The One Thing You’re Probably Missing about Trump and Clinton


I rarely watch television news. Few people I interact with at work or home discuss politics: too much work to accomplish, too many mouths to feed and evenings to be enjoyed. I even quit listening to NPR on my morning commute (a 10-year habit).

So I know what’s going on with Trump and Clinton, but I’m not immersed in it. The only exception to this has been while I’ve been on a vacation in the western mountains of North Carolina where Clinton is running absurd ads on the most obscure cable channels and at an alarming pace. This state must be close and important.

What I am relatively immersed in is my social media news feeds, and many of my friends could not be more divided … or frustrated … or indignant … or flabbergasted … you get the point. Judging solely on my Facebook experience, Trump supporters—who weathered his flaws to this point—are on the ropes with his “locker room talk,” while those OK with Clinton—having survived (among other things) her public displays of weakness due to illness—have Wiki-leaks all but proving what Tea Party types have been saying all along about political corruption in our nation.

So the choice, apparently, is between a narcissistic, sexist jock and a decrepit, heartless wench.

I don’t know what I’m going to do. I moved to SC in 2008, and back to TN 2012, and near the election both times, so I had an excuse not to vote. Not so this year.

But all of the October surprises … the recordings of Trump, the emails around Clinton and the DNC … eventually led me down a path toward the depths of my own heart; a place I did not at first care to go, but a place I’m glad I went. It showed me the one thing I was missing about the whole Trump and Clinton debacle, and it might be the one thing you need to know too.

I came to realize that before the Lord, I am no better a person than either Trump or Clinton. The three of us are far more alike than I’d care to acknowledge.

Romans 3:10-18.

“There is no one righteous, not even one;
11     there is no one who understands;
    there is no one who seeks God.
12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”[b]
13 “Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practice deceit.”[c]
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”[d]
14     “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”[e]
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16     ruin and misery mark their ways,
17 and the way of peace they do not know.”[f]
18     “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”[g]

Based solely on my knowledge of what the media tells me about our presidential candidates, I read this passage and think, “Paul must have been thinking about Trump and Clinton.” But he wasn’t. He was thinking about every human being that’s ever lived.

Including me.

Including you.

The degree of severity will vary from to time to time and person to person, but ultimately this passage is true of all of us.

Yeah … the real struggle I’m having this election season is that the high level of sin exposure in the lives of our potential leaders is hitting a little too close to home, and to vote for either one of them makes me feel like I’m OK with their sin AND mine.

I don’t know that Jesus would vote for me to lead anything, much less a country, but fortunately He was not called to vote for me based on my credentials: He was called to die for me based on my lack of credentials.

Romans 3:23-24.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

So while I struggle with seeing my sin in Clinton and Trump’s lives, I also rejoice because I can see God’s triumph over sin on my behalf.

So maybe it’s better to say this: the one thing you’re probably missing about Trump and Clinton is the gospel.

That’s something I can rejoice in no matter who wins.

Into the Woods


I hold a deep fondness for the woods. In my heart is reserved a place for evergreens, the sound of birds, the crunch of leaves. In my heart rests, as Wendell Berry would say, “a peace of wild things.” Every moment I spend in the woods, I undergo a contradictory mix of sensations. A part of my soul lays to rest; other times, my mind races of thoughts that leak out like inspiration, of words I have yet to write, of experiences I long to come into knowing. The woods make me come alive. The peace that it brings me, and the change it inspires, lead me to hold a deep reverence for her depths.

My most recent encounter within the wood brush left me impacted by her mystery. The woods stand in solidarity; her creatures belong to no one but her and her Maker. The path is hers, a path in which she invites us to partake. And you had best take it with caution and reverence.

Long gossamers of spider webs blocked my trek. I ran into the webs; the eeriness of the spider’s craft left traces on my arms. I was repelled and all the while enchanted. This is her space, her territory—I cannot be offended at her blockade. I heard leaf cracks and tumbles of wind. I smelt mud and wood. I heard unfamiliar trampling that frightened me—noises probably made by deer. I was alone.

It made me think of the lines from the play Stephen Sondheim “Into the Woods,” in which the baker and his wife enter the woods to find ingredients to undo a “spell” made by the town witch. Although fictitious, the lines stick with me like those spider webs, “Though it’s fearful, though it’s deep, though it’s dark and though you may lose the path, though you may encounter wolves, you can’t just act. You have to listen. You can’t just act, you have to think . . . . Into the woods—you have to grope, but that’s the way you learn to cope. Into the woods, to find there’s hope of getting through the journey.”

We are all called to enter the woods, whatever they may be in life. For the woods are the place of danger, of encountering, of wandering, of solving. The woods are the place you go to be lost and found again. The woods are the place of learning and un-learning, of seeking and finding.

The woods are irrevocably dark—until they’re not. What are your woods? What are your places of desperation? Where can you enter to be with God—to wrestle with Him but then, amidst the gossamers and the leaves and the mysterious noises, you sit still and listen? I pray that you endure the woods with the Lord. I pray that you find that place of hiding, that place of overcoming.

1 Peter 5:10- “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to be his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Today’s post is a guest post from Caroline Case.


Choosing Between Two Unfortunate Options


“I feel a strong desire to tell you – and I expect you feel a strong desire to tell me-which of these two errors is the worse. That is the devil getting at us. He always sends errors into the world in pairs-pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking which is the worse. You see why, of course? He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.”

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 6.

Ten Things to Always Say “Yes” to When Your Kids Ask


Seventeen months into child #4, and only now am I learning what to always say “Yes” to when they ask.

In no particular order:

  1. Can I sit in your lap?
  2. Can we read a book?
  3. Can I go with you? (save work or date night)
  4. Will you show me how?
  5. Will you play with me?
  6. Will you help it feel better?
  7. Will you stay with me in bed a little longer?
  8. Are we going to church?
  9. Can you help me?
  10. Can we have a kitty cat doggie?

45 Verses Illustrating God’s Sovereignty in our Lives


I’ve been studying the life of Joseph over the last several weeks, and I’m struck at the Bible’s remarkable way of illustrating God’s sovereignty in the midst of our responsibilities. Check out these 45 passages that illustrate God’s sovereignty over Joseph’s life. These verses are not merely descriptive for Joseph uniquely, but prescriptive for all of us. No matter what, He’s in charge.

  1. Joseph’s place in the Patriarchal birth order was part of God’s plan (Genesis 30:22–24).
  2. This means Rachel’s agonizing struggle with infertility was part of God’s plan (Genesis 30:1–2).
  3. Jacob’s romantic preference of Rachel and therefore his (probably insensitive) favoritism shown to Joseph was part of God’s plan (Genesis 29:30, 37:3).
  4. Joseph’s prophetic dreams were part of God’s plan (Genesis 37:5–11).
  5. His brothers’ jealously (note: sibling rivalry and family conflict) was part of God’s plan (Genesis 37:8).
  6. His brothers’ evil, murderous, greedy betrayal of him, and Judah’s part in it, was part of God’s plan (Genesis 37:18–28, 50:20).
  7. His brothers’ 20-plus year deception of Jacob regarding Joseph was part of God’s plan.
  8. The existence of an evil slave trade at the time was part of God’s plan (Genesis 37:26–27).
  9. Potiphar’s complicity with the slave trade and his position in Egypt was part of God’s plan (Genesis 37:36).
  10. Joseph’s extraordinary administrative gifting was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:2–4).
  11. Joseph’s favor with Potiphar was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:4–6).
  12. Potiphar’s wife’s being given over to sexual immorality was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:8–12, Romans 1:24).
  13. Potiphar’s wife’s dishonesty was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:14–18).
  14. Potiphar’s unjust judgment of Joseph was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:19–20).
  15. The particular prison Joseph was sent to — the one that would receive the cupbearer and the baker — was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:20).
  16. Joseph’s favor with the prison warden was part of God’s plan (Genesis 39:21–23).
  17. The high-level conspiracy and its exposure resulting in the imprisonment of Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker were part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:1–3).
  18. Joseph being appointed to care for them was part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:4).
  19. The dreams the cupbearer and baker had were (obviously) part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:5).
  20. Joseph’s compassionate care for their troubled hearts was part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:6–7).
  21. Their trusting Joseph’s integrity enough to confide their dreams in him was part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:8–20).
  22. Joseph discerning the meaning of their dreams was part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:12–13, 18–19).
  23. The Egyptian judicial processes that exonerated the cupbearer and condemned the baker were part of God’s plan (Genesis 40:20–22).
  24. The cupbearer failing to remember Joseph for two years was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:23–42:1).
  25. The timing of Pharaoh’s dreams was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:1–7).
  26. The inability of Pharaoh’s counselors to discern his dreams was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:8).
  27. The cupbearer remembering Joseph and having the courage to remind Pharaoh of a potentially suspicious event was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:9–13).
  28. Pharaoh’s being desperate enough to listen to a Hebrew prisoner was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:14–15).
  29. Joseph having discernment of Pharaoh’s dreams was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:25–36).
  30. The miraculous amount of immediate trust that Pharaoh placed in Joseph’s interpretation and counsel was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:37–40).
  31. Joseph being given Asenath (an Egyptian) for a wife was part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:45).
  32. Joseph’s two sons by Asenath, Manasseh and Ephraim, were part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:50–52, 48:5).
  33. The complex mix of natural phenomena that caused the extraordinarily fruitful years followed by the extraordinarily desolate years, with all the resulting human prosperity and suffering, and the consolidation of Egyptian wealth and power in Pharaoh’s hands were part of God’s plan (Genesis 41:53–57; 47:13–26).
  34. The threat of starvation that caused terrible fear and moved Jacob to send his sons to Egypt for grain was part of God’s plan (Genesis 42:1–2).
  35. The brothers’ safe journey to Egypt and Benjamin’s non-participation was part of God’s plan (Genesis 42:3–4).
  36. The brothers’ bowing to Joseph in unwitting fulfillment of the dreams they hated was part of God’s plan (Genesis 42:6).
  37. Joseph’s whole scheme to test his brothers was part of God’s plan (Genesis 42:9–44:34).
  38. Simeon’s being chosen to remain in Egypt was part of God’s plan (Genesis 42:24). Jacob’s refusal to release Benjamin to return to Egypt causing the delay of the brothers’ return and Simeon’s bewildering experience in custody was part of God’s plan (Genesis 42:38).
  39. The relentless threat of starvation that prompted Judah to make his personal guarantee of Benjamin’s safe return and forced Jacob to finally allow Benjamin go to Egypt was part of God’s plan (Genesis 43:8–14).
  40. The success with which Joseph was able to continue to conceal his identity and pull off the framing of Benjamin for thievery and all the anguish the brothers experienced as a result was part of God’s plan (Genesis 43:15–44:17).
  41. Judah’s willingness to exchange his life for Benjamin’s out of love for his father, and thus initiating his own sale into slavery like he initiated Joseph’s sale into slavery, was part of God’s plan (Genesis 44:18–34).
  42. Joseph’s timing in revealing himself to his brothers was part of God’s plan (Genesis 45:1–14).
  43. Jacob being told by his sons of Joseph’s survival and position in Egypt (and the exposure of his sons’ 20-plus-year deceit with all the accompanying pain) was part of God’s plan (Genesis 45:25–28).
  44. God directing Jacob to move to Egypt was (obviously) part of God’s plan (Genesis 46:2–4).
  45. The relocation of the entire clan of Israel to Egypt, where they would reside and grow for 430 years and eventually become horribly enslaved, thus fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:13–14, was part of God’s plan (Genesis 46:5–47:12).

Three Reasons to Plant more Churches in the South



There are more than a dozen evangelical churches within 5 miles of my middle Tennessee home, and we need more. Here are three reasons why we need more church plants in the deep South.

First, the Southeast is the most-churched area in the nation.  I am presuming, of course, that this is technically true, but it certainly is the perception of most who live here. Believe it or not, that fact is a reason to plant more churches, not fewer. Time and time again in the Gospels, we see people of the religious establishment in love with the things of God and their performance for Him rather than God himself. Perhaps never in the history of the deep South has this subtle yet deadly form of idolatry been present in our churches. Sadly, many of these churches will so strongly resist a revival in the Gospel that they will struggle even to the point of death. Therefore, new churches are needed in an area bound to lose some existing congregations.

Second, many of the South’s existing churches are not exactly alive and well with the Gospel. Though some congregations will resist a revival in the Gospel, some will embrace it and reap the God-centered rewards. The same idolatry that leads some men to plant churches will lead to a call in some men to work through a Gospel-revitalization that will set the congregation up to succeed in the Gospel. The calling will be just as difficult as a church plant, though with a different set of problems. Asking a congregation to resource (pray, give, serve) a ministry that calls out their sinful idolatry does not come easily. Nevertheless, it is the calling of some and one that must be fulfilled.

Third, the deep South is spiritually stressed.  A former neighbor once had to pay big money to have a large “male” pecan tree removed. Convinced it was diseased and a threat to their home, they hired an arborist to determine its condition. The arborist used the term “stressed” rather than “diseased.” The combination of some trimming and fertilizer would have given the tree decades of new life, yet our neighbors opted for the death sentence. Sadly, the large “female” pecan tree across the street suffered and later died due to the loss of its “mate.” Similarly, some have written off the South as “diseased” with regard to the Gospel. I think “stressed” is a better choice of words. With new church plants and men dedicated to revitalizing existing churches the deep south can become a shining example of Gospel-centered ministry for decades to come.

I can’t think of any place that doesn’t need a new or revitalized church, but I trust we won’t be tempted to write off the deep south in our plans.


Three Things Every Healthy Church Possesses and Passes Along


When my mother was diagnosed with ALS 6 years ago, it only took a few months for me to consider whether or not the disease was genetic. Early signs pointed to “yes,” as her half-brother died of a similar neurological disease. The science on the relationship between genetics and ALS was questionable six years ago, so I never subjected myself to a test that might tell me something or nothing all at the same time. What would I do with that information one way or the other?

But the entire experience (her diagnosis and eminent passing and all the experiences in between) has me thinking a lot about the idea legacy or heritage. My thoughts have run the gamut. Mind-bending philosophical questions such as, “What things have been passed on to me that I will never understand but that impact me to some significant degree?” as well as more pragmatic ones such as, “Why did my mom decide my wife should have the fur coat and not her other daughter-in-law?”

The experience calls to mind Acts 13:1-4. This passage describes the church in Antioch on the bring of passing on it’s heritage through the evangelism and church planting ministry of Saul and Barnabas. And it’s the description of the church leaders and the actions they take that tell us exactly what kinds of things the church at Antioch would pass on.

In the church that was at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manaen, a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work I have called them to.” Then after they had fasted, prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them off.

I see three things healthy churches possess and pass along to others.

  1. Diversity. Notice the list of prophets and teachers in verse 1. A pious converted Jew (Paul), a black man likely from Africa (Simeon), and an upstanding Roman citizen of considerable social standing (Manaen), to name a few. The roots of the first churches exemplified diversity, as did those Paul, Barnabas and others planted. Can we same the same of our churches today?
  2. Devotion. The call to minister to others came in the midst of the church ministering to God (v. 2). I concur with Wayne Grudem: “Worship in the church is not merely a preparation for something else: it is in itself fulfilling the major purpose of the church with reference to its Lord.” And yet the church is also called to minister to others so that they may, in turn, minister to God. Devotion to God in worship is no mere preparation, but it does prepare. How has your devotion to God prepared you for whatever comes next?
  3. Duty. The calling of Saul and Barnabas was a call to duty … a call to service. They were not set apart to hold lofty, largely symbolic positions that set them high above others and required very little of them. Rather, they were called to a duty in which at least one of them would lose his life for the cause. This is the spirit of service that the church in Antioch passed on to other churches. What degree of duty and service is your church passing on to others?

Diversity, devotion and duty—three things healthy churches pass on to others. What kind of legacy are you and your church passing on?