“Happy New Year!” We say it to friends or people we meet but don’t know. Hopefully we mean it. We wish good things for those around us and vocalize that wish in a brief, frequently used phrase. It is not a bad thing, but like many other common things it can become trite. How do we avoid this very real possibility? Perhaps one good and positive thing that can come from our celebration of the Christmas and New Year holidays is a reexamination and reevaluation of our more common language, including the way we greet and say goodby to others. Greetings and farewells are largely a matter of habit. They role off our tongues and escape our lips with little involvement of our minds. “How ya doin'”, how’s it goin'”, “hey”, “what’s up” are all simply ways of saying “hello”. We do not usually want to know how someone is or what is happening in their lives. “See ya later”, “take care”, and others are ways of saying goodby. Only the strictest linguist and a few others would know that goodby is a shortened form of God bless you or more literally God be with you. These examples serve to remind us that language is important and that words mean things. In a day when language is used casually, flippantly, and even irreverently, this is important to remember. Those who follow Christ, of all people, should take what they say seriously. Our Lord has commanded us to let our “yes be yes and your no be no” and warned us that we will be justified or condemned by what we say. James warns us of the grave and frightening responsibility of the tongue and commands us to take its use seriously.
If you are still reading, you may be thinking of two questions. The first: “Is this man overdoing it a bit regarding the mere use of words?” The second: “What does this have to do with the New Year?” To the first I say that if words are of primary importance to our Lord, they ought to be no less important to us. We must think about what we say. Our words must be guided by the Scriptures and the Spirit not just in the way we speak of and to others but simply in the way we speak. Our words speak volumes about us and more importantly about our view of God. May the New Year see us using the wisdom of Christ in our speech and giving evidence of our reverence for Him.
To the second question I give this challenge. On the heals of this joyous season, let us be reminded of what it means to genuine bless others. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year should be more than traditional greetings and farewells, as pleasant as they may be. Let us embrace the opportunity to truly wish for and pray for the blessing and grace of Christ upon those God brings into our lives. Let us pray and search for Godly wisdom to turn these holidays into genuine holy days and seek His help in communicating the reality of Christ.
We often hear it said at Christmas, “It’s the thought that counts.” As we say goodby to the old year and embrace the new, may our words and actions betray the holy thoughts and motives of those who love the Lord our God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves.
Dear Friends of the Ministry,
I try to keep myself from asking the question, but when seemingly senseless things happen, it is hard not to ask “why?”.
For fourteen years, I gave my life in exactly the way I dreamed. I was the Pastor and preacher of a local church. Every week was a personal pursuit of a word from God’s Word for God’s people. There were no blue Mondays for this pastor. Monday’s were the start of another week of ministry.
But, it all came to an unexpected and undesired end almost exactly fourteen years after it started. My resignation, which I thought would be only a temporary interruption to the ministry I loved, lead to years of disappointment when door after door closed. The passing of the years did not bring the much-prayed for return to ministry but instead bouncing from this to that and not seeming to land anywhere. If you can bear to “watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop to build ‘em up with worn out tools”. Those words of Kipling became all to personal.
But while the circumstances of life changed, the purposes of God held fast. The vision to change the next generation for Christ was not quenched, nor did it diminish. In fact, it grew. The hope and prayer that God would use the Cavanaugh family to pass on a Gospel vision to the next generation did not just linger. It lived, grew, and flourished.
Ten years ago the years of prayer began to come to fruition as Vision4Living Ministries began. The prayer that we would touch the nations saw fruit as Daniel and Micah travelled the world to make Christ known. The prayer that we would encourage pastors in the work of the ministry has witnessed opportunities such as the annual ministers’ picnic and ongoing opportunities for fellowship and encouragement. The prayer to challenge the next generation of Christians has borne fruit through Vision4Living’s blog and CrossTalk, our weekly podcast.
The surprising thing to us has been how God has developed the ministry in ways we did not expect. The thing we thought would be the centerpiece of our efforts to change the next generation (Family Leadership Conference) fell by the wayside, while God has chosen to use Passion4Christ Summit to touch about 550 lives directly in the past ten years. Millennials have, in some cases, been introduced to strong Biblical teaching and challenged to see Biblical doctrine as life-changing and life-strengthening. They have also found P4C to be a source of encouragement in their Christian walk. One quiet young man thanked Daniel and me as we were packing up this year. Then he said; “I consider this the start of my year spiritually.” This was one of many encouraging comments which cannot all be shared here. But here is a sampling.
“Thank you for being passionate about encouraging young adults in their journey to serve Christ.”
“Thank you so much for everything you do to make this weekend happen! It is such a true and deep blessing.”
“P4C has been a blessing and encouragement and challenge to me in so many ways . . .”
And this one was directed specifically towards the mens’ breakout.
“Micah I also greatly remember your talk to the men Thursday morning and how our relationship with God is like keeping our bedroom clean and how it is so easy to say ‘Oh I’ll let it go this time’, but then you keep saying that and all the sudden your relationship is a wreck.”
These gracious comments represent what Vision4Living and Passion4Christ have meant and now mean to others. We say with the Psalmist; “This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Ps. 118:23). We trust that the work of the Gospel in our lives over the past thirty-eight years is now bearing fruit, and our prayer is that it will bear fruit in the generations to come. If it is so, it will be because the God of all grace is ministering His grace to us and through us. This is the vision of Vision4Living.
Will you prayerfully consider these “Reasons to Give” and share with us financially in the work of God’s grace in the coming year? It is as you stand with us that we can continue the work of touching the next generation for Christ. This last comment expresses our heart so well.
“Dear P4C Staff and Volunteers,
. . . I am so encouraged by the legacy of faithfulness this retreat represents ~ thank you for actively and passionately pursuing Christ and for intentionally challenging others to do the same.
May the Lord continue to strengthen you to fulfill what He has called you to do. Run the race with perseverance to win the prize, so that you may lay it at the feet of our King. He is being glorified by your lives, and may you finish strong and full of joy. ~ all for Him.”
May the Lord be pleased to make it so!
Serving with you,
Every fall brings its beauty. It’s colorful trees and cool temps bring relief from the heat and pleasant enjoyable days. In the words of Lucy Montgomery; “I’m glad I live where there are Octobers.” Recent falls have brought another delightful element to our lives and to the lives of many young Christian adults, a time that seems appropriate for the delights of fall: Passion4Christ Summit. This fall brought the tenth annual P4C, and it proved to be as enjoyable as the nine before. While this Summit marked our tenth anniversary, there was a much more significant anniversary being celebrated at the same time. It was the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The Summit was an opportunity to relive the major doctrinal victories that the Reformation brought and to pursue a life of Biblical resolve like that of the reformers.
The question before us was: “Does the Reformation still matter today?” Do the five “solas” still need to be preached and defended with the same vigor and vision as they did 500 years ago. And if they matter, what difference do they make? Are they in danger of being watered down and their importance diminished? With the help of our guest Matt Shackleford and P4C regular Dewey Novotny, we focused on the Biblical importance and imperative of faith alone, grace alone, Christ alone, Scripture alone, and God’s glory alone. Two of the messages challenged us not only to believe these great truths but to live with the Biblical resolve that marked the lives of the reformers. We were further challenged in the breakout sessions to keep our spiritual house in order and to stay true to Christ in our everyday lives. In addition to guest Matt Shackleford of Columbus, OH and Dewey Novotny, our regular speakers were Daniel and Charles Cavanaugh with Micah and Pam Cavanaugh ministering in the breakouts. The Summit was not all study and preaching. It was our usual opportunity for recreation, relaxation, and renewal as well as fellowship with likeminded believers and worship that honored God and lifted the spirits of those who came.
The meal times are particularly enjoyable as old friendships are renewed and new friendships are begun. It is always a blessing for our attendees to spend time with likeminded young adults and to have genuine fellowship around the Biblical messages they hear. It doesn’t hurt to have good food to go with it. Late nights of volleyball lead to an all day tournament on Saturday, a bond fire with funny stories, and, the coup de gras, the volleyball championship. It all makes for a sleepy final session on Sunday morning followed by long goodbyes, hugs, and the trip home with hopes of returning next year. P4C Summit is not just a retreat or a conference. It is an experience: an experience of grace and growth which over 550 individual young adults(many multiple times) have shared in the past ten years. Some may wonder why they should go to the expense and take the time for P4C. I cannot answer that for someone else. I do know that each year brings the same joy and sense of God’s blessing that leaves few, if any disappointed.
A friend and sister in Christ just posted that her family was being airlifted from Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the most recent devastating hurricane. This after nearly losing one of her children and while recovering from another recent hurricane. By God’s grace, they left deprivation and chaos behind for the safety of family in the U.S. Others, Christians and not, will not fair so well. We have witnessed the incredible and frightening visitations of disaster over the past weeks, wondering why so many have suffered and so many others of us have not.
Disasters of the kind we have been witnessing recently always leave us with questions. Unbelievers find reasons to doubt the goodness, wisdom, and even the existence of the God of Scripture. How can a good God allow such things to happen to innocent people? If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He prevent such tragedies?
While many are more comfortable with believing in a capricious, erratic God or no God at all, we who are tethered to Scripture know that a Godless world is by no means a safer or more sensible place. The power of human reason to explain natural disaster, dismiss human sin, and ignore the reality of God does nothing to answer man’s hard questions or relieve his uncertainties. That is why humans often make a God of nature or fancy themselves as God. In any case, confusion reigns. In the wake of Christ’s birth, those in power did all they could to hold on to it and remove whatever or whomever was a threat. The order to kill all babies born at about the time Jesus was born seemed a senseless tragedy with unbearable and unexplainable consequences. Couldn’t God have, shouldn’t God have prevented it.
But this was not something that caught our God off guard. In fact, it was an event that our sovereign Lord predicted and planned for His purposes. What seem to be senseless acts and uncontrollable disasters do not leave God wringing his hands. Is it any surprise that the ways of God are mysterious and even disturbing to us? We rightly and understandably hurt when we watch our fellow human beings suffer. We want to help if we can and applaud those who do. Our emotions are stirred, and it is at this point that we often get in trouble. In a culture which lives life and makes decisions and evaluations based on feeling, we can feel right at home with a theology of feeling. But while we must not dismiss our feelings, we cannot be ruled by them. To do so is to court another kind of disaster; one with far greater and more serious consequences than hurricanes and earthquakes. For if we follow our feelings, we are sure to embrace a faulty view of God and life. Our God-given faith ties us securely to the reality of Christ and the rock of God’s unchanging word. We are sure to see many more disasters. In the book of Revelation, disaster upon disaster strikes, leaving earth’s inhabitants reeling in anger and pain. The unbelieving do not take these troubles as a call to repent of their sins and turn to Christ. To the contrary, they shake their fist at God and refuse to repent and acknowledge Him as Lord of all. But the faithful endure to the end, trusting God to work all things for their good and His glory.
The mark of those who know and follow Christ is their unshakeable faith in Him in spite of life’s disasters and the questions they bring. Whatever life brings, we are called to trust our unfailing God. Those of us who have not yet faced the tragedies we have witnessed may yet do so, but whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. “When darkness seems to hide His face, I rest on His unchanging grace. In every high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil. On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
It’s good to get away. Whether it’s an extended vacation, a short weekend, or a walk through the park, the change of scenery or break in the routine can be refreshing and rejuvenating. For those who serve in Gospel ministry, this can be extremely important. No matter what position in ministry one may hold, if you take it seriously, there is a burden that goes with the blessing. Being responsible for the souls over which the Lord has made you an overseer is a weighty matter. At Vision4Living we are aware of the blessings and struggles of ministry. Our hearts are grateful for the investment made by the Lord’s shepherds and sensitive to the special challenges they face. It is for this reason that a few years ago we started the annual ministers’ picnic. I must give credit where it is due, and say that it is the brainchild of our son Daniel. It is designed to give ministers and their families an opportunity to have fellowship with other ministers and their families, bear one another’s burdens, relax, and laugh.
That is exactly what we all had the privilege of doing in June. It also gives the Cavanaugh’s an opportunity to find out how we can pray for our brothers and sisters and encourage them in the work of the Lord (the barbecue and baked beans aren’t so bad either). The Lord blessed us with incredible weather, which served as a punctuation mark on a beautiful evening. Ministers and their families came from Evansville and Mt. Vernon, IN and Henderson, KY. It was good for them and us to share some of the blessings and burdens of ministry and to have a time with nothing to do but eat and relax. The ministers’ wives had an opportunity to enjoy fellowship in a way that does not often happen for them. Few people realize the pressures of being the wife of a man who has given his life to ministry, except others who are in the same position. It was a good time for us primarily because we enjoy seeing men and women of God get away, even if it is just for a few hours. We hope the Lord will give us that same privilege next summer. And if you know of a minister in the area who would benefit from such a time (and who enjoys good barbecue), pass his name along to us.
Do you ever worry about tomorrow? Maybe I’m the only one, but sometimes I wonder if I can handle tomorrow and everything it will bring. As I sat on the plane heading to Quito, Ecuador, I began to wonder how this trip would go. Already the day before, I faced roadblocks. I watched as my small church team boarded a flight in Houston to Ecuador without me. The airlines, which shall remain unnamed, had kept me from flying due to a misunderstanding of their policy regarding people with allergies [I’m deathly allergic to peanuts]. Supposedly, if you don’t tell them 72 hours in advance, you cannot fly. However, they were unable to show me where this “fine print” was located on their website. I maintained my patience – for what I thought was a healthy amount of time – while I talked with several airline employees for several hours who were less than enthused about my predicament. This day turned into one of the longest I can remember in my recent history. After waiting three hours for a bus to a hotel, [I had to pay for myself] only to realize upon arrival I was at the wrong hotel, it occurred to me that losing my cool was pointless. Three hours later, sitting at my hotel, I began to wonder what the rest of the trip might hold since it was getting off to such a rocky start. This heavily abridged story I just recounted is important because often in life discouragement comes before we ever get to where we think God is going to use us. Sitting in the airplane alone, I had time to consider all that was ahead of me, and I realized how important it is to take one day at a time.
As mentioned before, I returned to Ecuador earlier than usual this year with a team from my church. The five of us traveled from New Braunfels, Texas to spread the gospel and represent the First Baptist Church of our town. Having spent limited time with each of the others on my team, I was more than a little curious how we would work together. There are always bumps and curves in the road on any trip, and they are no less possible on a trip with so few people. But let me tell you, I saw God use these five people in amazing ways on this trip. Somewhere, in the middle of our trip together, we spent an evening sharing what God was doing in our lives instead of our normal devotion time. Listening to my fellow sisters in Christ share from their hearts, blessed me more than words can express. It made the times we had previously spent working with the kids and walking all over the city much more precious in that moment of sharing. Watching each of the team members work with the kids we visited each day, and the relationships that were built, will forever be an encouragement to my heart. If I had time to tell you about every day with them, I would. But each of the ladies that I had the chance to travel with and spread the gospel of Christ with had an impact on the people we ministered to and were used by our Heavenly Father to leave a lasting imprint.
Having such a great time with a small team and transitioning from that to a team of 20 plus, takes both mental and emotional shifts. Somehow God always knows exactly the right thing even if in the moment it seems like things are out of control. Our second team, the Global Encounters team, was set to arrive the same day my smaller church team left. However, in Gods perfect timing, they were rerouted to panama, and then sent back to Fort Lauderdale where they left from originally. In my head, I was thinking, “seriously God”? Our team did arrive, albeit, late and tired. Never the less, sleep and food were discovered, and we started ministry off just a little later than planned.
We spent the first week in Quito and then our second in Esmeralda’s. The kids in each of the locations are always different. They have different needs, hurts, and reactions. However, one thing in each of these children’s faces remains the same: a desire to be loved.
We had many new faces on this team and quite a few veterans did not return as team members this year. This always leaves questions in my mind about how will the team mesh and get along? Honestly, I couldn’t be more proud of how the team showed love to the children no matter where we went. I saw team members giving more of themselves when I knew they were tired and others coming alongside their teammates to encourage them. During our second week, the afternoon program was not easy. We went back to a place we had been before. A small fishing village called Roco Fuerte. Almost all of these children have experienced some or multiple forms of abuse. The crowd of kids grew each day and the challenges with them. One particular day, I had chased many children and felt as though the challenges were right about at the level where I was going to throw in the towel. I noticed the pastor talking to some of the kids who were misbehaving, to use a nice modest term. He was smiling and although he had been experiencing the same things our team was going through all year round somehow he was smiling. I remembered that happiness is about circumstances, but joy is about something else. Happiness is conditional but joy… joy is found in the reason why we are serving and that never goes away.
Our team worked in the dirt for days with these kids. They yelled over the loud voices of these children who only seemed to have one level of volume; telling stories, teaching them crafts, and playing games with them. Looking back, I always wonder was it worth it? Did we do all that we could have done? Did we leave an imprint of Christ’s love with these kids? I know my attitude and responses were not always in line with what His would be. But you see, Christ never called perfect people, and he certainly knows our weaknesses better than we do. Matthew 6:33-34 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.” Jesus has just finished speaking about all the things we worry about and He admonished His listeners to not be so concerned with their practice and possessions as the relationship they have with their Heavenly Father. I get so caught up in the practice and in my possessions – things I think I can control. But you see, when I do that, I forget all about the relationships of life, first of all the one with my Heavenly Father from which all others should be experienced.
The key phrase here to me is “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”. Do you ever worry about tomorrow or today? Do you consume yourself with the practice of life and less of the relationship with the one who gives it? I do! I forget tomorrow sometimes I get caught up in today and I miss the seeking of my Heavenly Father’s kingdom. His kingdom isn’t caught up in the confines we put on ourselves and others. Life is about relationships and loving others the way He has loved us.
Sitting on the airplane flying back from Ecuador, I recalled the kids at camp and seeing their faces light up when they got off the bus! Many of you helped sponsor kids at camp this year and for that I am so grateful. We had kids come from all over Ecuador who normally couldn’t afford it. We had kids come to know Christ and others who heard the gospel for the first time. We cried with them when they hurt, laughed with them during the fun moments and watched them struggle to compete with each other through various activities. My prayer for this team and my message to you is this: Each day has its tough moments and every trip I’ve been on has had new challenges. I wouldn’t trade them for anything because God is sovereign, and through all that happens, He has brought about his perfect will. I’m so grateful for this team and I’ll never forget their efforts. I thank God for them and for how He used them to leave imprints of His love on so many children’s lives.
Sufficient unto each day is the evil thereof, meaning each day has enough problems that you shouldn’t worry about what is coming next. The God who put you in this day is sufficient to bring you to the next. Your job, our job, is to seek Him and His righteousness and leave the practical working out in his hands.
Thank you for your prayers for our team!
Questions: they often linger, mysteriously, even hauntingly.
Nor is it the unanswered and unanswerable questions that are necessarily the most troubling. It is often, perhaps more often, the questions with answers that stay with us, demanding our attention. Maybe that is why humans often are happier with unanswered questions; questions of life, death, and eternity.
Recent circumstances in the providence of God have turned my thoughts more in this direction. I recently received a text from my cousin informing me that his mother had died. In the same week, a vibrant Christian sister about my age died after a struggle with terminal illness. Even more recently I found out that my Father has been diagnosed with stage four melanoma. All of these have reminded me of the rhetorical question asked by James in his inspired letter to struggling Christians: “What is your life…?” To which he replies; “It is but a vapor, appearing for a little time, then vanishing.”
I will soon turn sixty-three. Even if I live a relatively long life, most of it is gone. Which leads me back to the question James proposes. It is more than a reminder of the certainty of death, although it is that. It is a soul-searching question about the meaning of life, especially for the child of God. It is as much a question of why and where as it is what. It is a question of purpose, direction, and destiny. How then can we profit from pondering James’ question and applying its answers?
I urge you to do three things:
First: Embrace the Uncertainty of Life.
Both the surrounding circumstances and the personal conditions of life are uncertain. It is certainly foolish to approach life without plans. But it is just as foolish, perhaps more so, to make plans without God. Everything is predicated upon the active providence of our Lord. Circumstances change, sometimes rapidly and sometimes drastically. This is not abnormal. This is Providential! In like manner, personal conditions of physical, mental, and emotional health as well as financial status can all change, as a quick look at the opening chapters of the book of Job reminds us. If you and I do not embrace this reality, we could become disappointed, frustrated, angry, and even bitter.
Second: Embrace the Brevity of Life.
In August of 1963, my mother began to have labor pains. My Father rushed my sisters and me to our relatives and my mother to the hospital. Soon we were told of the birth of a boy. I had a brother, and, being the only boy, I was naturally excited. But it was only in the next day or two that young Daniel began to have problems and died. My hopes of a brother to share life with were dashed and my nine year old heart was broken. For me, that was an early lesson on the brevity of life. Life’s duration is short, even at its longest. This life’s termination is sure.
Third: Embrace the Priority of Life.
Woven into the text of this exhortation by James is his inspired answer to his question: “What is your life?” We face all the uncertainty of this brief life with one priority: the will of God. Life is not something to be tenaciously held to. Rather it is a valuable gift to be invested. The believer does not spend his or her life nor does he waste it. He invests it. “If the Lord wills….” is not a cliche. It is a way of life. The will of God is not a hard to find lost treasure. It is the path of a disciple. We invest our lives seeking God’s will in the only place God reveals it: in His Word. God’s will is also something that He unfolds in His own good time, as He leads by His Spirit, for “…. as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” “A man’s heart devises his way, but the LORD directs his steps”(Prov.16:9). He must be the Lord of our plans. Then we invest our life in doing God’s will. We must be doers of the Word and not hearers only. God has revealed His will. It is ours, by His grace, to obey.” “What is your life…?” Its direction, its purpose, its destiny are all in His hands. “Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” To this end we labor, that, whether present or absent, we may be pleasing to Him”(2Cor. 5:9).
“A long time ago in a ‘place’ far far away”, something happened that changed the course of the church, western civilization, and the world. It affected what you believe, how you live, where you attend church, and the influence of world wide missions. It turned Europe from a dark continent into a vibrant, thriving one; from a continent afraid to think to a culture bursting with ideas; from a continent of people who could hardly see beyond their doors to a people with the horizon for their vision. If this seems like hyperbole, it is not. No event since the birth of Christ has had such an impact. Indeed it is difficult to overestimate its significance. And while the secular world may choose to ignore it, it cannot escape it. The ideological freedom and openness of thought that is so ostensibly valued today is due, at least in part, to it. Though it was a sovereign act of God, He used men to bring it to pass; men who were resolved to stand no matter what the cost might be. It was their resolve, by God’s grace, that led a continent from darkness to light.
The event I am referring to is the Reformation. This fall we will commemorate the five hundredth anniversary of its beginning. There were preludes to it, but when a mere mortal took the initiative to nail his Biblical theses in a most obvious place, the battle was on. The fire had been lighted, and there was no extinguishing it. Martin Luther was that man who, standing on the shoulders of Huss, Wycliffe, and others, led the charge into the Biblical and theological darkness when it seemed unsafe, unwise, and unfruitful. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists all have roots there, as do others. And later, those who were spiritual descendants of the reformers made their way across an ocean to a New World. Is it all that difficult for the modern thinking Christian to see something of the present day importance of these men and this event? Must we agree with everything they said and did in order to appreciate their work and apply the truth they sacrificed so much to pass on. And dare we undervalue their work and testimony by ignoring their example and legacy. But surely the need for reformation is past. We benefit from their life and work, true enough, but how much and for how long should we dwell on the past? What’s done is done, and this is a new day with new challenges and fresh ideas.
Or could it be that a darkness all too similar to the darkness of those pre-reformation days has slowly and almost imperceptibly surrounded the contemporary church? Have we lost sight of the ideas and beliefs that brought new life to the church five hundred years ago? Could it be that the people of God need a new generation preachers of old truth and a new generation of common men and women with the uncommon resolve to stand once again?
As October and the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation’s beginning approach, will you make plans to join us at Passion4Christ Summit. Together we will take a new look, not just at the Reformation, but at the need for fresh resolve to stand on and for Christ and His Word. How can we do anything else?
Yours for Christ and the Gospel,
Three months after the election of 2016, it seems that cooler heads are not necessarily prevailing. We have had time to see our first glimpses of the Trump presidency, hear words of adulation from some, and screams of anger from others. It seems every general election (the ones in which we elect a President) brings new cries and claims from left and right that this is the most important election of our time. While these claims may elicit from us yawns and criticisms of overstatement, it does seem that we live in an era in which every four years brings us the challenge that this election is indeed the most significant yet. Perhaps this is because we are witnessing a culture “civil war” with major battles occurring at the ballot booth. The deep cultural and moral divide only deepens as the stakes escalate. We watch and wait with varying degrees of optimism. As evangelical Christians we hope and pray that our God will have mercy on us, not giving us what we deserve but what we are convinced we need.
I have been among those who have hoped and prayed for certain results in local, state, and national election. I believe there is Biblical warrant to pray for political leaders before as well as after they are elected. As returns have come in I have had the experience of gratitude and even elation. I have also experienced deep disappointment and concern.
This election brought to me a mixed bag of concerns, convictions, and confused and convoluted feelings. I have reminded myself and others that our hope is not in worldly leaders and their agendas. I have recalled this: “For promotion does not come from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: He puts down one, and raises up another”(Ps. 75:6,7). “My hope(whether here or in eternity) is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” My head is not in the sand however. I voted prayerfully, conscientiously, and convictionally. When Joshua was about to enter the Promised Land with the children of Israel, he had an incredible experience. He was confronted by a man with his sword drawn. On the cusp of warfare, Joshua naturally wondered if the man was friend or foe, and he voiced his concern. The man identified himself, then in the words of a well-known preacher of the recent past said;”I’m not here to take sides. I’m here to take charge.” We who call ourselves evangelical Christians are submitted to and trusting in the “Commander of the Lord’s army”. He is in charge. We are beholden to no man or party. The purposes of our Lord are sure and will come to pass. We must not fret because of evil doers or find unbiblical comfort in those who appear to be on our side. I am, I think, a patriot. But my patriotism is not primary. I am prone to be far too attached to this world and far too satisfied with what it offers. That is why I remind myself that my “citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who will transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself. Therefore my brothers(and sisters),… stand fast in the Lord,…”(Phil. 3:20-4:1). Thank God this is not all there is. Let us not therefore think and live as though it is. Let us attempt to live every moment to the glory of God, make every decision with eternity in view, “looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith,…”
There was a lot of great things on the blog in 2016! We have left you a few highlights below…
Can I have a do-over? – Micah Cavanaugh
Have you ever done or said something and suddenly or soon thereafter wished you could take it back or have a redo? Unlike TV shows or fantasy fiction we cannot undo the past. In fact, one of the most certain things we have in life is what has already happened. You must live with your decisions. But how do those decisions affect you in the long term? – [Read More]
The “Trump” card – Charles Cavanaugh
As we enter 2016, The United States approaches a familiar event: the election of a President. The interest and excitement of this event begin much earlier and begin to reach fever pitch with the primary season. Christians join the banter on Facebook and blogs, making known their preferences and why. Who will stand for this or protect that right? Who will stand up to the entrenched establishment and give us fresh direction and leadership? – [Read More]
“Open my eyes that I may see” – Pam Cavanaugh
I awoke this morning facing the new year. Oddly enough my thoughts were not on making New Year’s resolutions. My mind was transported back to my childhood. I was remembering the retro toy called Viewmaster. This was a contraption that you put a thin cardboard disk containing a 3D color photograph into so you could view the picture. Some showed travel attractions; others cartoons or TV shows. I vividly remember putting the slide in wrong many times. Of course I could not see clearly or figure out what was before my eyes. I twisted and turned the slide until it fit correctly. I am sure directions were written on the disk, but it was so easy not to follow them or pay attention. – [Read More]
The theology of cinema – Charles Cavanaugh
This brings us to a more recent development in the production of quasi-biblical fiction: a cinematic effort to tell the story of the child Jesus. The movie “The Young Messiah” is based on a book written by Anne Rice. The movie purports to give an historically reliable account of the child Jesus at the age of seven when his parents were returning to Palestine with him from Egypt. The narrative weaves the pursuit of the child by a Roman soldier and instances of miracles performed by the surprised and uncertain young Messiah. It has opened to some good reviews, even getting a positive nod from Focus on the Family. – [Read More]
What’s Trending? – Charles Cavanaugh
But perhaps no term or concept has gotten more traction than “What’s Trending”. Just the sound of this phrase reminds us that if it is happening on Facebook, it must be important. Which brings up another old term that has new meaning: viral. Viral used to carry the connotation of something unpleasant, debilitating, even infectious. But now if it has “gone viral”, it is uber popular. Originally it was trending. Then it went viral. Never mind that it was a video of a woman donning a mask of an imaginary galactic creature, a dog doing something unusual or even gross, or a human being stupid. – [Read More]