God's truth for today's world.

The general election of 2004 is just a few weeks away and the media of full of debates, polls and politics. How should a person decide who to vote for? Some people will vote for who they thought “won” the debates. Others will vote for who they think appears more presidential. Yet others will vote for the challenger because they want to see change. Still others will vote for the incumbent because they do not want to see change. I think that the Bible gives a better way on how to decide who to vote for.

If we look at how God says a leader should be chosen, it will show us the characteristics to look for in a leader, whether a President, a Senator or some other official. The classic example is found in 1 Samuel 16, where God chooses a leader for Israel through the prophet Samuel. The instructions that God gave to Samuel are found in verse 7, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Bottom line, pick a leader based on heart characteristics, like character and values, rather than external factors.

Let’s move right to 2004 and ask how we are to determine the character, the heart characteristics of a candidate. The character of a man will determine his future effectiveness as a leader, not his good intentions or promises. Character is best judged by past experiences. 1 Timothy 3:10 says that “They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.” I have taken courses on best practices for job interviews and they agree. The best predictor of future performance is past performance. Don’t ask the applicants about what they plan to do, ask them about what they have done in the past. And so, we should judge presidential candidates the same way. Their past record gives the best indication of what they will do in the future, it shows the direction of their hearts. Therefore, choose the candidate whose plans are simply an extension of their past experience. If the candidate makes promises, but does not root them in his past performance or voting record, he has no credibility.

Leadership is to be based on principle and values, not on simply doing what the poll of the day indicates. A leader leads, he molds public opinion, rather than simply following public opinion.

The Bible indicates that God has designed three major institutions in society: government, the church and the family. The best candidate will understand the balance between these three institutions and see how each has a role to play in society.

A candidate’s stand on the issues and past record must be analyzed with respect to biblical values and teaching. A claim to be a Christian or to have a relationship with God should not be deemed credible if the record does not indicate the candidate has a biblical worldview. The stand of national level candidates on many issues can be found on many news websites, as well as others like, www.ivotevalues.org.

Not all issues are of equal importance to those who desire to vote based on biblical values. As important as issues like the economy, taxes, health care or terroism are, the way to assess the best candidate to deal with them is to look at a small set of non-negotiable issues. These issues have crystal clear answers in the Bible and most candidates have clear positions on them. If a candidate’s stand on these issues is correct, the rest of their positions will tend to reflect a biblical worldview. If the candidate’s view on these issues is incorrect, the rest of their positions will tend to reflect a non-biblical worldview.

Here are the non-negotiable issues, agreed on by every believer who knows and lives by the Bible:

  1. Protection of human life is a responsibility of government. The Bible teaches that life begins at conception and so abortion must be opposed in every way possible. The choice to kill one’s own child is barbaric. Life continues until God takes it and so euthanasia, the active termination of life must be opposed in every way possible.
  2. Issues in bioethics are not difficult to understand if one is guided by biblical principles. Embryonic stem cell research results in the mutilation and death of unborn children and must be opposed. Adult and other stem cell sources pose no ethical problems. Human cloning is an attempt to play God by manipulating the creation of life and must be opposed.
  3. Marriage is held with high esteem in the Bible and provides the basic unit of society. From the beginning, marriage has been between one man and one woman. Society and government must encourage marriage and oppose anything destructive to it. Same-sex marriage must be opposed, in particular for the damage that it would do to future generations of children as well as society.

In the past, it may have been difficult to tell where candidates stood on these issues, but no more, especially at the national level. The major parties have taken stands on many of these issues and discussed them in their party platforms. Most candidates support their parties’ platforms on these issues, but there are exceptions, particularly at the state and local levels. Find out the candidates’ stances on these issues. Vote for the candidates who best support these non-negotiable values.

It doesn’t matter if your family has traditionally voted for one party for years, the times have changed, believers must do the right thing today. Don’t vote for the candidate that you think will put the most money in your pocket, vote for the candidate that follows godly values. When you do the right thing as a believer by voting according to biblical values, not your pocketbook, it will lead to blessing on your family and the nation. It is sad that in a day when the choice of president is a black and white issue for believers, the country is almost evenly divided. Either half of the country is completely ignorant of what is at stake or they are willingly choosing the wrong rather than the right. Regardless of the outcome of the elections, you and your family will be blessed if you vote your values as believers.

NLT Proverbs 14:34 Godliness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.

Do you think your life is more stressful today than it was a year ago? Many people do. Life is getting more complex and the pace of change continues to accelerate. Try as we might, we can’t avoid major stresses in life or the multiplication of minor stresses that add up to major stress. Actually stress is a mentally or emotionally upsetting condition that occurs in response to adverse external circumstances. There are many adverse external circumstances that we can’t do anything about. So, we must learn to handle our response to them.

I am going to give you a simple three step approach to handling stress for a believer. If you are not yet a believer, this won’t work for you until you become one. The first step is simply to know you are a child of God. What I mean is to know, really know, just not in your head, but deep down in the core of your being that you are first and foremost a child of God. God, our Father, takes care of His children. If you identify mainly with your job, what happens to your stress level when you lose that job? If you identify first and foremost with another person, what happens to your stress level when that relationship is strained or broken? Only a deep understanding of what it means to be a child of God will keep you going in stressful situations.

The second step is to live to please God. Live to please God first and foremost and find your ultimate fulfillment in pleasing Him. If you live to please people first, you will not be able to do it. None of us can please even one other person all the time, let alone all the people who are in our lives. Some people get stressed out because they can never please themselves. Living to please God does not mean being perfect, it simply means that you live in faith, seeking to do what God wants above what anyone else may be pressuring you to do. When you please Him, it doesn’t really matter if others are not pleased. This is a great stress reliever.

The third and final step is to know what God wants you to accomplish. In order to please God, you’ve got to know specifically what He wants you to do with your life. You can find the general principles of what God wants you to accomplish with your life in the Bible. We talk a lot about this at Life Church, God’s five purposes for every believer’s life. But even more than that, God wants you to discover specifically and uniquely what He created you to do with your life. God designed you with a purpose in mind. When you increasingly discover that purpose, it helps you focus and simplify your life. Knowing what you must accomplish frees you to say “No” to people who are pressuring you in the wrong direction and it helps you say “Yes” to what God wants.

Three simple but profound steps to handling stress in your life and making your life be everything that God intended for it to be.

NLT Matthew 11:28 Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

If someone uses the phrase “God told me to do it” in their conversation, a lot of people would peg the person as weird, wacko or even worse. We’ve all read news accounts of heinous crimes committed by someone who was convinced that God told them to do it. So people move to the other extreme and even churches teach that God does not speak to anyone anymore. Oh, they say, he spoke in the times of the Bible, but not anymore, we’re on our own.

A little strange, isn’t it, that the creator of the universe is telling people to do horrible things or has suddenly become mute in the 21st century. The truth of the matter is that God is good and He still speaks today. The Bible tells us that the reason that God created people was so He could have a relationship with them. A relationship is defined by two-way communication. That communication with God is called prayer.

Now most people think of prayer as simply speaking to God, usually asking Him to do something for us. However, the Bible invariably shows a picture of prayer as two persons conversing, man talking to God and God talking back to man. Don’t you think the world would be a better place if people started listening to God a little more and to their televisions a little less? When you pray, have you ever stopped to listen? God wants to speak to you, but you’ve got to have an open mind in order to hear Him.

NLT John 10:27 Jesus: “My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”

Everyone of us is hurt from time to time. Sometimes we are hurt intentionally by others and sometimes unintentionally. Some hurts are little and within a short time we forget about them. What I want to talk about are the times when we are hurt and time doesn’t seem to bring healing. Every time we think of the person who hurt us, the pain and anger wells up inside again. Most people do not know what to do and continue to live with the pain, which often gets worse with time. I believe that there are two things God wants you to do when you are hurt. If you do these two things, God will bring healing into your life.

The first thing to do when you are hurt is the simplest, but often overlooked. Simply pray and ask for God to help you. There is great power in prayer. Life Church has many people attending who are unchurched. They are always so amazed the first time they give a prayer request to our prayer team and God answers the prayer, often very quickly. God is there to help, if we will but ask Him and oftentimes humble ourselves to ask others to pray.

The second thing to do when you are hurt is more difficult, it does not come naturally. When you are hurt, God wants to teach you to forgive the person who hurt you. Many people have trouble with forgiveness, they think that forgiveness is letting the other person off the hook. Forgiveness is really about letting you off the hook, the hook of unforgiveness. An increasing number of scientific studies are now documenting that unforgiveness is a key factor in many sicknesses and that people who forgive are more healthy.

What is forgiveness? Forgiveness is simply yielding your right to get even with the person who hurt you. It is not saying that what they did was right, it is not saying that God will let them off the hook. It is giving up on revenge and praying for them. How can you forgive when the hurt is great? You can forgive as you remember that God has forgiven you. You can forgive when you acknowledge that God is in control. Nothing that anyone will ever do to you can thwart God’s plan for your life. God is able to take even the worst of the hurts and turn it around for good for those who love God.

Recently, I read an amazing story about two men, Tass and Moran, who forgave one another and became lifelong friends. Tass was a Palestinian Arab, trained by the Fatah as a sniper to kill Jews. Moran was a Israeli soldier who had seen many of his friends killed by a suicide bomber. Each man, one a Muslim, one a Jew, became a Christian upon reading the Bible. God allowed them to meet one another and through a process of reconciliation and forgiveness, made possible by God’s grace alone, they became close friends. The answer to broken relationships, the answer to hurts in your life, the answer to problems between nations is found in Jesus. He has forgiven us, so we can forgive others.

TEV Eph. 4:32 Forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.

The number of unchurched adults, that is , people who have not attended a Christian church service in the past six months, has doubled since 1991 (Barna). More and more people do not see the relevancy of going to church. Some people are not interested in spiritual things, others see no need to be part of a church to pursue their own spiritual journey. Yet others find church boring, irrelevant and a waste of time. So, why go to church?

Many churches are boring, irrelevant and a waste of time, so people assume that all churches must be the same. However, all churches are not the same. In fact, churches, whether they claim to be non-denominational or whether they are part of the same denomination, can be radically different. In just about every city, there are unique churches that are exciting, relevant and offer an excellent return on the time spent in participating. In St Louis, Life Church is one of those unique churches.

Why go to a unique church like Life Church? What are the benefits? First of all, you will discover practical thought paradigms, based on the Bible, that will help you make wise decisions and live life with purpose. Rather than wandering through life and accomplishing very little, you will learn how to live life to the max, impacting your world in a positive way for God. Secondly, your children will receive the instruction and peer support that will enable them to also make the right decisions and have a purpose in life. Thirdly, you will find a support network, not just of people, but of people who are connected to God and whose prayers will positively influence your life. Fourth, you will find protection from many of the problems that affect society around you, whether problems that people bring on themselves by unwise decisions or even health problems. Studies show that people who regularly attend church are healthier, happier and live longer. Fifth, you will find a group of people whom you can build relationships with and with whom you can help others. Finally, you will grow in your understanding of and relationship to God, who created you and formed the church as an essential part of every thinking believer’s life.

Now think about it for a minute, what benefits do you get from sleeping in on Sunday morning? Are the benefits of taking your kids to the Sunday morning Little League game better than the ones above? Do you think that sports will give your children the moral framework to make the right decisions in life? Not a chance. Why not prove for yourself that God knew what He was doing when He created the church? Come and visit a unique church like Life Church, not just once, but come for a month and see if your life and the lives of your family don’t change for the better. People’s lives are being radically transformed for the good at Life Church, don’t miss out!

NIV Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.