Cows in the pasture at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Knowing

Do you buy new brands at the grocery store? Or do you stick with the brands you have always bought? How brave are you in trying new things? I work in marketing, and one of our biggest goals is to familiarize people with our brand name. We want people to know our logo and our products and our history so that when they see our products in the store, they’ll know it’s us. Because if people know our name, that means they know they can trust us.

Cows in the pasture at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Cows in the pasture at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 9:10.Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.

It’s amazing to me that some people can’t trust God or won’t trust Him. I don’t understand how they can live their lives without trusting Him, but if you ask them about it, they just don’t believe He exists or that He’s listening or whatever. But that makes no sense to me. To me, if there is nothing else certain in the universe, it’s that God is here and He cares about me and wants to help me.

But then … I know Him.

Okay, so I bought a generic brand of toothpaste one day. It was during a financially sparse time in my life, and I wanted to save some money. It tasted nasty, but hey–it was toothpaste. And even though Crest or Colgate has prettier boxes, I was sure the generic brand would be just as good. They usually are, right? Wrong. My checkup at the dentist revealed a major build up of plaque and a cavity, which was unusual for me. I asked my dentist if he thought it was because of my generic toothpaste, and he said it probably was. So I bought some Crest. And the next time, I got a clear report.

I knew that Crest toothpaste was probably better, but I didn’t want to spend the money on it. Well, I ended up spending ten times the cost of a tube of good toothpaste on a cavity caused by using the cheaper toothpaste. But in any case, I knew Crest was a good option because I had used it all my life as a child and never had a cavity; so I knew I could trust the brand. Maybe it’s a silly illustration because God is most certainly not a brand name, but the concept is there.

I know God. I’ve known God since I was seven years old, and I have learned through many difficult experiences that I can trust Him. I may not always like where I end up, but I can always trust that He’ll be there to help me. But people who don’t know Him already have a hard time believing He exists.

So don’t be surprised if someone who doesn’t know God doesn’t trust Him. It’s kind of like an untested brand at a store. Until they know Him personally, they’re going to have a hard time believing that He can actually do the things He promises to do.

So the first step is to introduce them.

And once they know Him, they’ll learn to trust Him. Because they’ll learn He never gives up on us and there’s nothing we can ever do to separate ourselves from Him.

Moon over Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Joy

Life is complicated. And I don’t know about you, but for me, I get really involved in the complexities of life really quickly. I don’t know if it’s because my brain is wired strangely or if it’s because I just attract complex problems or what. But usually issues that start out simple never stay that way, and before I know it I can end up neck deep in major issues that are too intricate and convoluted for me to take care of by myself.

And when that happens (and it happens frequently), I tend to get gloomy. I don’t like asking for help. And then I turn around and read a verse like today’s verse.

Moon over Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Moon over Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 146:5.

But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God.

According to this, people who ask God for help are joyful. Wow! Because “asking for help” and “being joyful” rarely belong in the same sentence as far as I’m concerned. Those two concepts just don’t go together.

The entirety of Psalm 146 is pretty straightforward. It includes a lot of simple concepts about who you should put your confidence in. Like people, don’t put your confidence in Men because Men eventually die and their plans die with them.

But trust in God. Because He doesn’t die, because He made everything, because He is faithful, because He is just and true and right, because He is merciful and loving and compassionate, because He is our refuge. And because all of those things are true, asking God for help is a joyful experience.

Simple, right?

Why is asking for help usually thought of in a negative context? Maybe this isn’t the case for anyone else, but when I think of asking for help, I think of how the person I’m asking will react. Will they think I’m nagging? Will they think I’m bothering them? Will they wonder why I don’t just try to do it myself? Will they think I’m weak? Will I be putting a strain on them financially, emotionally, physically? All of those things go through my mind, and it’s just so much easier and so much simpler to not ask. It’s so much easier to go it alone than to ask for help and have to deal with the blow back of admitting that I can’t do it by myself.

But when you ask God for help, He doesn’t think any of those things. He doesn’t have any limitations. And He recognizes that we are weak and that we do need help, and He doesn’t wonder why we’re asking. He doesn’t think that we should try to do things by ourselves. He wants to help us. It brings Him joy to help us.

My best friend just started a new blog about being thankful and about the things in her life that bring her joy. It makes me smile because many of them are the same things that bring me joy too, but what is really interesting is that none of them are very complicated. They are all simple things.

I think life gets complicated because I make it complicated. I don’t intend to do that. I think it just happens because my brain is a complicated place to live. But if you really think about it, life is simple. At least, it should be. Asking for help should be simple too. And when you ask God for help, it is. Because He’s the one person who you can never confuse, even with all your intricate complexities. He always has an answer, and He always has a plan, and He always knows exactly what needs to happen.

And you know what? That’s reason to have joy.

Wheat before harvest with blue sky - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

People

People are crazy, and the world is full of them. And most of them don’t know how to drive, right? And everyone knows that the world is full of crazy people. Everyone knows that you can’t take people seriously. But if everyone knows that, why are “people” such an issue? Why do we care what they think? Why do we work so hard to be accepted? And other than the percentage of tax you pay, what does it matter what class you’re in? Is there really a difference?

Wheat before harvest with blue sky - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat before harvest with blue sky – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 62:9.

Common people are as worthless as a puff of wind,
    and the powerful are not what they appear to be.
If you weigh them on the scales,
    together they are lighter than a breath of air.

People are all the same. Maybe some have more money than others. Maybe some have more education than others. Maybe some have more influence than others. But when you get right down to it, people are all the same. And according to this verse, they’re not worth much — lighter than a breath of air.

I always want to make sure I understand the verses I blog about as best I can with my limited knowledge, so I checked this one out in the Amplified Version. It pretty much says the same thing:

Men of low degree [in the social scale] are emptiness (futility, a breath) and men of high degree [in the same scale] are a lie and a delusion. In the balances they go up; they are together lighter than a breath.

I also checked the Message too:

Man as such is smoke,
      woman as such, a mirage.
   Put them together, they’re nothing;
      two times nothing is nothing.

So if people aren’t worth more than a breath of air and a puff of wind, why do we worry about what they think? Why does it matter what their social preferences are? Why does it matter what their opinions are? I think it’s interesting because our entire culture, and even people who don’t believe the Bible, know and understand that the herd mentality is foolish. But what happens when the latest cultural trend hits?

Right. Everyone runs out to buy the same clothes or do the same diet or drive the same car. We all want social acceptance, don’t we?

So how does this help today? Because I’m getting ready to go to work where I’ll be surrounded by people. And then I have a meeting tonight where I will be surrounded by different kinds of people. People are a part of life. So how does this verse help?

I usually go against the grain. Whatever is popular at the moment, I do the opposite. But that’s just me. And while social acceptability doesn’t mean as much to me as to someone else, I still want to accepted. I still want to operate within the normal boundaries of my culture. I still think about whether or not people think I’m weird, and it still matters to me.

But should it?

Here is the danger of taking verses out of context. If you just read this verse and think it’s a standalone verse, you could be tempted to think that this is what God thinks about people in general. Not at all. God loves people, and people were worth the life of His Son.

But that’s not what this Psalm is about. Psalm 62 is about waiting on God when people are against you.

When you’re waiting for God to do something, it’s hard enough to keep your focus on Him without letting other people drag your attention away. When it feels like God isn’t saying anything, people seem to get louder. Their opinions seem to matter more, and their ideas sound revolutionary. But it’s not people we’re waiting on. It’s not people who can help us.

Personally, I’m waiting this morning. But if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know I do that a lot. I feel like I’m constantly waiting for God to make the next move. And while I’m waiting, I am always tempted to fall into step with people. After all … I’m waiting. Is there something better to do?

The problem with people is that they are distracting. They can drag you away from your true purpose. And while we are supposed to interact with people (don’t misunderstand me) and we are supposed to love people the same way God does, when we’re waiting for God to do something, we need to keep our eyes on Him. He alone is our refuge. He alone is our shield. He alone is our source of victory. And if we get bogged down by culture and society while we’re waiting for God, there’s a danger that you’ll forget what you’re waiting for.

So don’t be afraid of people but understand that they can be a distraction. And don’t give them more power than they have. Psalm 62:11-12 pretty much sums up why:

God has spoken plainly,
    and I have heard it many times:
Power, O God, belongs to you;
    unfailing love, O Lord, is yours.
Surely you repay all people
    according to what they have done.

Wheat and dark sky at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Wisdom

Wheat and dark sky at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Wheat and dark sky at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Proverbs 8

1-11 Do you hear Lady Wisdom calling? Can you hear Madame Insight raising her voice?
She’s taken her stand at First and Main,
   at the busiest intersection.
Right in the city square
   where the traffic is thickest, she shouts,
“You—I’m talking to all of you,
   everyone out here on the streets!
Listen, you idiots—learn good sense!
   You blockheads—shape up!
Don’t miss a word of this—I’m telling you how to live well,
   I’m telling you how to live at your best.
My mouth chews and savors and relishes truth—
   I can’t stand the taste of evil!
You’ll only hear true and right words from my mouth;
   not one syllable will be twisted or skewed.
You’ll recognize this as true—you with open minds;
   truth-ready minds will see it at once.
Prefer my life-disciplines over chasing after money,
   and God-knowledge over a lucrative career.
For Wisdom is better than all the trappings of wealth;
   nothing you could wish for holds a candle to her.

 12-21 “I am Lady Wisdom, and I live next to Sanity;
   Knowledge and Discretion live just down the street.
The Fear-of-God means hating Evil,
   whose ways I hate with a passion—
   pride and arrogance and crooked talk.
Good counsel and common sense are my characteristics;
   I am both Insight and the Virtue to live it out.
With my help, leaders rule,
   and lawmakers legislate fairly;
With my help, governors govern,
   along with all in legitimate authority.
I love those who love me;
   those who look for me find me.
Wealth and Glory accompany me—
   also substantial Honor and a Good Name.
My benefits are worth more than a big salary, even a very big salary;
   the returns on me exceed any imaginable bonus.
You can find me on Righteous Road—that’s where I walk—
   at the intersection of Justice Avenue,
Handing out life to those who love me,
   filling their arms with life—armloads of life!

 22-31 “God sovereignly made me—the first, the basic—
   before he did anything else.
I was brought into being a long time ago,
   well before Earth got its start.
I arrived on the scene before Ocean,
   yes, even before Springs and Rivers and Lakes.
Before Mountains were sculpted and Hills took shape,
   I was already there, newborn;
Long before God stretched out Earth’s Horizons,
   and tended to the minute details of Soil and Weather,
And set Sky firmly in place,
   I was there.
When he mapped and gave borders to wild Ocean,
   built the vast vault of Heaven,
   and installed the fountains that fed Ocean,
When he drew a boundary for Sea,
   posted a sign that said no trespassing,
And then staked out Earth’s Foundations,
   I was right there with him, making sure everything fit.
Day after day I was there, with my joyful applause,
   always enjoying his company,
Delighted with the world of things and creatures,
   happily celebrating the human family.

 32-36 “So, my dear friends, listen carefully;
   those who embrace these my ways are most blessed.
Mark a life of discipline and live wisely;
   don’t squander your precious life.
Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me,
   awake and ready for me each morning,
   alert and responsive as I start my day’s work.
When you find me, you find life, real life,
   to say nothing of God’s good pleasure.
But if you wrong me, you damage your very soul;
   when you reject me, you’re flirting with death.”

The Schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Foundations

This is a photo of a 1900s era schoolhouse on my property. It was actually called the Friendship School, and the people who built my house in 1915 rolled it down to the property on logs with a mule team. They lived in it while they built my house, and after my house was completed they used it as a granary. Presently, I use it as a woodshed. And I’ve got to admit, I’m surprised it hasn’t fallen in yet. The roof is all but gone. The floors are all rotted out. But even in some of the worst windstorms that have blown through, even though bits of the roof let go and pieces of the wood siding flies off, the whole building hasn’t collapsed yet. Why? Well, the only thing I can figure out is that it has a strong foundation.

Strong foundations are essential for any type of building if you want it to last a long time. It can be sturdy and solid with strong walls and a good roof, but if the foundation isn’t strong, it won’t be able to withstand the storms that inevitably will come.

The Schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

The Schoolhouse at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 11:1-3.

I trust in the Lord for protection.
So why do you say to me,
    “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!
The wicked are stringing their bows
    and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings.
They shoot from the shadows
    at those whose hearts are right.
The foundations of law and order have collapsed.
    What can the righteous do?”

I posted about foundations during my family vacation this year. If you build on a foundation that is unstable, your building will be unstable. If your foundation collapses underneath you, your entire structure will collapse too. And it’s the same way with our lives. If we build our lives on something unsteady and changing, like the whims of culture or the fleeting desires of our own hearts, our lives will come crashing down at the first sign of trouble.

That’s why we need to build our lives on something that doesn’t change, God’s Word. God’s perspective. God’s truth. Our lives need to stand on what He says is right. We need to make our choices based on what He says is good. And we need to avoid the things that He says are wrong.

But the trouble with our world is that no one is building with God as the foundation anymore, not even in the Christian community. Even among Christians, it’s rare to find someone who is building their lives solely on God’s Word. And the people who do are called old-fashioned or closed-minded. But when the really hard choices come down (and they always do), who has the answers? When it comes time to make the really difficult decisions, who is solid and who wavers? Who compromises what is absolutely right?

Weak foundations require compromise. How else do you keep a building with a bad foundation standing? But compromise never makes anyone stronger. And once the storm comes and those foundations have collapsed, once that building has come crashing down, what’s next? What can you do?

All you can do is pick up the pieces and start again. Rebuild.

See that’s what’s awesome about God is that He lets us rebuild. If you read the Old Testament, it is a history of God giving second and third and forth and fiftieth chances to the people of Israel. How many times did they rebuild the temple?

God is awesome to give us the opportunity to rebuild our lives. And even if we didn’t start with a good foundation, we can always build a new one when we start over. But it’s so much easier if you start with a good foundation. Because even if you rebuild, you still have to clean up the remnants of what you built first.

I love the Message. So this is Psalm 11 in the Message.

 1-3I’ve already run for dear life straight to the arms of God.
   So why would I run away now
      when you say,

   “Run to the mountains; the evil
      bows are bent, the wicked arrows
   Aimed to shoot under cover of darkness
      at every heart open to God.
   The bottom’s dropped out of the country;
      good people don’t have a chance”?

 4-6 But God hasn’t moved to the mountains;
      his holy address hasn’t changed.
   He’s in charge, as always, his eyes
      taking everything in, his eyelids
   Unblinking, examining Adam’s unruly brood
      inside and out, not missing a thing.
   He tests the good and the bad alike;
      if anyone cheats, God’s outraged.
   Fail the test and you’re out,
      out in a hail of firestones,
   Drinking from a canteen
      filled with hot desert wind.

 7 God’s business is putting things right;
      he loves getting the lines straight,
   Setting us straight. Once we’re standing tall,
      we can look him straight in the eye.

Roses at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

What is a good thing?

Some mornings, you just need a Psalm. That’s my opinion at least. Some days, it’s good to remember who we are and who God is and how much we really depend on Him. Wasn’t it Martha Stewart who would say, “It’s a good thing”? I always think of that when I read this Psalm because it was the basis of an old chorus we used to sing. I’ve always thought of this as the “good thing” Psalm.

The funny part is that I doubt Martha Stewart, or many others of her rank, would agree on what “good” is. What is a good thing? Do we even really know? If there aren’t even any good people in the world (Romans 3:10), how do we know what’s good?

Well, that’s what we have this Psalm to tell us.

Roses at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Roses at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Psalm 92

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to the Most High.
It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
    your faithfulness in the evening,
accompanied by the ten-stringed harp
    and the melody of the lyre.

You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!
    I sing for joy because of what you have done.
O Lord, what great works you do!
    And how deep are your thoughts.
Only a simpleton would not know,
    and only a fool would not understand this:
Though the wicked sprout like weeds
    and evildoers flourish,
    they will be destroyed forever.

But you, O Lord, will be exalted forever.
Your enemies, Lord, will surely perish;
    all evildoers will be scattered.
But you have made me as strong as a wild ox.
    You have anointed me with the finest oil.
My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
    my ears have heard the defeat of my wicked opponents.
But the godly will flourish like palm trees
    and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.
    They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
    they will remain vital and green.
They will declare, “The Lord is just!
    He is my rock!
    There is no evil in him!”

It’s a good reminder for a Friday. As we end another week, let’s remember that it’s good to praise God no matter where we are in our walk with Him. Don’t ever lose the sense of thankfulness and smallness you feel when He answers your prayers, and don’t ever forget that the only reason we succeed is because of everything He has done for us. Never let go of your joy and remember that even though it seems like people who do wrong have it made now, the story isn’t over.

Q'eqchi woman - Peten, Guatemala

Life is a mission’s trip

The fastest way for me to remember how much Spanish I actually know is to drop me off somewhere in some Spanish-speaking country and leave me there alone for a week. By the end of the week, I’ll be practically conversant. But if you were to ask me something in Spanish just off the cuff now? Yeah, I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.

It’s so easy to adopt the culture of the world you live in. Well, maybe easy isn’t the right word, but the longer you live in a different culture than the one you were born in, the easier I think it becomes to fit in. In some cases, that’s what needs to happen, especially with missionaries who leave America and go to foreign lands. The best thing they can do is to leave American culture in America because other countries don’t need us; they need Christ. America can’t take care of America, so why should a missionary take anything American with them to another country? America needs Christ, just like everyone else. So in that case, forsaking the culture you were born into is a good idea, within reason, of course.

But what if the culture you’re moving into rejects God completely? So how do you live in it without following it? How do you eat the watermelon and spit out the seeds?

Q'eqchi woman - Peten, Guatemala

Q’eqchi woman – Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Colossians 2:8.

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.

The verse this morning caught my eye because I don’t think of philosophies as something that can capture you. But they do. The world and people in the world who have good intentions try to rationalize their existence, try to make sense of things that can’t make sense, and the result is a belief system without hope and without purpose. Because the world clings to the idea that there is no God — or if there is a God, He doesn’t care.

That’s what they believe. So that’s how they live. And once you step into that sort of culture, once you begin to adopt those kinds of precepts in your life, they become like a prison. You’d think embracing the concept that you have no rules would be freeing. But that’s not the case. Living a life with no rules just makes you a slave to sin.

I’ve been on many mission’s trips, as a high school student and as an adult. And part of me sort of feels like life is one big mission’s trip. After all, this world isn’t our home. We all may have been born here, but we were born again in the culture of Heaven. That’s our real home. That’s where our family is. So every day we live down here is a mission’s experience where we are supposed to tell others about Christ, to support each other as we go through life and to portray an example of who Christ really is.

As an American, I can tell you that the culture I live in right now isn’t healthy. Granted, there are some aspects that are good, the concept of freedom and free will and the idea of personal responsibility, but those aspects of American culture are slowly disappearing. American culture in the 21st century isn’t something any Christian should aspire to adopt. How can you exist in this culture and stay on target? How can we live here and keep believing in the things that matter when all the things that don’t matter scream so loud it’s hard to hear anything else?

The key is in the verse. Empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense comes from the world. And if it comes from the world, it will be damaging. So stay away from them. Don’t let them into your life. Instead, know what Christ says. Know how Christ lived. Know His perspective on life. And adopt that.

It sounds easy. But it’s not.

We are surrounded every moment by faith system of our world. And while we are surrounded by them constantly — on television and radio and the internet and even our closest friends — it’s easy to adopt their perspective. But the moment you agree to see things their way, you’re opening the door to let the culture take over.

I blogged yesterday about a filter verse we should run our thoughts through; that verse is sufficient for today too. Don’t just switch off your brain and accept everything you hear on television or on the radio or on the internet. Don’t just accept everything you hear at church. Don’t just accept everything your good Christian friends tell you.

If you belong to Christ, this world isn’t our home. So this culture isn’t our home either. Question everything. And if the answers contradict Scripture, if the answers you find go against what Christ has said, don’t believe it. And if you can’t understand it, trust God to work it out.