Sunflower at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Superabundant

Are you facing a task that’s too big for you? Maybe work is too stressful. Maybe you have a baby on the way. Maybe the finances just aren’t coming. Maybe you’re in a position where you are the person who will lead someone to Christ or push them away from Him. Whatever it is, the responsibility just feels overwhelming, like you can’t ever get ahead, like every day is just another opportunity to get run over.

It’s moments like those, the stressful, overwhelming, agonizing moments, where we need to remember that we’re not on our own down here. And though we have responsibilities, God never has expected us to face them by ourselves or in our own power.

Sunflower at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Sunflower at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ephesians 3:20.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

I know I have more responsibility now than I ever did when I was younger. I have more on my shoulders now than I ever dreamed I could have. And at first, it was exciting. I mean, wow! To be my age (for all my grouching, I know I’m not old) and to have the responsibilities I do? That’s awesome! A real honor.

But once the newness wears off, once the wonder and the excitement fades away, responsibilities can become a weight around your neck. And there are days when it’s just too heavy. The weight of it pulls me down and makes my feet drag, and before I know it, I want nothing more than for these responsibilities to go away. What I once rejoiced about, now I loathe.

Is that the way it’s supposed to be? Talk to other Christians, and that seems to be the case. But is it right?

I believe that if you’re called to do something, you should do it. But it’s rare that God is going to ask you to do something that is outside your gift. So if you know 100% that you aren’t gifted with facts and figures, it’s unlikely that God is going to call you to be an accountant. Not unheard of, and if He does, He’ll have a reason for it and He’ll give you what you need to succeed. But generally speaking, He won’t ask you to serve Him outside what He has gifted you for.

But whether you are serving within your gift our outside of it, we all need to remember that doing things on our own will wear us out. Carrying the load by ourselves will exhaust us and discourage us. Because it is too much to carry on our own.

That’s why we have God. If you believe in Christ, you have the Holy Spirit inside you. God is with you, in you, working in your heart, working in your life, helping you grow closer to God every day that you seek Him.

Do you feel like giving up? And it’s a responsibility that God has given you? Don’t give up. Just ask God to help you carry it. If you feel like giving up the task that God has given you, maybe you’re trying to carry it by yourself too much. Because even if the task He’s given you is exactly what you were created to do, you still can’t do it all by yourself. You need to ask Him for help.

This is where I get caught. I’m not good at asking for help. I trudge along under my heavy burden of responsibility and refuse to ask anyone for help. I don’t want to seem weak. I don’t want to seem as though I don’t have enough faith. And that is nothing but pride.

We all need help, and God can do anything. He still does miracles, even today.

Today’s verse says that He is able to do anything, to accomplish “infinitely more” than anyone alive can imagine. This is the NLT version, but I love how the Amplified Version puts this. The Amplified Version says that He is able to do “superabundantly far over and above” what we can dream. Superabundantly.

Abundant isn’t good enough. It has to be superabundant.

Do we realize that? Do we comprehend the power we have at our fingertips? The strength? The endurance? The miracles that God can do through us? It’s so easy to forget because we get trapped in our day-to-day grind, but God is above all of that.

God has given each of us a goal to accomplish. And while we might be able to do some of it on our own, we won’t be able to do it “superabundantly” until we ask Him to help us. So if you’re discouraged this morning with a load that’s weighed you down, let it go. Ask God to help carry it, and He will. And not only will you find that it weighs less, you’ll find the joy you had when you first picked it up.

Water Boy for the Marion Warriors football team - Hutchinson, KS

Well-oiled machines don’t have squeaky wheels

I got to go to another football game the other night. I haven’t been to many, and the ones I’ve gone to have only been high school. My lack of a competitive nature has really caused me to stay away from sports for most of my life, but my best friend is a sports editor/photographer for her town paper, and she had a game close to my house the other night. So I dropped by to chill on the sidelines with her … literally because the temperatures dropped into the 30s as we stood there.

But throughout the game, I noticed this one kid, whom I took a picture of. He was smaller than all the other players. He wasn’t treated very well; they all yelled at him. And for all the abuse he took, he had to run around–not on the field where he could get any glory for his hard work–but on the sidelines making sure the players stayed hydrated.

And it got me thinking about the Church.

Water Boy for the Marion Warriors football team - Hutchinson, KS

Water Boy for the Marion Warriors football team – Hutchinson, KS

Today’s verses are 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.

The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

I love my liver. It’s pretty important, if you didn’t know. Kind of like my pancreas is important, even though it probably doesn’t function the way it’s supposed to all the time. And if I didn’t have my gallbladder, whew! No more greasy foods for me. There are parts of our bodies that we can’t live without, even though no one gets to see them.

When was the last time you walked up to someone and told them they had a lovely colon? Never? Well, maybe their intestines aren’t visible, but if they didn’t have a functioning colon, they wouldn’t be standing upright talking to you.

Like a little finger. Or a big toe. They’re small parts of your body, but try walking without a big toe. Try picking stuff up without a little finger. It’s just as impossible to function on the outside without those two parts as it is to try to function on the inside without a colon or a liver or a pancreas.

People get to thinking that their mouths are the most important (anybody see the debate?). Or they get to thinking that their eyes are the most important or their ears or their hair or their arms or legs or whatever our culture deems as beautiful or intellectual or attractive. But what good is a head without a neck? What good is a mouth without a nose or ears? Most of your sense of taste comes from your sense of smell. Most of your ability to speak comes from your sense of hearing.

There’s no part of the human body that’s unimportant. Yes, pieces and parts can be removed, but that doesn’t mean you won’t have lasting effects from their absence. And just as that is true of the human body, it is true of the Church.

No one is minor. No one is most important. Everyone has a function. Everyone has a design. And we are all designed to work together for one purpose: drawing people to Christ.

So if you’re a big bad Christian and everyone knows you and you walk into your church next Sunday and some little teenager holds a door open for you with a smile and a bulletin, and you think you’re more important than he is? … You’re wrong.

If you’re a children’s Sunday School teacher full of knowledge about the Bible and in possession of a carefully categorized flannelgraph collection, and you think you’re more important than the little kids you’re teaching? … You’re wrong.

Even if you’re a pastor, even if you’re a deacon or a trustee or an elder, even if you’re a worship leader or an actor or an usher … none of you are more important than the little old lady who cleans the bathrooms. You all matter, and you all are important, and you all have a job to do. And while you could probably do your job without the little old lady who cleans the bathrooms, you would feel her absence decidedly if she weren’t there.

So the next time you’re tempted to feel important at church, think about how difficult it would be to walk without a big toe. Remember that Church was designed to be a unit of many small parts, a well-oiled machine with a specific goal and purpose. So don’t be the squeaky wheel.

Pink rose in the Glen Eyrie Rose Garden - Colorado Springs, CO

God rescues those who cry to Him

God is so good. He’s the kind of friend who never gives up on us, the kind of friend who pursues us when we’re being stubborn, the kind of friend who won’t let us get away with being less than we were created to be.

If you’ve been overwhelmed with work or family difficulties or anything else going on in your life, take a moment to thank Him for being who He is. Think about what it took to save you, the sacrifice He had to make, and thank Him for it. It would have been easier for God to just leave us, and we would have deserved it.

But He didn’t.

Pink rose in the Glen Eyrie Rose Garden - Colorado Springs, CO

Pink rose in the Glen Eyrie Rose Garden – Colorado Springs, CO

Psalm 107

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!
Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.
For he has gathered the exiles from many lands,
from east and west,
from north and south.

Some wandered in the wilderness,
lost and homeless.
Hungry and thirsty,
they nearly died.
“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and he rescued them from their distress.
He led them straight to safety,
to a city where they could live.
Let them praise the Lord for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
For he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things.

Some sat in darkness and deepest gloom,
imprisoned in iron chains of misery.
They rebelled against the words of God,
scorning the counsel of the Most High.
That is why he broke them with hard labor;
they fell, and no one was there to help them.
“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
He led them from the darkness and deepest gloom;
he snapped their chains.
Let them praise the Lord for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
For he broke down their prison gates of bronze;
he cut apart their bars of iron.

Some were fools; they rebelled
and suffered for their sins.
They couldn’t stand the thought of food,
and they were knocking on death’s door.
“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
He sent out his word and healed them,
snatching them from the door of death.
Let them praise the Lord for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
Let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving
and sing joyfully about his glorious acts.

Some went off to sea in ships,
plying the trade routes of the world.
They, too, observed the Lord’s power in action,
his impressive works on the deepest seas.
He spoke, and the winds rose,
stirring up the waves.
Their ships were tossed to the heavens
and plunged again to the depths;
the sailors cringed in terror.
They reeled and staggered like drunkards
and were at their wits’ end.
“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble,
and he saved them from their distress.
He calmed the storm to a whisper
and stilled the waves.
What a blessing was that stillness
as he brought them safely into harbor!
Let them praise the Lord for his great love
and for the wonderful things he has done for them.
Let them exalt him publicly before the congregation
and before the leaders of the nation.

He changes rivers into deserts,
and springs of water into dry, thirsty land.
He turns the fruitful land into salty wastelands,
because of the wickedness of those who live there.
But he also turns deserts into pools of water,
the dry land into springs of water.
He brings the hungry to settle there
and to build their cities.
They sow their fields, plant their vineyards,
and harvest their bumper crops.
How he blesses them!
They raise large families there,
and their herds of livestock increase.

When they decrease in number and become impoverished
through oppression, trouble, and sorrow,
the Lord pours contempt on their princes,
causing them to wander in trackless wastelands.
But he rescues the poor from trouble
and increases their families like flocks of sheep.
The godly will see these things and be glad,
while the wicked are struck silent.
Those who are wise will take all this to heart;
they will see in our history the faithful love of the Lord.

Baby orangutan chilling out at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Sometimes you have to wait

Many times we all end up in situations where we are powerless. I’m talking about those moments when you can thrash and flail all you want but it won’t accomplish anything or it won’t change the circumstances. Everyone encounters those moments where even though we can do something it won’t be of any use.

In those moments, the only action we can take that will make any difference is how we react. Your perspective in those moments will tell people what you really believe and what you’re really living for.

Baby orangutan chilling out at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Baby orangutan chilling out at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 37:7.

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
    and wait patiently for him to act.

This is actually the first part of verse 7. Psalm 37 is probably one of my favorite Psalms; it always lifts me up. So if you have time to read the whole chapter, you really should, especially if you’re feeling down about something.

But verse 7 stood out to me this morning because I’m at the point in a lot of different places in my life where my part of the action is done. And now I’m just waiting.

Sometimes life feels like it’s full to the brim of waiting, until the brief moments when I get to act, and then I’m back to waiting again. And it’s probably God teaching me a lesson because I hate waiting. It feels like a waste of time. It feels unproductive and indolent.

But sometimes you have to wait. There’s no getting around it. Anything you do in those moments might result in a longer wait time.

Good example? Book publishing. You write your fingers off to produce the best manuscript possible. You agonize over every word, every sentence, every paragraph. You wait to submit it until it’s the very best it can be. … And then you wait to hear from the publisher. And when you hear from the publisher saying, “Yes! Send me all of it!” right away, you have to wait more. This time probably a year.

Waiting sucks. So what if I decide to nag the publisher? Surely I could send him an email asking him if he’s done with it yet. Surely I can call his office and demand that he finish reading quickly, after all I spent ten years on the manuscript and there can’t be anything wrong with it. And I can read it in a day. So what’s taking him so long?

Think that will help? Think that will convince Mr. Publisher that I can do this?

Probably not. One, that’s not how the industry works (so my impatience will only demonstrate what I don’t know) and two, it’s disrespectful of his time and three, it’s proud. Not only will that course of action jeopardize my relationship with a possible publisher … it may also result in the publisher dropping the manuscript. And since it’s the only publisher in 10 years who’s wanted to look at it, I might not ever get another chance.

See what I’m saying?

Yes, I can act. There are a lot of actions I can take that will prevent me from having to wait. But none of them are good actions. And none of them will help.

Sometimes you just have to wait.

And when those moments come, how will you look at them? What will your perspective be? Yeah, waiting sucks, but if you look at it from the perspective that you’re waiting for God to act, you can have confidence that whatever happens will be in His timing, according to His plan. He can see the whole picture. So if He steps in and moves people (and it’s nothing we’ve done), we can know that what is transpiring is part of His design.

And that’s true whether you’re talking about the publishing industry or looking for a job or working in a relationship. Sometimes you just have to wait, but that doesn’t mean nothing is happening in someone else’s heart. And waiting for God to do something not only helps you grow stronger in your faith, it helps other people around you grow in their faith too. Because if they see you waiting on God to act, so will they.

And what would our world look like if all of us Type A Control Freaks stepped back and stopped trying to manipulate everything and let God take over?

Some things only God can do, but God doesn’t operate on our timeline. So sometimes we have to wait. But when we do, and we do it quietly and patiently, we get the opportunity to see miracles. And even though waiting isn’t fun, it’s worth it.

So if you’re at a place where you can’t act any more, if you’re in a position where action will only make matters worse, let it go. Give it to God, and wait for Him to do something with it. He will. And it will be beautiful.

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach - Galveston, TX

God’s love never quits

Everyone needs reminders about how much God loves us. We all get stressed out and stretched thin, and it’s good to remember that God is still there. That’s He’s paying attention to our lives, and that nothing surprises Him.

And no Psalm does that quite like today’s. I used the Message this day, but the New Living Translation repeats over and over that God’s faithful love endures forever. God’s love is faithful. That means He never gives up on us, no matter how many times we disappoint Him or try to do things on our own. No matter how many times we think we no better, He still loves us and He never gives up on us.

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach - Galveston, TX

Sunrise on Jamaica Beach – Galveston, TX

Psalm 136 (The Message)

Thank God! He deserves your thanks.
His love never quits.
Thank the God of all gods,
His love never quits.
Thank the Lord of all lords.
His love never quits.

Thank the miracle-working God,
His love never quits.
The God whose skill formed the cosmos,
His love never quits.
The God who laid out earth on ocean foundations,
His love never quits.
The God who filled the skies with light,
His love never quits.
The sun to watch over the day,
His love never quits.
Moon and stars as guardians of the night,
His love never quits.
The God who struck down the Egyptian firstborn,
His love never quits.
And rescued Israel from Egypt’s oppression,
His love never quits.
Took Israel in hand with his powerful hand,
His love never quits.
Split the Red Sea right in half,
His love never quits.
Led Israel right through the middle,
His love never quits.
Dumped Pharaoh and his army in the sea,
His love never quits.
The God who marched his people through the desert,
His love never quits.
Smashed huge kingdoms right and left,
His love never quits.
Struck down the famous kings,
His love never quits.
Struck Sihon the Amorite king,
His love never quits.
Struck Og the Bashanite king,
His love never quits.
Then distributed their land as booty,
His love never quits.
Handed the land over to Israel.
His love never quits.

God remembered us when we were down,
His love never quits.
Rescued us from the trampling boot,
His love never quits.
Takes care of everyone in time of need.
His love never quits.
Thank God, who did it all!
His love never quits!