Does Jesus like bacon?

As I’ve gotten older I’ve started enjoying listening to talk radio on the drive into work. I used to get really frustrated because I wanted music. And I still want music. But sometimes it’s interesting to sit and listen to other people and their perspectives.

I heard on the radio yesterday morning that one of the hosts had encountered a question from his son about whether or not Jesus liked bacon. And coming from a child, I think that’s a perfectly adorable question. Culturally, it’s an intriguing question. But realistically, does it matter?

To me, a question like that is up there with asking if God can create a rock that’s too heavy for Him to lift. It’s just not important.

But was really surprised me was the response that some of the listeners had. Someone called in and started talking about how he was sure there would be steak in heaven because he can’t eat it now and he wants to be able to eat it in eternity. And he just didn’t think God would allow there not to be steak in heaven for that reason.

And—okay, let’s just be real here. I like food. Okay? I like food a lot. I like just about any kind of food too (except turnips, but they aren’t really food). Do I want steak in heaven? Well, sure. I like steak. But aren’t there more important things to be concerned about in eternity than what we’re going to be eating?

Today’s verses are Matthew 6:31-33.

A random pig (not my photo)

A random pig (not my photo)

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

I heard someone once talk about how much wealth people would have in heaven. That’s also an interesting topic. But honestly I think that the standards of wealth will be different in eternity. How do I know that? Well, I can point to an obvious answer (Revelation 21:21). On Earth, gold is precious and valuable. In heaven, gold is tantamount to concrete. It’s paving material. It’s what we will walk on.

Heaven’s perspective of riches is different than Earth’s. We put so much value on things that just don’t matter. We worry about things that don’t matter. We focus on things that don’t matter.

And if Jesus told us not to worry about what we’re going to eat when we’re living on earth, I really don’t think we’re going to need to worry about what we’re going to eat when we’re in heaven.

What we need to be focused on instead is who is going to be there.

I like steak as much as the next person. But whether there will be fruits that taste like steak or steak itself isn’t important. I’d much rather focus on who will be sitting across the table from me eating it with me.

When life shakes you, you aren’t alone

Kansas didn’t used to have earthquakes. Not that we have them frequently now, but in the last few years, we’ve had enough to notice. And it’s a little unsettling.

I don’t know if this is a sign of the times or what, earthquakes in weird places, but I do know I don’t really like it. A tornado you can get away from . An earthquake is everywhere.

The last one we had was Monday, I think. And I think it was down in Oklahoma, but we felt it in Wichita. I was up in my cubicle on the 9th floor. I’ve felt them on the ground level before. Being up in a tall building during one was completely different.

People in Kansas often marvel at the lack of severe weather preparedness in other states. But I’m sure people in earthquake-prone areas probably feel the same way about us.

In places where earthquakes happen a lot, the buildings and structures are designed to handle the shaking. Granted, sometimes the quakes are bad enough, design engineering doesn’t matter. But when you live with constant tremors, you have to know how to live. You have to know how to build houses so that even though there’s an earthquake rattling around outside, the house doesn’t fall in on itself.

Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Rose Garden at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Psalms 16:8.

I know the Lord is always with me.
    I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

I was going to use a different verse this morning, but this one stuck out to me. I’ve had some pretty dark moments in the last few days. The Lord and I have been having a lot of conversations about life, the universe, and everything. And He helped me remember something that I already knew: I’m safe in His hands.

If you’re doing what God has called you to do, you’re safe. Even if you aren’t safe, as far as the world would call it. You’re safer in the deepest, darkest, most remote corner of the world if you’re there because God told you to be than if you were in a rich, suburban neighborhood refusing to obey.

And even if we aren’t doing exactly what He’s told us to do, He’s still walking with us, trying to get our attention.

When life blows up and goes crazy, when people you love pass away or get sick, when you don’t have the answers you need, it doesn’t mean that God has abandoned you. It may just mean that you’re letting life get louder than His voice.

God doesn’t scream at us. I’m pretty sure He never has. He speaks quietly, softly, so we have to stop and pay attention. It doesn’t work to blast by and try to do what He wants while you’re trying to do what you want at the same time.

Peace is something we all long for. Imagine not having to worry, not having to fear. Well, you don’t have to. God has everything under control, and just because you don’t understand it or just because you don’t see how it can work out for the best doesn’t mean it won’t.

If we’ve got God in our lives, we have a solid foundation to build on. And no matter how many earthquakes hit us, nothing can shatter that foundation.

So stop worrying. Your worrying doesn’t help. It doesn’t make the situation better for you, and it puts a wall between you and God.

God designed us to live peacefully with Him. Life seems intent on screwing that up, truth be told, but God is bigger than the world. He’s bigger than our problems. He’s bigger than our fears.

Lion roaring about something at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Sometimes you gotta explode

Maybe it’s different for extroverts, but when I get really upset about something or when I am really disappointed about something or really hurt about something, I don’t blow up. I simmer. I’m like a bottle of soda pop that you shake up but don’t open—you can see the bubbles threatening inside, but they have nowhere to go, so they stay put until they settle down. And I suppose that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with being that way.

Except what happens if someone opens a bottle of pop right after it’s been shaken up? Or dropped?

Yeah. It explodes. And makes a mess. So what’s better? To explode first? Or to explode later?

I wish there were an option to not explode, but—just being real here—everybody explodes at some point. Or at least everybody hits a breaking point at least once in their lives, though whether you explode or not depends on your personality.

So, is that okay? Is it okay to hit the point where you can’t take it anymore? And when you get there, what do you do about it?

Well, I think the number one thing you can do is talk about it. And don’t feel like you have to go to a therapist. You don’t even have to go to a friend or a family member. You don’t have to go anywhere. You can stop what you’re doing and tell God about it.

Today’s verses are from Psalm 13.

Lion roaring about something at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Lion roaring about something at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever?
    How long will you look the other way?
How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul,
    with sorrow in my heart every day?
    How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

Turn and answer me, O Lord my God!
    Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.
Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!”
    Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

But I trust in your unfailing love.
    I will rejoice because you have rescued me.
I will sing to the Lord
    because he is good to me.

The Psalms amaze me. Sometimes they disturb me. I can’t believe that David or the other Psalm writers would commit some of these thoughts to paper. But all I have to do is think about some of the things I’ve accused God of doing (or not doing), and I feel just as verbally abusive toward God as the Psalmists.

Here’s the point. God knows that we aren’t perfect. He knows our stories. He knows our personalities. And He knows how much we can take before we snap. Sometimes we need to snap because that may be the only way we get the picture that we’re not in control of our lives.

David snapped. More than once.

David accused God of lots of things. David wailed in his despair. He hurled emotional statements at God and at others and at himself, and if he hadn’t been in such a state, he probably never would have said any of it.

Did God strike him with lightning? Did God give up on him? Did God abandon him?

No. Even when David’s life turned upside down because of his own sins, God never left him. So why do we think that God will leave us?

What I find most fascinating about the Psalms is that so many of them begin with the writer crying out to God for help or out of despair and depression. So many Psalms start with the writer acknowledging how lost he is. But every Psalm usually ends with the writer—the same one—cheering and rejoicing and praising God.

How does that happen? How can you start out piteously and end up victoriously?

Well, first you have to get piteous out of the way. And you can’t do that until you accept that you feel it and face it with the truth—God is stronger than any trouble you’re facing.

Many times when I’m crying out to God on the bad days, I’ll draw myself up short because my brain reminds me just how much God has done for me. I’m in the middle of bemoaning my present circumstances, and it’s like a little voice whispers: “Hey, dummy, what about last week when He did something impossible for you?”

Or not even impossible. Something kind.

Why does God allow horrible things to happen in our lives? I don’t pretend to know, but I do know that no matter how awful it may be, He can turn it into something good—something better than it ever could have been by itself. And He never will abandon us, no matter what we say or do. If you truly belong to Him, you’re stuck with Him for eternity.

So don’t bottle it up. Or do. Either way, when you explode, make sure you take it to God first. He’s big enough to take it, and he’s patient enough to love you through it. There’s nothing you can do to change that, for better or for worse.

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

Don’t give up on God

I’m ridiculous. Do you ever feel that way? Like even when you have it all together, you’ll never have it all together?

I know the truth. I know what God says. I know what’s right according to the Bible. And I really, honestly believe it with all my heart. But I still want my own way.

I want to do things my way. I want to live the way I want to live. I want to use my resources the way I want to use them. And I can get downright stubborn about it.

I cling to my childish understanding of the world and my own life, and I refuse to let go. Maybe it’s comforting because I can wrap my head around it. Maybe that’s why I don’t want to let go, because if I can control it, I feel better. But it’s a lie. I don’t control anything.

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

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

Today’s verse is Jeremiah 10:23.

I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own.
    We are not able to plan our own course.

The prophet Jeremiah understood it. He grasped the concept that God is in control. But what I find ironic is that Jeremiah understood this at one of the darkest times in Israel’s history.

Nothing was going right for Israel at this moment. They were under siege. They were miserable. And Jeremiah himself wasn’t doing so hot either. Imagine being God’s messenger at a time when your country is being chastised for its behavior.

Yeah. Lots of messenger shooting going on.

But even in the midst of all that, Jeremiah could step back and accept the truth. We’re not in control. We never have been. We never will be. We’re not big enough to control our lives, and if you think you can,  just wait a while and something will happen that’s too big for you to handle. And when life spins out of control that wildly, you’ll wish you knew someone big enough to handle it for you.

It’s hard to trust God sometimes, especially when it feels like He’s taken something away from us. But let’s be honest here. Who is God anyway? In the good times, we don’t have trouble believing in Him or believing that He knows what He’s doing. It’s only in the bad times because our trust is shaken.

We have this idea that if we do what God tells us to do we won’t ever have to face troubles in life, and that’s just not true. Even the best, most righteous Christ-follower in the world has to go through trials and struggles and days that just don’t seem fair. But just because what we’re going through sucks right now doesn’t make God any less who He is. Just because we’ve hit a rough spot in life doesn’t change who God is. If it did, He wouldn’t be God.

So whatever trouble you’re facing today? Whatever heartache or frustration or sadness or darkness, don’t give up on God just because you can’t see the end of the road. If you can’t see the end, it’s just one more reason why you need hold on to Him tighter.

Because you can’t control your life. You can’t plan your life. Our lives don’t even belong to us. They belong to Him.

So doesn’t it make sense to let Him have His way?

Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

When bad news has to happen

It feels like I can’t turn on the television or the radio without hearing bad news. Is it just me? Or has the world suddenly gotten darker in the last few weeks? Because it seems to me like more is wrong in today’s world than has ever been wrong before.

People dying. Churches fighting. Towns rioting. Leaders whining. Countries invading. No place feels safe. No person can be trusted. Innocents murdered. Children slaughtered. People starving and frightened and lost.

I try to stay positive. I try to remember that God is in control, but it’s hard to look on the bright side when everything I see is pitch black dark. And then–more bad news. Death. And the worst kind–the kind that could have been prevented but wasn’t because someone was careless.

Breaks my heart. And there’s nothing I can do to fix it. You can’t fix things like that. And you can ask why till you’re blue in the face, and the only answer you’ll get: “Trust me.”

Welcome to the life of a Christ-follower. It’s not all sunshine and daisies. It’s frustrating. Heart wrenching. Because you know the world wasn’t supposed to be this way. You know how things were designed to work. And all you can do is watch the world fall apart and wait for the end to come.

Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

And then, I read Mark 13:5-9.

 Jesus replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately.  Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. When these things begin to happen, watch out!

It’s easy to lose hope when so much bad is happening. It easy to give up when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel or the climb has gotten too steep. But there’s something we all need to remember.

No matter how bad the news is, no matter what dark, horrible things happen, we can’t forget that God really is in control.

Yes, these things must take place.

Did you catch that in the passage above? Jesus is talking about a host of really horrible things, explaining to the Disciples what is coming for Israel, and He tells them that all of it must happen.

Why? Why must it happen?

I don’t presume to know why. And nobody–not even Christ–knows when. But we can know for sure that it’s soon. It’s right at the door, as the passage says above.

There has always been bad stuff happening. There has always been bad news. But the news seems worse now than it’s ever been. But don’t you find it at all comforting that it has to happen? No matter how bad the news gets, it’s not a surprise to God. And even though it may be bad news to us–even though it might break our hearts and tear us up inside–that doesn’t mean God can’t turn it around and transform it into good news.

God’s in the business of transformation.

So don’t be afraid of bad news. Hold on when you get the phone call no one ever wants, when it feels like you’ve done everything right and nothing is working. Don’t lose it when you realize just what a horrible state the world is in. It has to happen. It has to get worse before it can get better.