices. Some are sins that need to be confessed in true repentance (I John 1:8-9). Other choices are simply not wise—not necessarily sin, but not the best (Proverbs 1:7). We can’t move on to make better choices when we cling to excuses and try to justify our words or behavior. Listen to your conversations. Are you making excuses? (See Proverbs 16:2, 25; 21:2). God wants us to acknowledge wrong, sinful, or unwise choices, and not allow the Enemy to convince us that we have no other choice. God help us to counsel our hearts according to His unchanging Word (Proverbs 1:5).

10/8/08

Choose God

Dr. James MacDonald is a man after my own heart. Let me rephrase that. He is a man after God’s own heart, but I sure like what he says! In his new book, 10 Choices: A Proven Plan to Change Your Life Forever (Thomas Nelson, 2008), MacDonald deals with five areas of choice—our identity choices, authority choices, capacity choices, priority choices, and destiny choices. With the heart of a pastor and the skill of a wise counselor, he leads readers to examine their choices in the light of God’s Word, and challenges them to stand for truth.

My favorite part of the book is on page 5, where MacDonald says, “Let’s go for the summa cum laude of choices, the absolute, mind bending, life altering choice (drum roll, please): Choose God.” That’s where it all begins and ends. Life is all about Him. It originated in Him. It’s to be lived for Him.

No matter my dreams or goals—no matter my agenda—every aspiration must bow to His purposes. My passion is to make wise, biblical choices and to help others do so, too, but without God stirring in my heart, I’d have no desire to choose Him or choose to live for Him. That humbles me. It fills my heart with gratitude.

God chose me (John 15:16). And I choose Him.

10/1/08

Feminism vs. Biblical Femininity


I am thankful for and admire The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which stands for biblical truth concerning gender. It’s not easy to stand for biblical roles in a society where radical feminism and even “soft feminism” have dominated the culture for so long.

In a complementary vein, thousands of women from across the country will meet in Chicago, October 9-11, to seek God for two things: revival in our nation and a return to the biblical standard of womanhood. America has surely experienced fallout, to one degree or another, from the feminist agenda of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and even recent years. The women at True Woman ‘08 will pray for a spiritual revolution among their Christian sisters that will affect their homes, churches, and ultimately, the heartbeat of America.

Nancy DeMoss of Revive Our Hearts Ministries has long called for a counter-cultural movement among women that would return them to biblical thinking regarding their God-given gender and roles. At True Woman ’08, she and others—Pastor John Piper, Joni Eareckson Tada, Mary Kassian, Janet Parshall, Fern Nichols, and Karen Loritts—will explore what God is saying to this generation of women, and especially, Christian women.

I am thankful for the calling of God on my life as a woman. I am grateful that God gifted me uniquely and has a purpose for my life. I grieve for women I encounter every day who have not understood the uniqueness of their feminine identity—women who do not understand how—in their distinctive role and function—they are an image-bearer of the Creator. Rather than feminism, I am called to biblical femininity. It is a powerful choice to embrace God’s design.

Join me in praying for these women in Chicago as they consider the call of God on their lives, and how God might send them out as messengers of truth in the days ahead.