Glen Eyrie Castle - Colorado Springs, CO

Remember who your enemy is

This is war. I get caught up in everyday life pretty easily, and I forget that while we are living life daily, we are also waging war daily too. Our lives are a war, and every day is a battle where you either win and take ground or lose and give up ground.

But this is a strange war in that we aren’t fighting people we can see. We aren’t fight anyone around us. We aren’t fighting the people who we think we’re fighting. When it comes to this war, we’re fighting the unseen.

Glen Eyrie Castle - Colorado Springs, CO

Glen Eyrie Castle – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.

We have an enemy out there. If you are a Christ follower, you have an enemy who wants nothing more than to see you suffer. Satan won’t stop until he can bring all of us down, wreck our lives, destroy our testimony, and drag us through the dirt until we have convinced ourselves that God doesn’t love us anymore.

He can’t keep us out of heaven. If you believe in Christ, that’s where you’re going no matter how you live. But Satan will do all he can to keep you from reaching other people with the truth.

For the next two weeks, my church will be putting on an outreach drama that God uses to rock our city every year. He’s been rocking our city with it for twelve years so far, and I’m confident that year 13 won’t be any different. Why? Because we have no idea what we’re doing.

Satan throws everything he’s got in our path during this time of year. It’s crazy. Ridiculous even. To the point of being hilarious. Just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, he throw something else awful at you. And there’s no other explanation for it — for why it had to happen just at this very moment — other than the fact that he’s trying to distract us.

Why? Because there’s something about the truth of Scripture that people can’t ignore. And there’s something about presenting the Gospel clearly that they can’t argue with. And when 500 people praying specifically for one thing — that God would work in hearts — God honors it. And Satan doesn’t want that. So he tries everything he can to get us to trip up. To fight with each other.

It’s an old tactic. Make your opponents lose focus. Force them to fight with each other rather than focusing on the real battle. Satan has been doing this for years. And the irony is that we don’t have to let him win. We don’t have to fight with each other. We just need to remember who our enemy is and why we’re doing what we’re doing. We need to keep our eyes firmly fixed on the goal, and we need to remember that this is a war.

We aren’t fighting this war with our fists or heavy weaponry. We’re fighting with prayer. With faith. With the truth in Scripture. With love that only the Holy Spirit can give us to share with other people.

So whether you’re participating in this gigantic outreach at NewSpring Church in Wichita, KS, or whether you’re going to work or school or a family gathering, don’t forget that you’re fighting a battle today. So in the thick of the fight, keep your eyes on the real enemy and remember that he’s only fighting so viciously because he’s already lost. And as long as we remember what side we’re on, he won’t take anybody else down with him.

Waves in the Gulf of Mexico from Jamaica Beach - Galveston, TX

Be thankful

It’s good to be thankful. It’s good to step back and look at your life and be quiet for a few moments and pay attention to everything you have because it’s easy to forget. Well, it’s easy for me to forget because I rarely slow down for long enough to appreciate the people and the circumstances in my life, even the things I have.

It’s good for me to remember what I have. It’s good for me to identify what I am thankful for because it makes me slow down, it makes me think, and it reminds me that all the credit needs to go to God.

Waves in the Gulf of Mexico from Jamaica Beach - Galveston, TX

Waves in the Gulf of Mexico from Jamaica Beach – Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Psalm 95:1-7.

Come, let us sing to the Lord!
    Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
    Let us sing psalms of praise to him.
For the Lord is a great God,
    a great King above all gods.
He holds in his hands the depths of the earth
    and the mightiest mountains.
The sea belongs to him, for he made it.
    His hands formed the dry land, too.
Come, let us worship and bow down.
    Let us kneel before the Lord our maker,
    for he is our God.
We are the people he watches over,
    the flock under his care.

Next time you’re outside, look at the sky. We have a lot of sky in Kansas. If it’s night, look at the stars and think about what it took to hang them all in just the right place. Look at the moon or the sun.

The weather is just right for the winter wheat to start coming up again, and if you’re in Kansas, you can probably find a field anywhere and see some. Take a moment and watch it. Watch it sprout, a green haze against black dirt. God created that. He created soil rich with nutrients. He created seeds we can plant that will grow. He created the harvest itself, the entire concept of planting and reaping and planting again.

One of my little secret pleasures is Bath & Body Works soaps, which is so amazingly girly I hate to even admit it out loud. But I love Bath & Body Works soaps and candles. What kind of amazing experience would we miss if we couldn’t smell? And if we couldn’t smell, we couldn’t taste either. The five senses seem simple, something we take for granted, but think about not having them.

Kansas has crazy beautiful sunrises. I’ll be leaving in a moment to watch one as I drive in to work. But what if I couldn’t see a sunrise? I couldn’t drive either then. Or what if I couldn’t hear? Imagine having to give up music.

Think about all the things you have in your life, even the things that are so small you wouldn’t even notice them until you didn’t have them anymore. Make a list. Pin it up. And look at it every time you’re tempted to think you haven’t got it good.

If you know Christ, you’ve got it great. Maybe you’re in a rough patch, but it won’t last forever. And on the days when the darkness seems like too much, take a moment and make a list of everything God has given you. I guarantee, you’re better off than you feel. You just need to remember it. And when you remember, be thankful.

Child at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

The bigger you get, the bigger you think you are

Do you ever long for the simpler days of childhood? Do you ever wish you could go back to when life didn’t rush by so quickly and when you didn’t have so many responsibilities? Days like this (birthdays that is)  make me remember how life used to be when I wasn’t a “grown up.”

There are perks to being a child. You don’t have to pay bills. You don’t have to worry about politics. You don’t have to buy groceries that seem to get more and more expensive every day. You’re too young to drive so car payments and insurance and gasoline doesn’t bother you.

But nobody can stay a child forever. Everyone has to grow up. Right?

Child at the Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Child at the Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 18:2-3.

Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Ah! The Disciples must have provided Christ with unlimited entertainment and constant frustration with their questions. I’m sure we do the same to Him. Our questions probably make Him chuckle sometimes because we get so fixated on things that don’t matter.

In this instance, the Disciples wanted to know who was the most important person in eternity. They wanted to know who among them was going to be the best when eternity began. And as usual, Jesus turned them on their heads and spun them around by explaining that people who are like children will be the greatest in eternity. But what does that mean?

What does it mean to be like a little child? Haven’t we already established that everyone has to grow up some time? Even Peter Pan grew up (if you watched Hook). And the Bible itself talks about how it’s important to not be a child anymore in 1 Corinthians 13:11. “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”

So how can Jesus say that people who are like children are the most important? Does that mean that we all need to behave like children all the time? Well, no. There are verses too where the Bible says we aren’t to be like children, that we need to mature in our faith and in our actions and our thoughts.

What Jesus is talking about here is our pride.

Think about the way a child handles pride. Children don’t really have it, if you think about it. They have confidence because they’ve never failed. They have innocence because they’ve never had to deal with people. But they aren’t ashamed to ask for help. They aren’t afraid if they don’t know the answer. And if they’re happy or angry or scared, they show it.

It’s easy for a child to trust their parents to take care of the problems in life. Why? Because their parents are bigger than they are. Any problem a kid has, they can usually take it to their parents, and they can solve it. To a child, all problems are bigger than they are, so they run to the biggest person they know (mom or dad) to fix it, rather than trying to do it themselves.

But what do grown ups do? If you’re a grown up like I am, I try to fix it myself before taking it to God. Why? Because it’s a me-sized problem. It’s something I can handle on my own. I don’t need God’s help. I can do it myself. And even with the problems I know are too big for me, I still try to do something about them first before I go to God. I lay awake at night worrying about them. I tie myself in knots fretting over things I can’t change.

Anyone else ever catch themselves doing that? Well … stop. It’s a waste of time and energy, and it distracts us from what matters.

While not every problem in life is necessarily a God-sized problem, He still wants to help you with it. And we need to get into the habit of taking our problems to Him no matter how big (or small) they are. We need to stop trying to fix everything on our own and run to God to ask for help.

He won’t turn you away. He won’t ridicule you or tell you that you’re wasting His time. He wants to help. He wants us to be like children in that we seek Him first before we try to do it alone and end up making it worse.

There are aspects of childhood that we do need to shed as we get older. But needing God? Asking God for help? It doesn’t matter if you’re 100 … or 60 … or 30. You need God now as much as you did when you were younger. Maybe more. Not necessarily because your problems are bigger … but because you are. And the bigger you get, the bigger you think you are.

So whether your problem is me-sized and your automatic garage door is no longer automatic … or your problem is God-sized and your best friend is off wandering around alone in some crazy foreign country while you have to sit and twiddle your thumbs praying that she is okay … God is big enough to handle all of it.

So stop trying to do everything by yourself. Ask God for help. He’s waiting to hear from you. And even if your problem is small, ask anyway. You have no idea how small it really is, especially from God’s perspective.

Sign on the Galveston Ferry, crossing between Galveston Beach and Jamaica Beach - Texas

Leadership

I love my country. I respect my authorities. I pray for the people in public office because that is what God has commanded us to do, whether we voted for them or not. But I’m thankful that my future doesn’t depend on whoever wins in November.

We need to remember that this life isn’t all we have. This life isn’t even going to last for much longer. A day is coming when none of this will matter anymore, and all that we’ve invested, all that we’ve hoarded, all that we’ve acquired will come to nothing. Our political leaders will come to nothing; they’ll be reduced to regular people just like us. The same with Hollywood celebrities and dignitaries and anyone else we put on a pedestal.

We’re all just people, people. But until that day, those in leadership have a responsibility to lead in the way God has called them. They don’t have to, of course. God doesn’t force anyone to do things His way, but a day is coming when God’s way will be the only way. And if we’ve been chasing our tails doing things the way we want and ignoring Him in spite of His patience, we may not enjoy it when He takes over.

Sign on the Galveston Ferry, crossing between Galveston Beach and Jamaica Beach - TexasPsalm 2

Why are the nations so angry?
    Why do they waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepare for battle;
    the rulers plot together
against the Lord
    and against his anointed one.
“Let us break their chains,” they cry,
    “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”

But the one who rules in heaven laughs.
    The Lord scoffs at them.
Then in anger he rebukes them,
    terrifying them with his fierce fury.
For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne
    in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.”

The king proclaims the Lord’s decree:
“The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son.
    Today I have become your Father.
Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance,
    the whole earth as your possession.
You will break them with an iron rod
    and smash them like clay pots.’”

Now then, you kings, act wisely!
    Be warned, you rulers of the earth!
Serve the Lord with reverent fear,
    and rejoice with trembling.
Submit to God’s royal son, or he will become angry,
    and you will be destroyed in the midst of all your activities—
for his anger flares up in an instant.
    But what joy for all who take refuge in him!

We all have a responsibility to follow God, but for anyone in a leadership position, we have a responsibility to lead people to God. And if you think about leadership that way, it becomes a lot less popular.

So if you’re in a leadership position of any kind today, think about the way God leads. Think about the way God works. Think about the way God treats us. Is that how you’re treating people? Is that how you’re leading people? Can people who work for you see God in you? Do you submit to God’s Son and God’s will and God’s plan?

If you don’t, why should anyone else?

Full moon at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

The habit of justice

It’s easy to roll with the crowd. Making decisions because the majority approves is easy. Going with the flow and talking like everyone else and never rocking the boat is easy. But when you start making choices that contradict the popular majority’s ideas, that’s when you stand out.

When you step back and refuse to do what everyone else does on a matter of principle, that’s when people start looking at you differently. That’s when you get blacklisted and made fun of and even verbally abused now, in our “tolerant” 21st Century culture.

Doing what’s right isn’t easy, and it doesn’t come naturally to us. We naturally want to be accepted by the crowd, but the crowd rarely does what is right.

Full moon at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Full moon at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 106:1-3.

Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord?
Who can ever praise him enough?
There is joy for those who deal justly with others
and always do what is right.

Whether you’re talking about your physical health or your mental health, everyone needs good habits. Habits don’t just appear in your life overnight, though. Habits are something you have to build, and building them can be time consuming and challenging.

Eating balanced meals (eating at all) is a healthy habit. Exercising is a healthy habit. Drinking enough water is a healthy habit. And none of those habits are instinctual, at least not for me. I have to do these things over and over until they become a habit in my life.

And the same is true for choosing whether or not to do the right thing. Doing the right thing rarely comes naturally to us. We are fallen, broken people, and our instinctive reaction is to look out for number one. And that’s when the Holy Spirit comes alongside us and reminds us that we belong to Christ now, and we should act like it.

But listening to the Holy Spirit is a habit. Just like reading the Bible. Just like choosing to do the right thing even when the rest of your crowd refuses.

You have to do the right thing over and over and over again. You have to choose to do the right thing constantly, and eventually you’ll get to the place where choosing to do the right thing is natural for you. It will become a habit.

But why is it important? Why can’t we just do whatever we want? God will love us anyway, won’t He?

Here are today’s verses in The Message:

Hallelujah! Thank God! And why? Because he’s good, because his love lasts. But who on earth can do it—declaim God’s mighty acts, broadcast all his praises? You’re one happy man when you do what’s right, one happy woman when you form the habit of justice.

Why is building the habit of doing the right thing important? Aside from the fact that it’s what God has called us to do because we are His representatives on earth, doing the right thing will bring you joy.

Ever wonder why people are so sour? There are a lot of reasons I’m sure, but how many people are weighed down by unhealthy habits, like going along with the crowd? How many people make bad decisions just because it’s the popular thing to do?

If you’re a Christian and you make a bad choice because it’s the “in thing” to do, the guilt is indescribable. Not because God is angry but because He is sad. And because you knew better.

Anyone brave enough to admit they know what I’m talking about? I’ve been there before. I’ve gone along with crowd because it was popular, and I’ve even made decisions that the Bible says are wrong because I didn’t want to push back. But the guilt that followed that decision was worse than any shunning those “friends” could have levied.

Make a habit of doing the right thing. Make a habit of making wise choices. Make a habit of rightness. And you’ll have joy.