5 Ways to Pray for #ElectionDay

The election is only one day away. We’ve studied the candidates, researched the issues, lamented our options and read politically charged articles on social media.

But have we prayed?

I’ve got to be honest. Prayer hasn’t been my first reaction. But, as Bruce Ashford and Billy Hallowell write, prayer is one of the most important tasks we have this election:

As we battle back and forth over the political situation, it’s easy to forget the importance of prayer. Ask yourself: when is the last time you prayed for President Barack Obama, or for members of Congress?

The Bible is clear; Christians are meant to seek God’s guidance for our leaders and those in authority. Yet, many of us are so consumed with fear, frustration, or even apathy that we’ve forsaken these instructions.

How, then, can we pray for the election? Over at the IntersectProject, I offer five simple ways to pray for Election Day.

Read the rest of the article at IntersectProject.org.

John the Baptist Died Believing Character Matters

A prominent child of privilege had glaring personal weaknesses. He was overly image conscious, and he constantly got in trouble for indulging his hedonistic sexual desires.

On paper, he followed God. In practice, he did nothing of the sort.

Many of the people ignored his personal transgressions. But a well-known preacher called him out, at great personal cost.

Headlines and History Books

This story sounds like it’s ripped from the headlines. In fact, it’s ripped from the history books. This is the story of Herod Antipas and his chief critic, John the Baptist.

Read the rest of the article at IntersectProject.org.

On Social Media, We Can Do More Than Complain

We have a negativity problem on social media.

We rant about certain Presidential candidates, or we rant with equal fervor about those who don’t support said candidates.

We moan about gas shortages or the long lines at the pump, or we leverage the crisis to moan about fossil fuels or why we all can’t just use bicycles.

We grumble about faddish cultural phenomena like Pokémon Go or the latest top-40 song, or we grumble at the grumblers for criticizing our pet fad.

We hurl insults at athletes who speak out on race issues, or we hurl insults at athletes who don’t speak out.

We disparage gun owners, or we disparage anyone who speaks negatively about firearms.

And the media! How we all love to heap insults upon the media, this purportedly debased, monolithic entity with sneering, moustache-twirling executives in smoke-filled rooms planning the destruction of the American Dream. All of us — right or left, conservative or liberal — can find ways to complain about the media.

And that’s just a sample of our negativity on social media. I’m sure you could add a few items to the list.

As I scroll down my feeds, I see us circling a never-ending pit of cynicism, negativity and snark — aimed directly at those who don’t see the complex world exactly as we do. And I know that I’m part of the problem.

Here’s the worst part: These complaints spew from we who claim the name of Christ. This negativity flows from we who claim to have the world’s greatest hope.

Read the rest of the article at IntersectProject.org.

When Fear Gets in the Way of Sharing the Gospel

I know I’m supposed to share the gospel. But fear always seems to get in the way.

To wit: I once had a conversation with a staunchly liberal (and probably unsaved) lady in my town. I invited her to my church and mentioned how faith inspires us to love the least of these. As I walked away, though, I realized I had only wanted to talk about topics she wanted to hear. I held back the portions of the gospel that caused friction with her worldview — namely, that Jesus is the only way to the Father.

On another occasion, I discussed faith with a deeply conservative (and probably unsaved) man. After I explained my interest in international missions, he said, “I hope you don’t leave the country. I hate any country that’s not America.” I didn’t know how to respond, so I didn’t. I held back the portions of the gospel that caused friction with his worldview — namely, the parts about Jesus saving us to share his good news to the ends of the earth.

In both instances, fear prohibited me from sharing parts of the gospel my listeners didn’t want to hear. So I stayed away from controversial topics. And both of them heard something less than the full gospel message.

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4 Ways to Pray for Baton Rouge

Last Sunday, we awoke to yet another tragedy. Three law enforcement officers were killed and three more injured in Baton Rouge, mere weeks after the death of Alton Sterling.

As I saw the horrific news develop, I wanted to know how I could pray for this city reeling in pain and division. So I reached out to Katie Harris, a friend who serves in Baton Rouge with AmeriCorps. Since she lives and ministers within the city, I knew she’d be able to help me know how to pray.

She offered four ways I can pray for the city. I hope that these help you pray as well.

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A Savior Greater Than Our Divisions

They were unlikely friends.

One man had betrayed his family and culture to work for the corrupt, overbearing government they despised. His old friends now counted him among the thieves and murderers. They even refused to worship with him.

His associate was part of an anti-government movement. This occasionally militant group aspired to wage war against the government and return to the glory days when their culture and religion ruled.

These men had little in common, and they should have been enemies. But they decided to lay aside their past and their politics to work together for the common good.

This story sounds naïve and unrealistic. In today’s divisive world, everything is divided into camps of red and blue, black and white. We can’t even imagine a scenario in which two people this different could find a way to work together.

But this is no made up story. This is the true story of Matthew the tax collector and Simon the zealot, two of Jesus’ twelve disciples. Continue reading

Fools-Golden Rules: The Golden Rule’s Cheap Substitutes

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

We all know the golden rule. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s practically hard-wired into our brains.

Yet even though we know the golden rule so well, we often have a harder time putting it into practice. Too often, we prefer one of the golden rule’s cheap substitutes, such as… Continue reading

A Homeless Gospel in a Partisan World

I’m accustomed to seeing Donald Trump Twitter tirades. I’m not, however, accustomed to seeing Southern Baptist theologians as the object of those tirades. Yet, yesterday morning, I woke up to this:

Opinions of Donald Trump aside, when was the last time a Republican Presidential nominee publically went after an influential Evangelical leader? I can’t think of an example. Republicans used to actively court Evangelicals, not crucify them.

And the cordial feelings tended to be mutual. Though the Republican Party has never aligned perfectly with Christian teaching, conservative Evangelicals could generally rely on the party to produce candidates who valued life, character, and religious freedom.

Yet that assumption has been slowly eroding, and Trump’s tweet seems to be the nail in the coffin. The gospel no longer fits neatly into a political party (if it ever did at all). Continue reading

The Dangerous, Deadly Consequences of Pilate Politics

Each year, a different aspect of the Easter story grabs my attention and causes me to reflect. This year, it’s been Pontius Pilate.

Pilates’ sins were many. He ignored his convictions and his wife’s wise counsel. He gave in to the whims of an angry mob. And he condemned Jesus to be crucified — not because he believed Jesus was guilty, but because it was more politically expedient.

And when it was all over, he washed his hands — trying to convince himself and others (unconvincingly) that he was not responsible for the unjust execution that was about to take place.

Pilate exhibited a complete failure in political leadership. Unfortunately, his failures are all-too common. Continue reading

Four Practical Tips To Help People Connect Faith and Work

This post about faith and work was originally published on IntersectProject.org.

Everywhere you look, Christians are talking about the importance of re-connecting faith and work. You can find a growing body of resources to help you think through these topics.

But I often still wrestle with the question of how. As a pastor, I know that connecting faith and work is important, but practically how can I do it? If you’re a pastor, teacher or small group leader, perhaps you’ve asked this question, too.

As I’ve been reflecting on this question, here are a few practical tips I’ve considered:

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