The cloudy sky over a cool old building, Edinburgh, Scotland

It’s okay to say you don’t know

I hate not having answers. I’m not sure why this is, but I always feel like if I don’t have the answers to every problem, I’m a failure. The three words I hate the most to have to say: “I don’t know.”

That’s not a realistic way to live, but that’s often the expectations I put myself under. I tell myself I have to know everything. Even if all I know is that God has it taken care of, I feel like I can’t just say that I don’t know. I have to explain.

Maybe that’s not bad, but it tends to feed my pride and my proclivity to rely on myself.

The cloudy sky over a cool old building, Edinburgh, Scotland

The cloudy sky over a cool old building, Edinburgh, Scotland

Today’s verse is 1 Kings 2:3.

Observe the requirements of the Lord your God, and follow all his ways. Keep the decrees, commands, regulations, and laws written in the Law of Moses so that you will be successful in all you do and wherever you go.

This verse comes from King David’s final instructions to his son Solomon. David is about to die, and Solomon is about to become king. After a long life with lots of successes and many mistakes, David probably had this figured out. If anyone could figure it out, it would be David, the man after God’s own heart.

In David’s words, he didn’t tell Solomon to have the answer for every problem or situation. He didn’t tell him to plan for every eventuality. He told Solomon to obey, to follow God and do what God says is right. And, in David’s words, if Solomon could do that, God would bring success and prosperity.

And that rings true today.

Yes, there are habits and strategies you can use to reach success, but there are plenty of people out there with great work habits and brilliant strategies who aren’t successful yet.

I don’t have this figured out, not by a long shot, but what I do know is that God is the one who determines whether you’re successful or not. You can work as hard as you can, but until God puts His hand of favor on you, until He fills your life with grace, you aren’t going to go much of anywhere.

I’m not saying we can be lazy. No, if we want something, we do have to work for it. But we shouldn’t rely on our own strength to get it. Know what you need to know. Do what you need to do. Invest your time and your energy in the task God has given you, but realize that your success doesn’t come just because you’re a hard worker.

That’s a huge relief, especially for this performance-driven perfectionist. I’m going to do the best I can do in every aspect of my responsibilities, but at the end of the day, if there’s a question I can’t answer or a situation that I haven’t prepared for, it’s really all right to say, “I don’t know, but God does.”

That’s not a cop out. That’s not a bad response. In many instances, that’s the only response.

So what task has God given you to do? What has He put you in charge of? Have you done your best? Have you prepared for what you can prepare for? Awesome. Leave it at that, and stop worrying. And when you encounter a question you don’t know the answer to, don’t hesitate to admit you don’t know. Not only will it show others that you’re truly trusting God for the unknown aspects of your task, it will keep your own pride in check. And it’ll help you remember that God is the one in control and it’s by His grace we succeed and increase, not just the strength of our own hands.

Meerkat at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Ask God for help before you need it

I used to work a customer service type of job. It was a position dedicated to helping people find their answers, and even though it was a lot of work, I enjoyed it. The service in customer service is usually fun, until you get a customer who isn’t very nice.

But speaking from the customer’s standpoint (because the customer is always right, right?), I have been in situations where I didn’t receive very good customer service. I came looking for help or looking for answers, and there was no one there to help me. Or the people who were there weren’t very helpful.

Not only is that irritating, it’s discouraging. I’m not one of those people who goes to customer service straight off the bat. I try to figure it out myself first, and if I can’t, then I ask for help. But if the people who are supposed to help me won’t, then it seems like my problem will never be solved because I can’t do it on my own.

Meerkat at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Meerkat at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 69:32.

The humble will see their God at work and be glad.
    Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.

How fortunate are we that God isn’t like a lazy customer service person? He’s our loving Father who wants to help us and who is infinitely qualified to do so.

Not that He’s like a customer service line. God doesn’t work like that. Actually, most of the time, He’s helping behind the scenes before we even know we need His help.

But God never turns anyone who comes seeking Him away. Not ever. Never once in history has He turned someone who came seeking Him away, no matter who they are or what they did. Anyone who came to Him for help, He helped.

So have you asked Him for help today? Or are you stubborn like me and insist on trying to make it through life without His help?

Believe me, the more you try to figure life out on your own, the more trouble you’ll make for yourself. It’s so much better to just start out asking for His help instead of getting to the point where you can’t take another step without Him. Wouldn’t it be better to take the first step with Him?

Be encouraged. God is waiting for you to ask for His help today, so don’t wait. God wants to help us, and we’re nuts if we tell Him we can do it ourselves. Because we can’t.

So what do you need help with? A job? A family member? A friend? Whatever situation you’re in, God can help. He knows what to do. He has an eternity of wisdom to offer. So call Him up and see what He says. You don’t have to talk to a computer, and He won’t try to sell you anything. No strings attached.

Beautiful irises in the sunlight at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Living fully alive

I can only imagine the devastation that followed Christ’s death on the cross. What a horrible way to die. And how much guilt did the disciples have to be feeling because they had all pretty much abandoned Him?

Obviously John stuck it out till the end because one of the last things Jesus said was to him. But the rest of them?

That was a bad day, even though it was a Good Day for all Mankind. But that was Friday. On Sunday, things started looking up.

Beautiful irises in the sunlight at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Beautiful irises in the sunlight at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Luke 24:1-6.

But very early on Sunday morningthe women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!”

Can you put yourself in the shoes (or sandals) of these poor ladies? My goodness. Talk about an emotional roller coaster. They’d watched Jesus die, and then they had to prepare the Passover meal and do the whole Passover thing, which is so full of symbolism about the coming Messiah they probably couldn’t get through it without bawling. And after all that, they still had to come back and finish preparing Jesus’ body.

And I’m sure they prepared themselves for it. They had steeled themselves against the grief in order to get the job done. But they weren’t ready to find the tomb empty. And they weren’t ready for angels to tell them they were looking in the wrong place.

“Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen!”

If that statement doesn’t fill you with joy, maybe you didn’t read it right. I know how it makes me feel, so I bet those poor emotionally drained women were probably over the top.

Jesus died, but He’s bigger than death. And death couldn’t stop Him.

And that’s beautiful and poetic, and it’s created the impetus for many special effects in movies and pyrotechnics in Passion plays. But what exactly does it mean in a practical sense?

Death couldn’t stop Jesus, and, thanks to Him, the same applies to the people we who believe in Him. Death has no power over those who believe in Christ. Death can’t even touch a Christ-follower.

But more than that, even though Christ’s sacrifice makes it possible for us to spend eternity in heaven, He also makes it possible for us to live fully alive here. The world is broken, full of broken people, full of spiritually dead people. We are all born spiritually dead. Choosing to follow Christ, takes our dead spirit and brings it back to life again.

Choosing to follow Christ is more than just getting to go to heaven. Choosing to follow Christ allows us to live fully alive.

And if you think about it, the angels’ words still ring true today. If you’re a Christ follower and you’re not following Christ like you should be, think about what the angels told the women.

Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive?

Death and Life have nothing in common. So if you’re a Christ follower, look for your life’s purpose in Christ. Just remember you won’t find Christ among the dead because He isn’t there.

How would our lives have changed if Christ hadn’t risen? Could you imagine the hopelessness, the darkness, the futility of life without Christ? It wouldn’t be worth living.

But He lives.

And because He lives, so can we.

My cup of juice from the Seder Meal, Andover, KS

If Good Friday were the end

Have you ever noticed that people don’t seem to appreciate what they have until they don’t have it anymore? I’m counting myself in that generalization because it’s true.

I’m perfectly content to just rock along in life without really thinking about all the wonderful blessings God has given me, and then one day I wake up because everything that made my life easy is suddenly gone. And I didn’t even realize that those blessings were a gift instead of a privilege. It took losing them to appreciate them.

Why are we like that? Why do we have to lose things before we realize that we’re taking them for granted?

My cup of juice from the Seder Meal, Andover, KS

My cup of juice from the Seder Meal, Andover, KS

Today is Good Friday. Today is the day that Jesus died on the cross 2,000 years ago to pay the price for my soul and the soul of everyone who has ever lived and ever will live.

And I can’t help but put myself in the shoes of the Disciples. How crushed they had to be! How much they must have despaired! Not only because their friend was gone but so was their hope, even though Jesus had told them what was going to happen. (But we can’t be too hard on the Disciples because God tells us what’s going to happen and we don’t listen either.)

Normally I try to be positive and uplifting in what I post on here, but for once I really just want to take a moment and imagine what it would have been like if Christ hadn’t come back from the dead. What would have happened if He died on that cross and didn’t resurrect? What would have happened if Good Friday ended everything?

There was talk in the early Church about resurrection and whether or not it was true, and Paul addressed it in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19:

And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

If Christ stayed dead, our hope died with Him. His death on the cross paid the price for our sins, but His resurrection proved He was God enough to accept the charges.

If Christ stayed dead, we have no hope, we have no life, we have no purpose, because if He didn’t come back, the Bible is a lie. And the Disciples were liars. The Apostles were liars. And Jesus Himself was a liar.

If Christ stayed dead, what would your life look like? Have you ever taken the time to think about it? If you haven’t, do it. Think about all the times you faced difficulties and challenges and relied on His love or His strength to get you through, and then take that away. How would you have made it without Him?

Too often we take Him for granted. And it’s not that we shouldn’t expect Him to show up. He wants us to expect Him. But there’s a big difference between expecting Him to be there and thinking we deserve His presence in our lives.

Today, think about what your life would be like without Christ, and when Sunday gets here, you’ll see it differently. It won’t just be another Sunday. It won’t just be another Easter where you get to dress up and hunt for eggs or eat ham with your family. It will be a true celebration of the return of hope because that’s what Easter is. Easter celebrates the hope and life we have in Christ because He didn’t stay dead.

The main street at Old Cowtown, Wichita, KS

Doing the one thing you’re called to do

When you have three good paths you can walk, how do you choose the best one? Has anyone else ever been there? I seem to end up at an intersection of competing opportunities every other day, and being the perfectionistic people pleaser I am, I always try to do everything for everybody.

But you can’t do that forever. You can’t always say yes. I mean, you can, but sooner or later, you’re going to crash and burn. Because you’re not superhuman. You have to sleep and eat and take care of your health at some point, whether you believe it or not.

The main street at Old Cowtown, Wichita, KS

The main street at Old Cowtown, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 10:38-42.

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

This is a familiar story. Most everyone probably knows it, and it’s probably been used in more Sunday school lessons and sermons than anyone can count. I know I’ve heard this story all my life.

So why do I keep trying to make decisions like Martha?

Martha’s heart was in the right place. She wanted to use her gifts to serve Jesus, but she was trying to do too much. She weighed herself down with too much responsibility, and then when she saw her sister sitting and listening, doing one thing (no matter how important it was), I’m sure she got irritated.

I would have been. But Mary had the right idea. She had the opportunity to do one thing–listen. And I think we all usually end up in that same place. We have the chance to do many things or we have the chance to do one thing, and if you’re the sort of person who can manage lots of multitasking, you won’t want to stop with one thing.

And it’s not bad to multitask. If you’re a “ten-talent” servant, make the most of what you have. Use your gifts and your abilities for God, and He’ll multiply them exponentially. But remember even the ten-talent servant started out with five talents. It was God who doubled them. He didn’t take ten and try to make good on the investment on his own.

What has God called you to do? Do you know? Some people know specifically. Other people have a sort of vague understanding. But whatever it is God has called you to do, just do it. And just do it alone.

Don’t do anything else. Don’t try to add to it. Don’t try to supplement it. Don’t try to enhance it.

God has created you for a specific task, and maybe you’re one of those people who can handle multiple tasks, but I’m willing to bet they’re probably all related to each other in some way.

Everything I’m good at has to do with words. Everything God has gifted me in has to do with words and communicating. When I try to do anything other than that, I can do it, and I can do it well, but it’s difficult for me. It’s not my gift. And most of the time whenever I agree to do something outside my gift, it’s to please other people.

Not always, of course. When I have the time and I can help set up chairs or work outside and pick people up and drop people off, I’m so glad to do it. But when it comes to efficiently managing the time that God has given me, saying yes to tutoring someone in math would be a horrible idea, no matter how much I want to make them happy.

Get serious with God. Get close to Him. Get to know Him. And the more you get to know Him, the better understanding you’ll have of what He wants for your life.

Ask Him, and keep your options open. Be willing to do what He asks you to do, and you never know where you might end up.