Prairie dog outside his hole at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Get on the same page

Communication in an organization is really important for a lot of different reasons, especially if you work for a company with multiple offices in a city or in a country. Communication is hard enough in the same office building, though. It’s ten times as hard when you have to get two or more remote offices to work together.

But if you don’t communicate with each other, you run the risk of losing track of what’s important to your organization. If you have two offices doing their own thing without a unifying force, they’ll both end up twisting off in their own directions. Or the opposite will happen. They’ll devote resources to doing the same projects. So you’ll have two people working on the same project at the same time, wasting their energy and focus.

Communicating has never been easy, and it won’t ever be easy. Whenever you get two people in a room, they’ll struggle with getting their points across. That’s just human nature. But if you want to accomplish something, you can’t do it without communicating. Otherwise you’ll end up doubling someone else’s work—or worse, you’ll find out that you’ve been going the wrong direction altogether.

Today’s verses are Galatians 2:1-2

Prairie dog outside his hole at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Prairie dog outside his hole at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Then fourteen years later I went back to Jerusalem again, this time with Barnabas; and Titus came along, too. I went there because God revealed to me that I should go. While I was there I met privately with those considered to be leaders of the church and shared with them the message I had been preaching to the Gentiles. I wanted to make sure that we were in agreement, for fear that all my efforts had been wasted and I was running the race for nothing.

Paul knew it was important to be on the same page as the leaders of the early Church. I can’t imagine how intimidating it had to be for him to approach the leaders of the Church in Jerusalem (read that: the original disciples!) to make sure the message he was preaching was the right one.

But he knew—whether through common sense or God’s revelation—that he couldn’t just keep on going without making sure what he was saying matched what the Church was saying.

So if Paul realizes that, why don’t we? Have you ever noticed in our smartphone-savvy, information-at-your-fingertips, data-plan-overload society that we seem to communicate with each other less and less? And I don’t mean just texting. I don’t mean just firing off an email. I mean communicating. I mean talking to each other, using real words.

And the Church isn’t immune. I think churches struggle the most with communication issues because that’s the first place Satan loves to attack. If he can break down our communication, he can destroy relationships.

We have to get on the same page. We have to figure out a way to really talk to each other, the way people used to, because if we don’t, we’re all going to end up in a rat’s nest of miscommunications, well-intentioned or not.

I honestly believe many churches break up because of miscommunications or because of a lack of communication. I believe many marriages and friendships and families are torn apart because people just don’t talk to each other.

Communication is everything. It’s intimidating, yes. Maybe even terrifying, if you’re an introvert like me. But if every relationship’s foundation starts with love, communication is the mortar that holds the walls together. Without it, everything falls apart, no matter how much you might love each other.

Communication is the difference between a building with walls and a building that’s just a foundation.

So don’t let your fear (which comes from Satan) keep you from talking to people about what you believe. Don’t let your pride (which comes from Satan) keep you from listening to people who care about you.

God put us in each other’s lives to help each other, so let’s start helping each other. Let’s start building some walls instead of tearing them down. Let’s start working together instead of against each other.

If some of us are on the wrong track, gently help them get back to the right road. And if there are hurt feelings and damaged relationships, let’s just remember that nobody’s perfect and we all need a little grace.

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What happens if God doesn’t keep His promises?

You’re at work and you know you’re a good employee. You’re always on time. You always encourage teamwork. You don’t cause drama. You’re the kind of employee you would want to hire if you were a manager.

Then, one day, your boss lets it slip that the company is going to do something really nice for its top performers. If you’ve ever been there, I bet you imagine what that “something nice” is going to be. You fantasize about it. A bonus? Or maybe an extra vacation day?

Have you ever gotten what you imagined? That’s never happened to me. I imagine “something nice” as something awesome. And usually it turns out to be something like a gift card. (Not knocking gift cards. Gift cards are the best, especially when they aren’t part of your salary.) But in those moments, are you ever disappointed that your company’s “something nice” didn’t match up to yours? Do you get upset at your boss because he or she didn’t meet your expectations?

Today’s verses are Ephesians 3:17-20.

Evergreen tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Evergreen tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 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.

There’s a contingent of Bible thumpers out there who love to expound on how God will give you a car or how God will make all your dreams come true, and it’s not that God won’t do those things … it’s just that He doesn’t promise them.

I’ve known people over the years who have believed with their whole heart that God would give them something specific. A specific job. A specific boyfriend. A specific house. A specific outcome in their life. They’ve claimed it would happen and believed with everything they had that it would.

And it didn’t happen.

Ouch. What do you do when God doesn’t deliver on His promises?

Well, the first thing you need to do is make sure He actually promised it. Like the situation at work–my boss didn’t say the company was going to give me an extra day off. My boss didn’t say the company was going to give me a bonus check. That was my assumption. That was my definition of “something nice” and it didn’t match what the company had in mind.

So many Christ-followers end up discouraged in their walk with God because He hasn’t given them what they think He should. And I can understand their feelings. I’ve been there. Where I was sure God was leading me in a specific direction, where I was certain what He was doing in my life–and then He does a complete 180. And my life ends up looking nothing like what I expected.

And when that happens, it’s really easy to take it out on God. We can be so sure we know what He’s doing, can’t we? And in those moments, it’s so easy to get ahead of Him, to assume He’s going to do something in our life just because we feel a sense of peace about it. But just because you feel a sense of peace about a particular outcome in your life doesn’t make it a promise that God is bound to keep.

God’s promises are set down in the Bible. He’s promised to never leave us. He’s promised to save us. He’s promised to make us a part of His family, to forgive us our sins and remember them no more, to love us unconditionally, to help us when we need it. He has promised to do what we ask and to give us the desires of our heart, yes, but our hearts have to match His before that will happen. And we have to understand that if He doesn’t give us what we want, that doesn’t mean God is unfaithful. It just means it isn’t time yet.

The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically how our lives are going to work out. All God promises us is that He’s working things out for our good and His glory.

Don’t get caught in the trap of putting God in a box, because that’s what we do when we tell God He’s unfaithful or untrustworthy. Maybe you feel like God has betrayed you. Well, friend, He hasn’t. It’s you who doesn’t understand how He works. And if you give God a little space, let Him work in your life the way He wants, and keep trusting Him even when you don’t see how things will work out, one day you’ll realize that He has answered every promise He’s made to you and more.

So when something you want–something you think God has promised you–doesn’t work out, don’t get upset. And please, please don’t get angry at God. God doesn’t have to operate inside the box we build for Him, and I’m so thankful He doesn’t. Imagine how lackluster and mediocre life would be if God were limited to our expectations.

No. Our God is a big God, an all-powerful God, and a gracious, generous God, eager to shower blessings on His children. And if you expect Him to operate within the walls of your planning and your imagination, you’re going to live a disappointed life.

So let go. Let God be God. Stop trying to control Him. Stop trying to squeeze Him into a box with your own limitations. And then sit back and enjoy the ride.

Do you pay attention to the instructions?

Can you recite the safety speech flight attendants give before every airplane takes off? I’d be willing to bet I can probably tell you everything they say and even pantomime their motions, and I’m not even what you would call a jetsetter.

Most people tune them out completely. Most people stay buried in their phones or tablets and ignore them. After all, what they’re saying is common knowledge, isn’t it? Everyone knows the safety regulations on an airplane, don’t they?

I’ve never read the seatback information card on a plane. I’ll admit it. I already know the basics. But what would happen if someone told me that I needed to help the child sitting next to me with his mask first in an emergency? What if that person told me I was honor bound to help the less able around me before I take care of myself? I’m a Christ-follower, and I’m supposed to put others before myself.

Doesn’t that make sense? Never mind the flight attendant says to get yourself settled before you try to help the person next to you.

Today’s verse is Hebrews 2:1.

The seatback information card on my flight to Chicago, Wichita, KS

The seatback information card on my flight to Chicago, Wichita, KS

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it.

The devil’s in the details. It’s an old saying, but it’s true. You can think you’ve got everything right. You can think you’ve handled every issue, but you usually always miss some small, pesky detail that screws the whole project up. And the same is true when it comes to our faith.

Sure, you can get the big picture right. You can live your life according to the major tenants of what the Bible says, but the details matter too. The details of the Christian life often affect the big picture more than we think they do.

Example? Say you believe that murder is wrong. It’s wrong to kill someone because the Bible says it’s wrong. But that’s a broad subject. Let’s get specific about murder. Let’s get down to the details. What do you believe about abortion? Does your belief about murder match up with your belief about abortion? Because the Bible is pretty clear on both. The Bible calls murder the ending of someone’s life unjustly, and the Bible also says that life begins at the moment of conception. And what’s more unjust than ending the life of an innocent who can’t even fight back?

I’m not trying to start an argument. I’m just trying to make a point. You can believe that murder is wrong all day long, but if you pay attention to the details of what the Bible says, that means you should also believe that abortion is wrong. If you don’t, you’re a hypocrite—picking and choosing what you like about the Bible and dismissing what you don’t.

The Bible doesn’t work that way. God doesn’t work that way. We don’t get to approve or disapprove of God’s plans. He’s God. He does what He wants, and He is gracious enough to include us on some of what He’s doing in the world. Just because you disagree with Him doesn’t make Him wrong. And it sure doesn’t make you right.

It seems to me that every street is lined with people who would twist the Christian faith to fit their own purposes. Every day there’s someone on television or radio who’s claiming something that the Bible never promises or quoting scriptures God never inspired. And it’s more important than ever to pay attention to what the Bible actually says.

Don’t just listen to the next person who comes along. Don’t even listen to me. Like I blogged about earlier in the week, you need to take responsibility for your own faith, because at the end of days when you stand before God Himself, you won’t be able to shift blame on anyone else. You’ll have to stand on your own, and if you don’t have Jesus, you really will be on your own.

Every American has heard the truth in some form or other. Americans are without excuse, more than any other nation in the history of the world. We have freedom. We have churches on every corner. We have Bibles gathering dust on our coffee tables.

So listen carefully. Pay attention. Don’t just ignore the safety demonstration when God decides to give it. Don’t shove the seatback card in the pocket and plug your earphones in while the plane burns up around you.

Listen up. Speak out. And don’t back down, especially when you’re faced with people who treat the Bible like it’s some kind of tree that only produces good fruit half the time.

The trail at Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Think twice before you take the first path

I’ve had a number of really exciting cab experiences during my stay here in Chicago, most of them centering on the cab driver himself. But yesterday, I saw something I’d never seen before.

The cab driver was taking us back to our hotel, and the streets were pretty congested. I don’t think I’ve seen a moment where the streets haven’t been congested, to be honest. We crossed an intersection, moving really fast, and the driver slammed on his brakes. Why?

Because a man in a wheelchair was wheeling himself down the middle of the street. Cars swerved both ways around him, and he kept waving at everyone to keep coming. Now, either he was daring them to hit him or he didn’t realize he was in a really dangerous place.

We got around him without getting ourselves or him or anyone else killed, and the taxi driver just shook his head and said in his very thick Nigerian accent: “That’s just not very smart, man.”

The trail at Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

The trail at Helen Hunt Falls, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Proverbs 16:25.

There is a path before each person that seems right,
    but it ends in death.

Have you ever done something really stupid in the heat of the moment? It made sense right then, but when everything calmed down, you realized how much of an idiot you were.

I’ve been there. More than once.

At first glance, the idea seems perfect. The plan is flawless. But that’s just surface thinking. If you take the time to think it through, to look below the surface and consider the consequences of your actions, you might start seeing problems.

But when you’re in a rush or panicking or desperate to see some kind of movement, you rarely stop to think about consequences. When you’re in action mode, all you want is instant gratification. And, I’m not going to lie, acting without thinking often provides instant gratification.

But instant gratification comes and goes. It doesn’t stick around. And maybe you’ll be satisfied for a moment, but after it’s over, you’ll be stuck where you were before. And then you’ll have the consequences of your actions to face.

I don’t know what the crazy dude in the wheelchair wanted yesterday. If he wanted attention, he sure got it. If he wanted someone to run him over, he was right where he needed to be. But if he was just trying to get from point A to point B without dealing with the crowds on the sidewalk, maybe he could have come up with a better solution.

Just because an idea seems legit at first glance, don’t jump on it immediately. Take the time to think about it, especially if it’s going to require a large investment from you. And beyond just thinking about it, pray about it. Ask God for direction and keep reading your Bible. You never know what you might find in Scripture that will give you the answers you need. God reveals Himself to us in many different ways, if we’re willing to keep our eyes open.

Jellyfish at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Take responsibility for what you believe

Does anyone else have to rely on GPS or mapping services like MapQuest or Google Maps to get around? I’m not ashamed to admit that I do. I’m one of those people.

Now, I don’t need them in Wichita, generally. If I know the area, I can pretty much figure out how to get there, but I’m familiar with Wichita streets. But in another city? Like Chicago, where I’m at right now? I’m at the mercy of whatever mapping program is most convenient.

And that means I have to trust whatever information it gives me because I don’t know any better. For all I know, the map I’m reading to could be completely off base. It might be entirely incorrect. And I might be heading in a direction that will cause me a lot of trouble.

Today’s verses are Galatians 1:6-7.

Jellyfish at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

Jellyfish at the Omaha Zoo, Omaha, NE

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.

I don’t think I’ve ever used the same Bible verse twice in a row on AlwaysPeachy. But every now and then, more than one concept in a verse strikes me when I read it.

I guess what really stood out to me here was that even in the days of the early Church, there were still people who were trying to dilute the Truth of God’s Word. You’re always going to find those people in any sort of religious institution. The naysayers. The nitpickers. The backstabbers and bickerers.

It’s not limited by denomination, but they do seem to come out of the woodwork in churches that are really making a difference for Christ.

What amazes me is that their fake gospel isn’t always easier than what Jesus originally brought. There are some who come into a church to lead it astray who bring the whole concept of the prosperity gospel. Those are the folks who say if you believe hard enough and do everything God says, He’ll give you everything you as for. And there’s no biblical basis for that.

But then there are the folks who come in and say you have to dress and act a certain way in order for God to accept you. You  have to keep traditions and live by rituals and all that in order to be loved. And there’s no basis for that in the Bible either.

You just have to make sure you always check your sources. If there’s someone in the church you respect and love and they have acted like a mentor to you, that’s wonderful. And you should seek out those relationships. But don’t for a moment think they are always right. Don’t for an instant believe your pastor is always right.

You are responsible for your own faith, and if your faith is misplaced, it’s nobody’s fault but yours.

Where do you check? Well, I can tell you issues of faith are easier to verify than a mapping program. For MapQuest and Google Maps, generally you just have to get there to figure out that the program is wrong. For faith, you have a Bible. You have access to the Scriptures.

Read them. Make it a habit. Do Google searches for keywords. And ask the person who’s telling you what they believe where they learned it.

I’m not saying to suspect everyone of heresy. By no means. But we all need do start taking responsibility for what we believe. If we can do that, not only will our faith be sure, but it’ll be stronger and it’ll be our own.

A ram looking particularly grouchy at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Everyone wrestles with God at some point

Do you know someone who has turned away from his or her faith? It’s a hard thing to observe, especially if it’s someone you love. Because you can’t do anything about it. You can’t talk about it, because that will make it worse. And you can’t ignore it because you’d rather chop off your arm than cut that person out of your life.

A ram looking particularly grouchy at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

A ram looking particularly grouchy at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Galatians 1:6-7.

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving mercy of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ.

This passage is talking to the ones at the Church in Galatia who had decided that following someone else’s “gospel” was a better idea than the Gospel that Paul had brought them. But that’s not what caught my eye about this particular passage.

What caught my attention was Paul’s statement of his shock that the Church was turning away from God “so soon.” In the Greek language, the word is ταχεως, which means quickly or hastily.

Paul was shocked that the Church was turning away from God so soon. So does that mean if it had been later in their walk that he wouldn’t have been as shocked?  It wouldn’t have surprised him if they turned away from God after they’d followed Him for a few years or so?

If that’s the case, there are a couple of things we can learn from that statement, the first of which is that it’s not uncommon for people to get turned around in their faith. It’s not unusual for people to get screwed up. It’s not unusual for people to twist off, especially if they are prone to believing lies disguised as truth.

Everybody struggles. Everyone has something about their faith they don’t like or that they can’t understand or that they wish were clearer. Some people can just accept that God is God and He does what He wants. Others struggle. Others want to know why. And if they aren’t grounded in Scripture, if they aren’t close to God, and if they aren’t really seeking God with everything they are, it’s easy to be led astray.

Because it’s so nice to believe the prosperity gospels. It’s so comforting to believe that we never have to struggle or fight. It’s so much easier to fit in. And it’s so much more fun to do what we want instead of doing what God says is right.

God asks for a lot. His expectations are high. Not for salvation,  because that’s a free gift and we can never afford to pay for it. But the Christian life isn’t easy. It never has been, and it’s not supposed to be. We don’t belong in this world, remember.

So we shouldn’t be surprised when people turn away from their faith after they’ve had it for a while. It shouldn’t shake us. It shouldn’t frighten us.

Maybe someone has some into their life with “gospel” that isn’t really the Gospel, and it’s their choice to believe it or not. But that choice is up to them. That choice is between them and God.

And it may not even mean that they don’t believe it anymore. It may just mean they’re wrestling with God over something they’re being stubborn about.

And the thing about a wrestling match is that more than two people can’t wrestle at a time. More than two people wrestling is a fight. You can’t get between them. You have to let them battle it out.

But what you can do is never stop loving them. Don’t ever turn away from them. And know that if they really belong to the Lord, He won’t let them go. And He’s never lost a wrestling match.

If someone turns away from their faith soon after accepting it, that might be a sign their conversion wasn’t real. But that’s not for us to say either. That’s a heart issue, and only God knows the heart. It’s our job to love regardless and share our faith with everyone we meet.

The one thing we can know for sure is that everybody struggles. We may not know why, and we don’t have to. But we don’t have to stand there gaping with our mouths open when we hear that someone is struggling with their faith. Loosen up those halos, Christian, and admit that you do too.

Don’t be afraid to share those struggles. Don’t be afraid to be honest about the places where you falter and hesitate. Your struggle and your life and your victory may be just what someone else needs to hear to keep them in God’s fold, instead of wandering off with some other shepherd.

 

Penguin at the Omaha Zoo showing off for the people, Omaha, NE

Don’t make decisions to make people happy

We all know them. They’re everywhere, if you think about it. Hidden in plain sight, disguised as normal, average, everyday citizens.

People pleasers.

(cue dramatic music)

People pleasers are the best. They’re great friends to have because they’ll do anything for you. They’re awesome employees because they’ll work themselves to exhaustion. But put a people pleaser in a position of authority and look out.

And I can say this. Because I am a people pleaser. I am a performance-driven, perfectionistic people pleaser…. a truly fearsome thing to behold.

And it is so much easier–so much nicer–so much less stressful to do whatever people want you to do. It’s like a burden lifted off your back when you can just make someone else happy by doing something for them or serving them in any way. But life doesn’t work that way. You can’t always make people happy. And sometimes you have to make unpopular decisions.

If you’re a people pleaser in a position of authority, you have to have something stronger in your life to fall back on that helps you do the right thing.

Penguin at the Omaha Zoo showing off for the people, Omaha, NE

Penguin at the Omaha Zoo showing off for the people, Omaha, NE

Today’s verse is Galatians 1:10.

Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.

Galatians is another book of the New Testament written by Paul through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Like Philemon, which I was reading last week, Galatians is a letter, but this letter was written not to an individual but to the Church in Galatia.

Back in the days of the early Church, the religious scene wasn’t like is now. In the US, you can go to any major city and find many different kinds of churches. But back then, every city only had one church. And it was The Church.

And Paul was addressing an issue in the Church, where the people had started believing a different version of the Gospel than what Paul had originally preached there. A false version. And Paul calls them out for believing a lie.

See, Paul didn’t have a problem telling it like it was. But like he says in the verse, if he wanted to please people, He wouldn’t have given his life to Christ.

Why is that? Does that mean if you choose to follow Christ you can’t make people happy?

No, not at all. Following Christ means that you love others and put others first. But loving people and putting other people before yourself doesn’t mean you’re always going to make them happy, because sometimes what’s best will make people unhappy.

And more often than not, accepting God’s direction in our lives starts off with unhappiness. I wish I could tell you it was different, but I can’t. Many times in my life and in my walk with God, I’ve had to accept decisions others have made that I didn’t like–that I didn’t agree with–that made me unhappy. But because I trust God has a reason for everything and that He puts the people of His choosing in authority over me, I submit. I don’t like it, but I do it.

And you know what happens? Pretty soon after, I see that God did know what He was doing. And that the people who had to make that difficult decision that made me so unhappy were doing what God called them to do. And it was me who wasn’t grasping God’s plan.

You can’t live your life to make people happy and live your life following Christ at the same time. Following Christ gives you the chance to make a real difference in people’s lives–in a way you can’t ever do on your own–but that has nothing to do with making them happy.

But Paul wasn’t born a people pleaser. That wasn’t his personality. So standing up and calling people out probably wasn’t something that would shatter his world–like it would do for me.

So how do you do it? How do you do what’s right because it’s right instead of doing what people want so they don’t hate you?

I can’t say I know the answer, but I know what I’ve had to do. And that’s learning to value God’s opinion more than the opinions of people around you. And it’s hard. It’s so hard (but you won’t ask for help because you don’t want people to worry). And you’ll cry a lot (usually where nobody can see you because you don’t want people to worry about that either).

But here’s something I know is true: If you value God’s opinion more than the opinions of people around you, eventually those people–if they know Christ–will do the same. It won’t happen the next day. It may not even happen in a year. But one day, down the road, the people who you made unhappy by your unpopular decision will understand.

People’s opinions change. People’s happiness changes. God never does, and He can outlast the most stubborn of hearts. So you hold on to that. Don’t make decisions to make people happy.