Moon in the pine trees at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Preparing for the challenges ahead

It’s difficult to believe that 2012 is coming to an end. This is one of those years that I thought would never get here, and now it’s over. I honestly haven’t thought much about 2013; that’s probably going to start today. But one thing is certain about what is coming: It won’t be better than what we experienced in 2012. Actually, it may be worse.

I’m not trying to be cynical, and I’m not trying to be a downer or anything. I guess I’m just trying to prepare myself mentally to face the challenges that are coming next year, the ones I know about and the ones I don’t. Our world hasn’t experienced a great healing or a revolution of peace and love. 2012 has been the opposite of peace and love and healing, and it’s going to get worse and worse. And anyone who tells you differently hasn’t been reading Scripture.

So as a follower of Christ, how do I prepare for a year that will probably be more difficult than this one? How do I get ready to face the challenges that are coming?

Moon in the pine trees at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Moon in the pine trees at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is John 12:32.

And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.

This is part of a statement that Christ made to a group of Gentiles (non-Jews) who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover just before He was crucified. The verse right after this one states that Christ said this to indicate to them that He was going to die. But of course, still most of the people didn’t believe Him or didn’t understand. In spite of everything He had said and done, people refused to believe He was who He said.

Funny how some things never change.

But what caught my attention today about this verse is that it really does have a double meaning. Christ used it to tell them that He was getting ready to die–to be crucified, literally hung between heaven and earth for six grueling hours of physical agony to pay the price for our sins so that all people can come to God. But this verse also has another meaning in another context. Because if His followers lift Him up figuratively, in worship and praise, making Him the center of our attention and focus, something miraculous happens–people are drawn to it.

Have you ever witnessed this? I have. I’ve seen it. A group of people sit and sing songs praising God and people come over to hear it. I’ve been sitting in a worship service at church with nonbelievers all around, and somehow in the middle of that worship service something changes inside those people who don’t believe. And by the end, they want to believe. And I’ve seen it happen beyond just singing; I’ve seen it happen in living. Because if you live a life that gives praise and honor and glory to God no matter what the circumstances you’re in, people are drawn to it.

Why? Do you think it’s something special about you?

Well, maybe it is. But I don’t really think there’s anything special about Christ-followers, other than who we follow. If we remember to keep life in perspective and remember that God has everything under control, that He never makes mistakes, and He always keeps His promises, we don’t have to live life without fear. We can be confident who we are, where we’re going, and why we’re here. Do you realize what that makes us look like to people who don’t have that assurance?

If we lift Christ up in our lives, if we hold Him high and point to Him with every word we say, He attracts people to Him. It’s not something we’re doing; it’s all about Him.

And I find it ironic that Christ said this to the disciples just before He died. He knew their lives were going to become chaotic shortly after He said this. Maybe the disciples thought that the worst was behind them; knowing how they reacted to other situations, I’m sure they didn’t expect anything like what happened. But Christ knew it was coming, and He wanted them to be ready.

Guess what, guys? The worst hasn’t even started yet. You think 2012 was difficult? You think 2012 was depressing and overwhelming? Well, it’s going to get much, much worse because this world isn’t our home. It’s broken, and it’s breaking more every day. But we don’t have to focus on that. We can lift Christ up in the darkness, and not only will that keep our perspectives straight, it will also draw others who don’t believe to Him.

And that’s my parting thought for the last day of 2012. Don’t be discouraged. Maybe things will keep getting worse, maybe the darkness will keep getting darker, but we don’t live in darkness.

John 12:35-36

Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”

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Waves crashing on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Stand firm … on what?

There’s a lot of really bad stuff going on in our world right now. I don’t need to go into detail; most likely, you can come up with a dozen really bad things just off the top of your head without checking the news. Now more than ever is the time when followers of Christ need to stand firm in what we believe. But what truly has me concerned is that the more believers I meet, the more I’m beginning to realize that believers don’t really know what to believe.

I’ve spoken with many people who have chosen to follow Christ, and that’s awesome. That simple choice is the most important, and if it’s a true choice, a real decision, that’s what matters. But making that choice is the easy part; living it afterward is what’s difficult. And I’m not sure if people understand that. No, living it isn’t required, but if you aren’t, you’ll be miserable.

And when I talk to people who say they believe, they don’t seem to understand where to go to find what they’re supposed to believe. That’s because we’ve all grown up in a world that tells us the Bible isn’t relevant. We live in a culture that glorifies everything God says is wrong. So no wonder people are confused. I’ve talked to so many Christians who don’t read the Bible because they don’t understand it or because they think it’s boring.

But here’s the deal, believers, the Bible is where we get our answers. If you say you follow Christ but don’t believe the Bible, what exactly do you believe in?

 

Waves crashing on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Waves crashing on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are 1 Corinthians 10:11-12.

These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.

It amazes me that Christians can claim Christ in one breath and in the next state a belief that completely contradicts Scripture. I fully believe that someone can be a Christian without understanding what the Bible says. The Bible itself talks about the difference between new believers and mature believers. New believers aren’t expected to know everything all at once; living like a Christ is a process that won’t be complete until we get home.

But many of these people who say they follow Christ and then live exactly opposite have been professing Christians for years. Years upon years. And I can’t say whether their profession is true or not. That’s not my place, and that’s not my purpose. That’s between them and God. I have nothing to say about it.

But I can remark on the lifestyles they choose and the philosophies they accept based on what Scripture says a Christians’s life should look like. And all I can say is that it’s no wonder our culture is rotting from the inside out. Because if Christians refuse to stand for what the Bible says is right, where is the light going to come from?

The trouble is, Christians don’t know what the Bible says. They are swayed by popular opinion and near-sighted, humanist philosophy. Why not? Without Scripture, everything sounds reasonable. Doesn’t it?

Today’s verses were written to the Church at Corinth. You think your church has issues? You should study the Corinthians. What a mess!

Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had harsh, true things to say to them. Reading through it this morning, it sounds like something the Church of America needs to hear:

1 Corinthians 10:1-12

I don’t want you to forget, dear brothers and sisters, about our ancestors in the wilderness long ago. All of them were guided by a cloud that moved ahead of them, and all of them walked through the sea on dry ground. In the cloud and in the sea, all of them were baptized as followers of Moses. All of them ate the same spiritual food, and all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. Yet God was not pleased with most of them, and their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day.

Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snake bites. And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death. These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.

All Scripture is relevant to our culture, even the stories out of the Old Testament (Genesis through Malachi). It just has truth in it that people (especially Christians) don’t want to hear.

We aren’t the first believers. We aren’t the first people to follow God. Other people groups have chosen to follow Christ, but there were people among them who didn’t take it seriously, who wanted their own way in spite of what God said was right. And those people paid for it, along with the rest of their countrymen.

So today, in our shifting, uncertain culture where everyone just does what feels good, be sure you know what you believe. And if you’re sure you know what you believe, test it. Find out where it came from. Know the source. Don’t just accept it because the news told you so or because your pastor told you so or because your teachers told you so. And if the source is true, stand on it.

The Bible was never intended to be a showpiece, gathering dust on the living room coffee table. But somehow we put it there, and many of us haven’t picked it up again. Well, it’s time. Start reading. And if you don’t get it, if you don’t understand, pray about it. You’ll be shocked what God will show you if you just ask.

Lights on the Christmas tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Peace on earth

I don’t like conflict. I took a personality profiling course at the last writing workshop I attended and discovered that I’m what folks call a Feeler, which means I like it when others get along. Conflict stresses me out. I don’t really have anxiety attacks, but the closest I’ve come to one is trying to handle situations where people aren’t getting along.

Granted, some people thrive on conflict. It’s the spice of life for them. But about 50% of the population are Feelers, according to what I’ve been told. So the vast majority of people out there don’t like conflict either.

This is the time of year people start singing about peace on earth. They sing about it. They talk about wanting it. Even at my office, one of my coworkers put up a white board with the question: “What do you want for Christmas?” Someone responded: “Peace on Earth.” Everybody wants it, and it’s a great thing to want. But no one really seems to realize what it will take to achieve.

Lights on the Christmas tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Lights on the Christmas tree at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 2 Corinthians 5:18.

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.

I love the word reconcile. I was thinking about it this weekend when we sang “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” at church. There’s a certain lyric in that song that always makes me tear up:

Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled

The word itself is just fun to say. I don’t know. I’m a word freak so maybe that’s just me, but the word means so much more than its syllables and etymology. It dates back to the 1300s:

re – which means “again”
concilare – which means “to make friendly”

To make friendly again.

So if you think about it from the context of the song, “God and sinners reconciled” means that at one point, God and men were friends until something happened to split them apart. But then everything changed when this little baby was born, and this little baby the angels are singing about is the one who will reconcile God and men. He’s the one who will make God and men friends again.

The same is true of today’s verse.

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.

God brought us back to himself through Christ. God reconciled us to Himself through Christ. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross allowed us to become friends with God again, after our first parents Adam and Eve chose to turn away from Him.

But not only has God reconciled us to Him, He’s given us the responsibility to help others be reconciled too.

Because let’s be honest here. Who really loves conflict? Who loves being conflicted and pulled in different directions? Yes, some people enjoy the challenge that conflict represents, but who really lives and breathes because of it? Who doesn’t want peace, not only with others but with God?

We weren’t designed to live in conflict, not with each other and not with God either. We were designed to live in peace, and we screwed it up. But thanks to Christ, we don’t have to stay that way. We can be friends with God again. We just have to go through Christ.

How do you do that? You ask for forgiveness. You recognize that you’re not perfect and that you’ve made wrong choices and you take responsibility for that and ask Christ to forgive you. You recognize that Christ is the Savior, the only One.

You want peace on Earth? Be reconciled. And maybe that won’t bring peace on Earth, per se, but it will bring peace between you and God. And God will take care of Earth. You just need to take care of your own heart first.

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

How strong is your hope?

Do you have hope that bounces back when it gets dropped? To really answer that question, I think we need to understand a little bit about hope in general. Hope isn’t some ethereal insubstantial concept that’s just floating around in the void; hope is a real, solid thing. Granted, you can’t touch it, and you can’t see it, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

Hope is something we experience when someone we trust makes us a promise. When someone promises us something we don’t yet have, we trust that they will keep their word, and we have hope that one day that promise will come true.

I’m working on a trilogy of books at the moment. The first one is pretty much about hope. The second one is about promises. The third one is about trust. And in my studying and researching and praying about this series, I learned something about all three. They’re all connected.

 

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Otter at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Hebrews 10:23.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Hope is only as strong (and as resilient) as the character of the person who makes the promise. If someone you don’t trust at all makes you a promise, you won’t have any hope that it will happen. Even if that person is sincere in their desire to do something good for you, even if that person means well, if they are untrustworthy, you have no reason to hope that they will do what they say.

But what about someone you trust? What about someone who has proven themselves over and over again? If they make you a promise, would you hope that they would keep it? Well, I would. But the real test comes when it doesn’t look like they’re keeping their word. Right?

Life gets in the way. People let us down, and it’s easy to believe that God will too. But God isn’t like people. God is God. And because of Scripture and because of God’s work in our lives, we know we can trust Him. It’s just that He doesn’t work the way we usually expect Him to.

Honestly, the question isn’t really about how strong your hope is; the question is really about how much you trust God. Hope is an extension of trust; hope is a response to trust. So if you trust God, you will hope in Him, and when it looks like (and feels like) He is going back on His word, your level of trust in Him will determine how long your hope will endure.

So if you feel hopeless this morning, especially this week before Christmas when it seems everyone is depressed about something, stop asking why your hope is gone and start looking at who you’re trusting. Are you trusting the current economy to solve your problems? Are you trusting your finances to answer your questions? Do you trust the talking heads on television to explain why your life isn’t working? Are you trusting your friends to identify you and provide you with self-worth? I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with any of those, but if you put your trust in any of those things, that’s where your hope is centered.

The economy isn’t stable. Neither are your finances. They’ll be good one moment and gone the next. And people are fluid and foolish, especially the ones on television. Even your friends will let you down, including the ones you trust because no one is perfect. Where will your hope be then?

That’s where God comes in because He never lets His people down. He never abandons His people. He never forgets His people. And though we may feel like He’s not around or like He’s not working, most of the time that’s because we’re not really looking for Him. Or if we are looking for Him, our attitudes need an adjustment, like a near-sighted person wearing glasses for farsightedness.

Think about it. How strong is your hope? If it’s not strong at all, you might want to consider re-evaluating who you trust.

 

Rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Loving by example

How much do you love others? Would you be willing to die for someone you loved, to sacrifice your hopes and your dreams so that someone else can achieve theirs? Many people say they’re willing to die for someone else, but do they really mean it? I don’t know, and that’s between them and the person they say they love.

What I do know, though, is that love is a quality not many people truly understand. If we’re going to love anyone else, we really need an example of how to do it. That’s one of the myriad reasons we have Christ.

 

Rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Rose in the Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Ephesians 5:2.

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.

Love takes sacrifice; love is sacrifice. And just the fact that love requires so much from us means it will never ever be easy. If love for someone has ever come easy, you just don’t know them well enough yet. Even if you are the most loving, forgiving, patient person in the universe, someone else will eventually get on your nerves. Know why?

You’re not perfect. No one is. Not the person typing this blog this chilly Thursday morning and not the person you’re currently frustrated with at home, at school or at work.

So how do we handle it? Well, we should handle imperfect people the same way we do with every step along the path of following Christ. We choose to do what Christ did. Love others in spite of what they’ve done or said to us; love others in spite of what we want.

If you believe in Christ, you’ve committed to following Him. That means He becomes your example for how to live. And Christ loved us so much He was willing to die for us.

So does that mean we need to rush out and look for someone to sacrifice ourselves for? No. Not so much. But when was the last time you inconvenienced yourself for someone else? When was the last time you gave up your plans to help someone else? When was the last time you bought groceries for someone who couldn’t afford them even if you weren’t sure you could afford your own groceries? You get the idea.

It’s okay to get frustrated with people, but kind of like despair, it’s not okay to stay there. Don’t stay frustrated. Forgive them and love them, and the best way to do that is to do something kind for them. And if you can’t do something kind for them (for realistic reasons), pray for them. It’s hard to be frustrated with someone you’re praying for.

But if you’re going to sacrifice for someone, make sure that sacrifice comes from love and not fear. It’s strange how love and fear can sometimes share similar qualities. If you’re sacrificing because you’re afraid that someone else will reject you or because you’re afraid that you won’t measure up otherwise, that’s not love. Love is never motivated by performance; yes, performance encourages love and it demonstrates love. But real love shouldn’t hinge on how you act or what you do. So judge the motivation of your sacrifice. If you’re giving away everything you have because you’re afraid of what people think, that’s not love. If you’re giving away everything you have in spite of what people think, that’s a different story.

Brick in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Despair isn’t wrong; staying there is

Is despair wrong? Life can be hard to take sometimes. Brokenness is everywhere, and it’s difficult to work with broken tools. You can make do, but it’s ten times harder and infinitely more frustrating, especially when you know that life wasn’t meant to be this way. And there are many times when I am tempted to just give up. Giving up would be so easy, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with easy, it’s rarely the wise choice. Because anything truly worth having was never easy to obtain.

But even if I don’t give up, even at times when I know I’m going to keep moving forward, I am still tempted to feel despair because I have so much to do and no time to do it. I am pulled in so many directions I don’t even know how to take a step forward; I couldn’t tell you which direction is forward and which is backward. And it’s in those moments when intense anxiety and deep despair hit me hard enough to take my breath away.

I had one of those moments Monday morning this week. So much to do. So many expectations. I was on the verge of a breakdown at work because there was just too much for one person to do alone. And then, I remembered (duh) that I’m not alone.

Brick in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Brick in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 2 Corinthians 12:9-10.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Maybe having too much to do at work doesn’t upset anyone else, but my work is important to me. My performance at work is important to me. It’s like anything else in my life; I want it to be a reflection of Christ. And as I sat at my desk on Monday and looked at the overwhelming piles of projects that had stacked up over the weekend, I despaired.

And then I got angry. And then I started thinking foolish thoughts. And then I pouted. Granted, this all happened in the span of about fifteen minutes before the Holy Spirit whacked me upside the head and told me to stop being childish. But that’s what despair does to you.

Despair is dangerous. People in the depths of it believe lies about others and about themselves and even about God. They jump to conclusions that aren’t true. They are liable to do or say things that they don’t even mean because they’re searching for something to hold on to, even if it’s the reality of someone else’s anger or hurt.

But as dangerous as despair is, it’s not wrong to feel it; it’s wrong to stay there, especially when you have the means to escape it. We’re human. We’re going to feel despair at times. None of us are perfect, and we live in a broken world. And all that brokenness will build up, inside us, around us, and it’s frustrating. And nothing breeds despair like frustration. So if you feel despair, don’t freak out about it. It’s normal. Just don’t choose to keep feeling it.

But that’s difficult. Because as horrible as despair is, somehow it becomes a warm blanket to curl up with at night. The anger and the ridiculously untrue thoughts and the self-righteous indignation feels good, especially to people who are exhausted and who are trying to do the right thing and being thwarted over and over again. But that warmth is deceiving; the comfort those emotions bring is only temporary. Maybe they’ll make you feel better for a few days, but when the real cold front sweeps through, you need more than just anger and self-righteous indignation to stay warm. And then your despair will only grow deeper. It’s a vicious cycle.

So what do you do? How do you stop despair before it becomes a habit?

I’ve said before that I’m not scholar. There may be better verses in Scripture that deal with it; I’m sure there are. But I can only share what I have learned. I’ve struggled with this all my life. I’ve learned that the best way to handle despair and challenging circumstances is to expect them.

Our world is screwed up. And so are we. Why do we expect that everything will be hunky-dory down here? It never will be. That’s the point of Scripture, to show us that there is more to this life than what we know about it now. I’m not saying to be paranoid. But don’t be knocked off your foundation when troubles come. Don’t be surprised by them.

And when you’re tempted to despair, don’t freak out if you do a little. There’s a verse somewhere that says God remembers that we’re made of dust. He knows we’re not perfect. That’s why He is. And when we are weak, that’s when we need to ask for His help. And I’m weak all the time, so I ask for His help a lot. And He does it. Whether we ask for strength or wisdom or whatever, He’s right there, and He listens.

Like on Monday. I got away from my desk for a few minutes and got my head straight and asked Him to help me sort through everything on my desk. And He did. I got more done on Monday than I had in a long time. And that’s not me. I’m not capable of focus on that level in regards to half the projects I was working on. That’s Him.

I felt despair at first, but I chose to ask Him for help to get out of it. And I got to work.

Feeling despair is natural, but continuing to give despair a foothold in our lives (especially as believers) is a choice. And it’s a choice that can ruin your life and the lives of people around you.

If you’re feeling despair today, don’t listen to the lies that you have no hope or that you’re not a worthwhile person. Those are lies, and they don’t come from God. Tune them out and look to Scripture. Remember how much God loves you and that He’s waiting to help you; you just have to ask and be willing to do what He says. If you choose to do that, you’ll experience something miraculous; your life will change. Your perspective will change. And before you know it, those things that caused you despair before will only be cause for rejoicing because your weakness allows God’s strength to take over. And I think each of us could use a whole lot of that.

Mayan ruin - Tikal, Peten, Guatemala

How do you live at the end of the world?

I don’t trust the Mayans. So when I see a lot of people up in arms about the world supposedly ending on December 21 this year, I don’t exactly roll my eyes, but I certainly don’t take them seriously. People thought there would be a catastrophe in 2001 too. Remember Y2K? And I think it was this year or maybe last year when someone started assuring everyone that the end of the world would come then. But it didn’t. And unfortunately, those folks have been made into the Boy who cried wolf.

It’s unfortunate because the world as we know it will end someday soon. The Bible promises that it will, but the Bible assures us that no man knows the day it’s going to happen. Not sure how this is possible, but even Christ said that only God the Father knows that date (Matthew 24:36).

So where does that leave us? It leaves us on the cusp; that’s where we are. I’m no scholar, but if I’m right, there’s only one prophecy that remains to be fulfilled. And that is for the whole world to have the opportunity to know Christ. Folks are still working on that because there are still some areas of the globe where Christ hasn’t been shared, but once that happens? Everything else the Bible has prophesied would happen has happened.

And this isn’t like some wild-eyed prophet preaching about the end of the world. It’s not like a blockbuster movie where the world experiences all sorts of crazy natural disasters. It’s not like a computer bug that will send our culture rocketing back to the stone age. This is a promise in a Book that was written thousands of years ago by more than 60 different authors over a period of thousands of years, a Book that doesn’t contradict itself once and that has remained relevant to culture in spite of radical changes in the world. It’s not a promise made in chaos; it’s a promise that comes from a trustworthy, consistent source. And actually, it’s not even the end of the world; it’s the beginning of the end of the world, and the only thing we know is that it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.

Mayan ruin - Tikal, Peten, Guatemala

Mayan ruin – Tikal, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are Romans 13:8-11

Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law. This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.

The Ten Commandments were given to the Israelites so that they would know what God expected of them. If anyone can follow the Ten Commandments word-for-word perfectly every day of their lives, they are worthy to have a relationship with God. But no one can do that. That’s the true point of the Ten Commandments, to show us that we need God and that we need His forgiveness if we want to walk with Him. So the Ten Commandments show us what God expects from us and how to live, but since we are incapable of meeting His expectations and He offers us forgiveness for that, the Ten Commandments represent a lifestyle instead.

But who can keep track of ten laws? Maybe that’s lazy of me to say, but that’s a lot, especially in day-to-day life. I’m all for summaries, although I’m sure you would never believe it because of the length of these crazy devos.

The Ten Commandments can be summarized in two phrases: Love God. Love people.

God should come first in our lives. No one should be a higher priority than He is. Our lives belong to Him anyway, and the least we can do is give ourselves back to Him. That’s salvation. That’s why Christ came and died for us.

But what about the rest? Love people. That’s how we show we’re different from people who don’t believe. That’s how we demonstrate that what we believe is real. We love people who don’t deserve to be loved, because God loved us when we didn’t deserve to be loved. That’s what this verse is saying: love people.

Why? Well, other than the fact that God has commanded it, because we don’t have a lot of time left. Yes, Romans was written a very long time ago, and, yes, Paul was saying even then that we didn’t have a lot of time. But look how long it’s taken to get the word out. Thousands of years have passed and the whole world still doesn’t know.

So what does all this mean for today?

I’m tired. I’m bone weary of our culture and the darkness. I’m tired of being looked at funny when I talk about living the way Christ has told us to. And I’m tired of being sad and grieving for a world (and even other believers) that has turned their backs on the God who gave so much to save them. But I can be encouraged because I trust Scripture and I trust God, and everything points to the fact that Christ is coming back soon. Very soon.

So I’m going to keep pressing forward. I’m going to love people, and I’m going to love people now more than I did yesterday because if God can use my love to turn someone’s heart toward Him in these last days, it will be worth it. And love has a better chance of that than pounding them on the head with a Bible.

And who knows? Maybe December 21 is it. Because, seriously, who really does know for sure?