Leadership Posts

Who Am I Going to Vote for to Be President?

Print

When considering all of human history, having the opportunity to vote is a rare privilege. Many of the world’s population today, and most of it historically, had no say in who would be their national leader. To vote at all is a special gift God has allowed us to take part in.

Understanding that, I am concerned when I hear people, many who I know and respect, say they are just not going to vote. This seems to be at best ignoring or at worst a thumbing of the nose at God’s blessing and gift to choose through a vote.

People often complain they don’t like or agree with any of the candidates. Welcome to a cursed and fallen world. Will there ever be candidates I “totally” agree with or trust? No. There is only one person I could totally agree with and trust: God. I could list GOD on my ballot as a write-in candidate, but I really don’t believe a majority of the country will write in GOD as their candidate of choice. Or anyone else we could write in for that matter.

Elections are just that: elections, not “statements.” Write-in candidate votes are usually statements, not votes. They are statements of wishful thinking, not related to reality. They are the equivalent of not voting at all – which is a vote. A vote for letting others choose the president for me.

I hear a great deal about people not liking the morals or language or character of candidates. I agree these are definite considerations. But how do I know the morals, language and character of any of the candidates off camera? I don’t. I would prefer to have a president who is above reproach in morals, language and character. I would prefer that their stance on every issue aligned with the Bible, that they would value what God values. But I also know God can use totally immoral and unethical leaders (such as Nebuchadnezzar and Nero) to accomplish His purposes.

I want to vote for a potential president who will do their part and work hard to perpetuate the freedoms of our country – so the gospel is freer to be communicated. And someone who will protect our security as a nation from those, both within and outside our country, who would seek to destroy our freedoms – so the gospel is freer to be communicated.

I plan to vote for a person who will make the best president of the United States. Not a teacher for my children. Not a pastor or elder in my church. To do so, I can’t live in a dream world that I wish were true, but in the world as it is: fallen and full of evil. According to the biblical text, I am a visitor, an alien and stranger in this world. It is not my home. But I happen to live in a country that gives me, along with every citizen, the privilege to vote for the leader of this country.

I plan to vote, and not stick my head in the sand. I plan to vote in a way that will make the most difference possible, and not ignore my God-given opportunity to make a small difference for the future spread of the gospel.

If You’re Going to Fight…

fight

Richard C. Halverson was the Senior Pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda, Maryland from 1958-1981. He served as the Chaplain of the United States Senate from February 2, 1981 until December 31, 1994.

One of my favorite quotes from this great man of God is, “If you’re going to fight…” I share this with you hoping it will challenge and encourage you as it does me.

If you’re going to fight…

Fight for the relationship – not against it!
Fight for reconciliation – not for alienation.
Fight to preserve the friendship – not to destroy it.
Fight to win your spouse – not to lose him/her.
Fight to save your marriage – not to cash it in.
Fight to solve the problem – not to salve your ego!

If you’re going to fight, fight to win…not to lose!

Lasting relationships are not negotiated…they are forged. That means heat and pressure. It is commitment to a relationship which sustains it…not pleasant feelings.

Treat a relationship as negotiable – it is easily lost.
Consider it non-negotiable – a way is found to make it work.

Authentic intimacy comes only through struggle.

How often in our marriages do we start thinking of and treating our spouse like our enemy rather than our partner for life? The way we communicate and treat each other can easily devolve into trying to win a battle. But consider, every time I win a battle with my wife, that makes her a loser. And in the end, that makes our marriage lose. We are going to fight sometimes. But what I am reminded of by Richard Halverson is that we ought to fight in a way that makes our marriage a win not a loss.

So, if you’re going to fight, fight to win…not to lose!

Biblical Families: Discipline

Discipline is not about controlling children. Rick and Judy explain the point ofdiscipline is teaching children the purpose, value and habit of self-discipline. It’s about helping them explore life while allowing appropriate freedoms so they learn to make their own decisions and become responsible adults.

Biblical Families: Headship

Headship from The Well Community Church on Vimeo.

God designed men and women differently. So what roles should a husband and wife have in a marriage? Rick and Judy talk about what the Bible says a husband’s role of headship really means and how that looks in a healthy marriage.

 

David’s Mighty Men: Uriah, the Overlooked Warrior

When David gives his tribute to his mighty men in 2 Samuel 23, many of these warriors are expounded on and their accomplishments listed. Not so with the last few. And the very last mighty man listed, by name only, is Uriah. Uriah’s name is mentioned in the historical biblical text more than most of the mighty men, though most of those mentions are simply as the husband of Bathsheba.

We see the character of Uriah on display in 2 Samuel 11. He is a warrior engaged in battle with his band of brothers, while King David stayed at home in the convenience of his palace. While Uriah is living in the fields of battle and fighting the enemy daily, King David takes a stroll out on his palace balcony one evening and sees Uriah’s wife bathing on her roof below the palace. He calls for her and sleeps with her. Weeks later he finds out she’s pregnant. It can’t be Uriah’s baby because he has been out to war the whole time.

So David sends for Uriah to come home from the battle under the guise of getting a report from the frontlines. After their brief update of the war, David tells Uriah to spend the night before going back to the battle. He says Uriah should enjoy the break from the war and go home, eat, drink and get a good night’s sleep in his own bed – with Bathsheba, his wife. David assumed that a man like Uriah would jump at the chance to spend the night in comfort and be able to spend a romantic night with his wife he hadn’t seen for many weeks.

But Uriah’s response catches David off guard: “‘The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing’” (2 Samuel 11:11, NASB). So in response to Uriah’s profound integrity, David ups his game of deception.

David tells Uriah to stay another day and gets him drunk that evening, thinking maybe the drink would dull his sense of duty and rightness, like many men. But to his dismay, Uriah once again spends the night just outside with David’s servants. Instead of being amazed and respectful of Uriah’s integrity, David sends him back to the frontlines with a note for General Joab. The note essentially tells Joab to put Uriah in a position where he would be killed in battle. So Joab, also a mighty man but of less character than Uriah, does just that, and Uriah is killed in the next battle.

After Bathsheba finishes mourning for the loss of her warrior husband, Uriah, David takes her for one of his several wives. Uriah is gone and forgotten. But not by God.

In 1 Kings 15:5 we see this tribute to David: “David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” (NASB). God saw David’s treatment of Uriah, having an affair with his wife and then killing Uriah to cover up his affair as the one black mark on David’s life.

Uriah may be overlooked and forgotten by mankind. He has never been a big name in the Bible. He is almost never looked at as a hero or man of valor. But God made it clear that his warrior integrity will be memorialized. Even in the face of every major temptation to the contrary put forth by David, in God’s estimation, Uriah was a determined man of nobility, character, integrity, purity of heart and unwavering principle.

If you have ever felt like nobody knows or cares about what you have faced with integrity, just remember, even though you and your character may be overlooked and undervalued by those around you, God sees and remembers – for eternity.

David’s Mighty Men: Benaiah and His SEAL Team Six

One of my favorite passages in the Bible is one short sentence that paints a powerful image:

He also went down and killed a lion in the middle of a pit on a snowy day. – 2 Samuel 23:20 (NASB)

Take a brief pause after each phrase as you read it to get the full picture: “He also went down…and killed a lion…in the middle of a pit…on a snowy day.”

With each phrase, the seemingly impossible gets even more impossible. This man deliberately jumped down into a pit with a lion that had accidentally fallen in. To slay a lion in hand-to-paw combat is a remote rarity in itself. But to slay a lion in a pit, where there is no retreat, no place to hide and no escape, it was hand to paw to the death for either man or beast. And to top things off it was a damp, snowy day. It was cold outside and it was hard for the man to get good footing in that pit, unlike the lion that had claws it could use. The lion had every advantage, but it lost.

These are some of King David’s last written words, and he was not speaking of himself. He was speaking of one of his 37 mighty men, Benaiah. This young warrior was a brute force to be reckoned with for sure, and David chose this single-sentence story to describe what a force Benaiah really was.

As we study the Scriptures, we find other things out about this man Benaiah and some of his accomplishments. For instance, we first run into Benaiah in 2 Samuel 8:18: “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites…” (NASB). The Cherethites and Pelethites were from the warrior clans of the fierce Philistines.

Long before being made king, David had attracted these warriors from his days of fleeing and living in Philistia. These were not part of his mighty men, his band of brothers. They were a force unto themselves and served as David’s bodyguards, the ones closest to him in battle. Sometimes they were sent on secret missions to deal with an enemy. As we see their function throughout David’s life, they were very similar to the U.S. Navy’s SEAL Team Six. And David put this young warrior, Benaiah, over them. Benaiah was the captain of this elite-fighting cadre.

Benaiah, son of Jehoida, served with King David until David died. Notice who King David calls when, at the end of his life, one of his sons, who is not the chosen son, threatens to take over his kingdom: “Then King David said, ‘Call to me Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.’ And they came into the king’s presence” (1 Kings 1:32, NASB). In fact, Benaiah is key all throughout the beginning of King Solomon’s inauguration, establishment as king in the face of much opposition and in his early years as king.

But why did Benaiah do all this? As I have studied his life in Scripture, it is obvious that he could do mighty feats in battle. But beyond the fact that he could do these mighty deeds, he chose to do them out of principle, integrity, loyalty and commitment.

He believed David, and later Solomon, David’s son, had been chosen by God to function as king over God’s nation, Israel. He went into battle for God and God’s chosen ones, to defend and protect God’s chosen nation of Israel. And he never wavered. He used what God had given him: power and raw strength to serve God, His chosen kings and His chosen nation. He never used his power for himself, but always for God and His chosen ones. He was a mighty man, captain of his “SEAL Team Six” and later captain over all the army of Solomon.

It is Benaiah who King Solomon personally sends to deal with those who would threaten his kingdom from within Israel. Benaiah even goes and deals with King David’s long time general, Joab, another of his mighty men, who had gone rogue:

Now the news came to Joab, for Joab had followed Adonijah, although he had not followed Absalom. And Joab fled to the tent of the Lord and took hold of the horns of the altar. It was told King Solomon that Joab had fled to the tent of the Lord, and behold, he is beside the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, ‘Go, fall upon him….’ Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and fell upon him and put him to death, and he was buried at his own house in the wilderness. The king appointed Benaiah the son of Jehoiada over the army in his place, and the king appointed Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar. – 1 Kings 2:28-29, 34-35 (NASB)

Joab was the most feared man in Israel for many decades. But his pride and immoral actions caught up with him in the moral and upright Benaiah. When faced with the prospect of having to face Benaiah alone, he cowered and hid in the temple. He knew he didn’t have a chance when going face to face with Benaiah. No more than a lion would, in the middle of a pit, on a snowy day.

David’s Mighty Men: The Other Band of Brothers

The famous mini-series Band of Brothers is a dramatic and powerful depiction of Easy Company, the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, where the U.S. Army engaged in the retaking of Western Europe from entrenched German forces during WW2. These men became a band of brothers as they fought and died next to each other in order to achieve their mission. They had a great leader, but the key ingredient in this regiment was they had a bond that created a relational synergy that was unstoppable. It was an all-for-one, and one-for-all troop of men.

But long before Easy Company there was another famous band of brothers that will forever resonate in my heart and mind. This other band of brothers was David and his 37 mighty men. Near the end of King David’s life he records an amazing tribute, by name, to each of these 37 mighty men in 2 Samuel 23:8-39.

David has long been recognized as an amazing man, though not perfect by any stretch. He was loyal to God, never forsaking Him or following after other gods – a true rarity. He was a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield, personally and as the leader of his army. He was a brilliant strategist both of his army and of Israel, the nation God entrusted to his leadership.

Besides those strengths, David has repeatedly been used as an example of a leader. His leadership capabilities are clear. He was strong, decisive, willing to make the hard calls, fearless in the face of adversity and had a heart that beat faithfully after His God. The list could go on and on. I have often heard David described as a strong, Lone Ranger kind of leader, but nothing could be further from reality. As mentioned above, at the end of his life he basically says, “I couldn’t have done any of it without these men – men who were also strong, capable, loyal and faithful, men who gave up their own ambitions and desires to be part of my team, men who stood by me in thick and thin. We were a band of brothers that made it possible for my leadership to be effective.”

These were “warrior” men who repeatedly put their lives on the line for David, and the purposes God had for David and the nation of Israel. These were men who had each other’s backs, no matter what the cost. These men were not only loyal to David, but to each other – to the greatest extent. Except for one occasion, you will never see any of these men do anything against one of his brothers. The one exception is when King David has Uriah set up to be killed by the enemy so David could take Uriah’s wife Bathsheba as his own wife. This is the only black spot on this troop of comrades, and it can be said that this one betrayal of his brothers was the beginning of the end for David’s effectiveness as King over Israel.

Other than this instance, what you see in the Scriptures is a team of men who would die for David and each other, and David would die for them. Do you have people in your life that would be willing to die for you? And an even bigger question: are there people in your life you would be willing to die for?

Are you a leader that has bought into the Lone Ranger idea of leadership, that “it’s lonely at the top”? God never designed us to live life alone, whether leader or not. Lone Ranger leadership is a ploy of Satan to separate us from our band of brothers so we can be picked off easier. God’s people and God’s kind of leaders, like King David, have their mighty men, their band of brothers, so to speak. This is the kind of leadership that is unforgettable and powerful. This kind of leadership will leave an indelible mark on all who come near it.

The Courage of Caleb

Courage_Caleb

In the days of Moses the people of Israel had to make a choice. Did they have the courage to trust God, or were they going to cling to what was inadequate and detestable, but familiar? The book of Numbers tells us the story:

The Lord said to Moses, “Send some men to explore the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelites…” When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, “Go up through the Negev and on into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many” – Numbers 13:1-2, 17-18 (NIV)

The Lord wanted the Israelites to go see and hear and smell the land He was giving them, their new home. So Moses sent leaders out to explore the land and its people. There must have been a wave of excitement in the air as these explorers left on their journey. I’m sure there was a buzz around camp while they were gone. And surely men were posted to let Moses and the others know when the heroes returned to camp. Finally the day of their return arrived:

They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along Jordan” – Numbers 13:27-29 (NIV)

What a land they saw. Flowing with cactus milk and fig honey, giant fruit, sweet and plump. But the people! The fortified cities! The huge crowds began to hiss and mumble. They did not expect this kind of a report. As the murmuring spread, the volume began to drown out the spies, until one of them spoke up:

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are” – Numbers 13:30-31 (NIV)

The stage was set for a showdown. Caleb, one of the spies, wanted to pack up right then and take the land that God was giving them. But 10 of the 12 spies, the overwhelming majority, said, “Impossible! They are too strong.” Caleb shouted, “We can certainly do it.” The ten retorted, “We can’t.”

That night all the people of the community raised their voices and wept aloud. All the Israelites grumbled against Moses and Aaron, and the whole assembly said to them, “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the Lord bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword? Our wives and children will be taken as plunder. Wouldn’t it be better for us to go back to Egypt?” And they said to each other, “We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt” – Numbers 14:1-4 (NIV)

The people of the community had a choice to make. That choice was not really over whether they should take the land or not. It was not over whether to go back to Egypt or stay where they were. It had nothing to do with their wives or children, or whether to replace their leader. None of these was the real choice facing the people that long, restless night in the Israelite camp.

They simply had to decide whether they were going to trust God or not. God had already told them that He was giving them this land. All they had to do was go up and accept His gift. Did they trust that God would do it? That He could do it?

There were options. They could go back to Egypt or get another human leader. But which of these alternatives could possibly help them in the distress brought on by unexpected changes in their lives?

We are faced with the same choice. God promises us a new kind of life beyond the wilderness we are in. But all too often we behave just like the Israelites who turned their backs on God, grumbling as they turned, looking for other worthless, empty things to trust in.

Are you willing to trust God when He says you should persevere through your pain? When He says that He will enable you to become a more complete person on the other side? Are you willing to accept pain and difficulty as part of God’s like changing process?

What makes the difference? The focus of faith. Are you focusing on God, or on the circumstances of life? When we keep focused on God, the circumstances have a way of fading into the background, and don’t have a chance to sap our courage to trust God.

(Portions taken from: Dr. Rick Taylor, When Life Is Changed Forever, Harvest House Publishers)

Comfort As God Has Comforted Us

5 books that have changed my life

Though he brings grief,
he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to anyone.
– Lamentations 3:32-33 (NIV)

A few weeks after our son Kyle’s death we were back in that same hospital waiting for our daughter Kelly to be born. Labor and delivery were difficult and, understandably, very emotional for Judy. To have buried one child and now be giving birth to another in a matter of weeks would weigh on any mother’s heart. I felt so helpless. I knew there were little things I could do, but she had to work so many things out in her own head and heart.

It was uncanny how God used so many people, even some we had never met, to comfort us in our time of need. Cards, letters, phone calls and visits all came our way. We needed them. God used these blessed people to bring us compassion and comfort. But very soon God was putting us in their shoes.

After Kelly’s birth, Judy was in recovery for a few days. She was in a semiprivate room with a young woman who had delivered premature twins. The twins were very small and life was difficult, but they were struggling with everything they had to survive. The doctors were very cautions. There was the very real possibility that one or both would die in minutes, days or weeks.

This new mother of two was agonizing for her children, hoping they would not die, but knowing they surely could. Then she found out Judy had lost a son just weeks before.

Judy did not feel like helping someone else, but there she was. And there was a strange tugging within Judy to do what was best, even though it was painful. God had used Dr. Knarr, our physician friend, to bring Judy and me comfort in our time of need. As he shared his heartache and pain with us, God used him to minister to us, and in the process we had ministered to him. Now God was using Judy to help her roommate, and He used the process to help Judy.

Just four months later one of the twin boys died in the night. The mom asked Judy to come and be with her at the funeral. Judy wept at the thought of burying another young boy. But she went. That was God’s design to bring comfort and ministry into our lives, and into the lives of others through us.

There were soon people in my life as well who were strengthened by what we were going through. Gerald was in his early sixties and newly retired when he lost his wonderful wife after a 28-year bout with cancer. They had lovingly cared for their marriage, and their beautifully intertwined lives accentuated his sense of loss when she was finally torn away from him. Gerald and I met for many months, and he gained comfort not only from my concern as a pastor, but from my experience as a companion who had also lost someone near.

Within a year or so Judy and I were being asked to speak in Death and Dying classes at the university. Each time we felt God’s arms of compassion and tender comfort all over again. That helped us, but so did the help we could give others.

The apostle Paul wrote about the Father’s promised comfort and ministry out of his own need. In fact, he wrote these words to the Corinthians:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead – 2 Corinthians 1:8-9 (NIV)

Paul says he felt the sentence of death. Yet even in his despair he says that all this happened so we may “not rely on ourselves but on God.” Total reliance on the Father is what must happen for us if we are to embrace God’s compassion and comfort, and willingly embrace the difficult task of helping others.

In light of all this, we understand better the words of Paul:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NASB)

Someone just like you needs to feel the arms of God through your arms and to hear God’s tender, understanding voice through your voice. Let God enfold you and you will be able to enfold others. Look. Listen. And then let Him use you to help someone else. The comfort and joy you experience will surprise you.

(Portions taken from: Dr. Rick Taylor, When Life Is Changed Forever, Harvest House Publishers)

4 Good Reasons to Get Married

4 Good reasons to get married

Although there are some reasons not to get married, there are many very good reasons to get married. Here are a few of them:

 

1. God designed marriage 

In Genesis 2:24, Moses makes this editorial comment about an intended major takeaway from Genesis 1-2: “Therefore a man should stop living in a dependent relationship with his parents (as well as other overly dependent relationships) and enter into an unconditional commitment with his wife, and over time they will become one together” (my expanded translation of the Hebrew text).

Obviously God designed us as men and women (Genesis 1:27) on purpose and calls us to become one in a marriage relationship. Marriage is God’s idea and it’s His design for us as men and women, generally. Even though Paul says God has given some select people the gift of singleness (1 Corinthians 7:7-9), he calls it a gift for a reason, because it’s not the norm. There may be reasons not to get married yet. But far and away, marriage is God’s design for men and women.

 

2. You’re convinced that you mutually NEED each other

I’m not talking about “we get along,” or “we have fun together” or “it would be nice to get married.” I’m talking about “I NEED this person; and they NEED me.” When looking at Genesis 2:18-24, it’s interesting how God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion that finishes him out.”

Then God brings the animals before the man and he names them. And he names them in part based on skeletal structure and skin type (Genesis 2:23), the same primary factors we use today in naming and classifying animals. All this animal naming seemed random to me until I realized that Adam was carefully analyzing the animals as he named them, obviously also noticing that there were male and female pairs among all the animals.

It’s then that the text says Adam realized that it was not good for him to be alone. He realized his NEED, and when he and Eve meet, they see each other as the fulfillment of this NEED.

 

3. We are better together

God designed us to be relational beings, as He is, not as loners. I’ve read a number of studies that have shown the health and life expectancy of people is prolonged by healthy relationships and diminished by lack of healthy relationships. But being better together is not just about happiness. It also helps rub off the rough edges that we each have in our lives – rough edges like our selfishness. I never realized how selfish I was until I married Judy. Being married was like putting a spotlight on my selfishness, and it forced me to begin dealing with it in earnest.

Being married forces you to develop your communication skills and your conflict resolution skills. It forces you to face your real self, not the self you have wanted to see. There’s nothing like a spouse, who sees you day in and day out, in the good, bad and ugly times to see yourself in the mirror of reality. If you want to live in denial and remain selfish, then marriage is a dangerous proposition.

 

4. Intimacy, Closeness, Oneness

This doesn’t just mean sex. We live in a world where most people are willing to settle for cheap substitutes for the intimacy, closeness and true oneness that God designed us for, and longs for us to experience. Trying out relationships by living together and couples hooking up for sex have become Satan’s cheap substitutes for the deep, abiding intimacy we were designed for and long for down deep inside. A marriage that has continued to deal with their individual baggage in a committed I-will-be-here-for-you-no-matter-what relationship can and will grow in oneness over time – a closeness that far surpasses any live-in or hook-up relationship.