Winding road through the Guatemalan jungle, Peten, Guatemala

When God does something new, it’s always impossible

In less than 24 hours, a new year begins. 2015. 2015? I was looking at a list of upcoming movies the other day, and the summary of one stood out to me. It’s a sequel, and the directors have set it 22 years after the original movie released. Then, I remembered that the original movie released in 1993. And the sequel is releasing–and is set–in 2015. I remember 1993. I remember 1993 very well. And that was 22 years ago?


New years are always exciting because it’s a chance to do something different. It’s a fresh start for everyone. That’s where the idea of resolutions came from. The desire to start over, to live life differently, to make better (usually healthier) choices. Something new isn’t always appealing, especially to those of us who dislike change, but new is important.

God is always up to something new. He’s always got some project He’s working on, and while we may not understand all the pieces, the whole is always undeniably good. Because He is good.

Winding road through the Guatemalan jungle, Peten, Guatemala

Winding road through the Guatemalan jungle, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are Isaiah 43:16-19.

I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters,
making a dry path through the sea.
I called forth the mighty army of Egypt
with all its chariots and horses.
I drew them beneath the waves, and they drowned,
their lives snuffed out like a smoldering candlewick.
“But forget all that—
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

It’s one thing for us to make a New Year’s Resolution. It’s something else for God to do something new. Why?

Well, for one, if God promises that He’ll do something, He’ll actually do it. When was the last time you met someone who actually kept a New Year’s Resolution? They’re hard to keep. You have to be pretty dang stubborn.

What the prophet Isaiah is actually talking about in this passage is the birth of Christ. That was certainly something the world has never seen before–or since. But if you look at your own life, you’ll see how God is working on a day-to-day basis, accomplishing things in you and through you that you never thought possible.

When God does something new, He always does the impossible. Have you seen a path through the wilderness? Have you seen rivers in a desert?

God wants to do something new in your life, but the trick is trusting Him enough to let Him. It’s easy to cling to the same-old, same-old in your life because you know it, you understand it, you can halfway control it (you think). Stepping back and letting go of the life you understand is terrifying, and giving it over to God is doubly so. Giving up control in your life is petrifying.

But God is always up to something new. And it will always be impossible. And it will always be good.

So wherever you are on this New Year’s Eve 2014, consider letting go of your life. The harder you hold on to it, the more of it will slip away. Let God have it. Let God do what He wants with it, and your 2015 might be bigger and better and more impossible than you ever imagined.

The key to achieving lasting success

It’s hard to believe that 2014 is almost over. That’s hard to swallow because I would swear it just started. I know time is supposed to start passing more quickly the older you get, but good grief!

So as I was thinking this morning about the upcoming year and all the wonderful excitement it will hold, I started getting a little nervous. There’s a lot riding on next year. Everyone wants to be successful, but there seem to be hundreds of different ideas on how to be successful. And, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to read every 12-step book on success in the market. I’d much rather spend my time doing something than thinking about doing something.

So is there an easy answer to success? Well, I guess that depends on your definition of easy.

862369_73766129Today’s verse is 1 Peter 5:6.

So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.

The Bible talks about success and victory frequently, which is nice because that’s a question people have often. But I’m not exactly sure the God’s strategy will jive with anyone else’s. God’s strategy for success seems a little backwards.

But then, that’s normal. Usually God’s way is entirely opposite of what the world says anyway, entirely opposite of how we’re wired to think. And this strategy for success is no different.

You want to be successful? Humble yourself.

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

Seriously, how does that work? If you want to be successful, don’t you have to make a name for yourself? If you want to win, don’t you have to fight harder, live louder, and play meaner than all your competition? Don’t you have to be the smartest person in the room?

No. None of that will make you successful.

Well, let me rephrase. None of that will bring you God’s success. There’s a big difference here. Because you can fight, shout, cheat your way to the top and win access to all the spoils of American affluence. But once you achieve that kind of success, you’ll find that it’s empty and unsatisfying. That kind of success leaves you hollow.

Success that comes from God fills you up. It stops the longing in your heart for more-more-more and overwhelms you with God’s goodness instead. Until one day you wake up and you can’t believe how much God has given you, and all you want to do is rush out and give-give-give to others because God has blessed you so richly.

See the difference?

The trouble is, success that comes from God isn’t always financial. And sometimes that’s better anyway. Not saying that God can’t bless you with money. Some of the most amazing, generous, awesome people I know are Christ-followers God has blessed with a lot of finances, and that’s incredible! But I know just as many Christ-followers who make it from paycheck to paycheck, and they are no less blessed.

But whether God’s success comes to you in a tangible or intangible form, the key to achieving it is humility before God. It’s the complete opposite of what the world teaches.

What does a humble life before God look like? Very simply, it’s doing what God says is right whether you understand it or not. That means living by the Bible. That means obeying God’s Word.

Yes, it’s an easy answer, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy life. But that’s when we need to remember that this life wasn’t meant to be easy. We’re living in a broken world, after all.

Do you want to be successful in 2015? Not the kind of empty success the world sells–but the success that comes from God? Sure, you do. I don’t know anyone who starts a new year hoping to be a complete and utter failure.

Be humble before God. Don’t live like you know it all. Recognize that God’s in control and do what He says. That’s it. It’s harder than it sounds, but in the time God chooses, God will bring you success. It may not look like what everyone thinks it should, but when you receive it, you won’t want anything else.

Softening a hard heart is like rewiring a finished house

My parents have started watching this television show about home inspections. It’s not something I’ve ever really thought about, honestly. But then, I’ve never purchased a home. This show is interesting because 80-90% of the issues these home inspectors have to fix stem from one recurring problem: The builders did it wrong first.

If the builders had built the house to code or laid the foundation correctly or repaired electrical or plumbing problems the right way, the homeowners wouldn’t be having trouble. And no one would have to come along behind them to fix everything that’s wrong.

And, let’s face it, it takes 10 times more effort to go back and fix a problem afterward than it does to do it right the first time.

626111_35347132Today’s verses are Colossians 3:23-24.

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ.

Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on what you have to do. It’s so much more fun to do the things you want to do, but life isn’t always fun. And it’s not always supposed to be.

If you’re a follower of Christ, you’ve been entrusted with a lot of responsibility, and not just in your day job but in your daily life as well. Part of that responsibility is living your life in a way that demonstrates God’s grace and Jesus’ love to the people around you–especially those people who you don’t particularly like. The other part of that responsibility is being a good employee.

Whatever you do, whether you’re a doctor or a lawyer or a chef or an engineer or a stay-at-home mom or a writer (aka a glutton for punishment), you are responsible to do the best you can. And, no, you’re not supposed to do the best you can for the sake of your career or the sake of your boss or the sake of your coworkers. You’re supposed to do the best you can for God Himself.

Maybe your boss signs your paychecks. But all authority comes from God. If you’re a Christ-follower, your first authority is God. You do what He says first before anyone else, and if He says to serve your boss to the best of your ability, that’s why you do it.

What if that boss is hard to get along with? What if that coworker is impossible? What if that job has just become so exhausting and so tedious and so frustrating that you just can’t stand it for one more day?

You have to be willing to work. Period. Laziness doesn’t belong in a Christ-follower’s life. (Please don’t mistake rest for being lazy. That’s another blog post, but believe me when I say they aren’t the same thing.) You have to work. Everyone has to work. God has given us dreams and goals and gifts and abilities and talents that are unique to who we are as people, and we need to be willing to work to achieve them. Because if we’re willing to work and if our hearts are focused on keeping in step with the Lord, He will work events in our lives out to give us the desires of our heart. But it doesn’t just happen. You don’t get rewarded just for sitting on your blessed assurance and expecting a miracle.

At the same time, there has to be a line in the sand somewhere. In my life, God has often used exhaustion and frustration to show me that it’s time for a change. But that’s a choice you have to make personally.

If your situation is so exhausting, so frustrating, so irritating that you can’t stand it anymore–move. Step out. Step back. Change your situation. Make the choice to move on.

If you can stand it, stay. And stop complaining. Because the more you complain about your situation, the more difficult it becomes to work with a willing heart. And if you can’t work with a willing heart for the Lord’s sake, you’re going to start forfeiting blessings.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to do that.

So if the job is tough, power through it. But don’t do it haphazardly. Do it right. Build your foundation solid. Do the job the way it’s supposed to be done, without cutting corners or taking shortcuts. Do it because God has told you to do it.

Just be sure to keep your heart soft. Be willing to work, and be willing to work for the right reason. And if you can’t, you might seriously need to take a long, hard look at your life. Because if your heart is hardened, it’s going to take a long time and a lot of effort to break it open again.  Sort of like trying to rewire a finished house because it wasn’t done right the first time.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light

Isiah 9:1-7

dsc_5830Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

Merry Christmas!

Sometimes moving makes things better

Moving is hard work. It’s frustrating and exhausting and irritating. You lose stuff. You misplace stuff and think you lose it, and then once you replace it, you find it again. I had to pick up all my office stuff and move over the last few days. Not far. Just a few blocks away. But I had to spend days shoving all my files in boxes and labeling them so that they would be easily identifiable.

And of course there was a miscommunication. So the box that had all my important files in it got taken too soon, and it wasn’t properly labeled. So now it’s lost somewhere in the storage rooms of our new office building.

But for as frustrating as the move has been, the new office is awfully nice. It’s roomier and brighter and cleaner. There are more windows, so that means there are more sunlight. So going through the move was worth it, even though it was hard, frustrating work.

Sensing any life parallels?

VLUU L310 W  / Samsung L310 WToday’s verses are Hebrews 8:11-12.

It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

God told Abraham to move. And he did. The Bible doesn’t say he asked questions or wondered where he was going. God said leave, and Abraham left.

Have you ever found yourself in that situation? Where God told you that you had to pack up and leave immediately? Maybe not in an audible voice, but you just knew you needed to go?

Scary, isn’t it? It’s intimidating to leave the place you’re comfortable at and go someplace new. Someplace where you don’t know the layout. Someplace where you don’t know the parking garage or the bathrooms or the coat closets.

But just as it’s important to change so you’ll grow, sometimes changing and moving results in a better situation all the way around. Like a building with new carpet and a better climate control system. A bigger cubicle and more building amenities. And closer to more places to eat.

Moving can be hard and scary and frustrating, but many times once you move, things get better. True, that’s not always the case. There are times when moving means you lose status or position, but in my experience, the times I’ve moved have been because I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work and I’m choosing to do what works.

So are you facing a move in your life? Maybe you’re changing jobs. Maybe you’re changing houses or schools or churches. Maybe you’re changing cities or states or countries.

Don’t approach it believing that it’s always going to be great. You’re moving, and moving is always hard. Instead, face it realistically. Yes, everything is going to be chaotic for a while. You’re going to misplace things. It’s going to be more complicated than you think, take more time than you think, and cost more money than you think.

No, that’s not a defeatist attitude. That’s just being prepared for the way life is.

Because when you’re prepared for it, then it doesn’t take you by surprise. When you’re prepared, then it’s a lot easier to keep seeing God in the details, because you aren’t panicking about everything that’s going wrong.

And when you finally get settled, when you finally reach your goal, you might be surprised how much better things will be. Sure, it’s a hassle to pick up and go somewhere different, and you may not know what the road will be like on the trip, but while the journey matters, it’s not the point. The destination is.