God can help an honest person

Some time back, I heard an interview with Brian Williams, the news anchor who exaggerated his adventures as an embedded journalist in the Middle East. I don’t know much about the story. I haven’t followed it, so I don’t know the details. But he did lie. He told stories that weren’t true about things that happened to him. And in the interview he gave, he tried to justify his actions by claiming he didn’t mean to mislead anyone.

Seems kind of weird though, to tell a lie yet claim that you didn’t mean to mislead people. But that’s part of the rationalization we all do when we tell a half-true. I mean, it’s not like you’re even lying. You’re just not sharing the whole truth, and you’re only doing it because the whole story is too complicated. Or it’s too painful. Or it will upset too many people.

No, it’s better to just tell half the facts and let others infer what they want, right? It’s not like you’re willfully deceiving anyone. They’re the ones making up their minds about what you’re saying.

There’s something in our brains that tells us this sort of thinking is okay, but one thing I’ve learned about lies and half-truths, both: You can’t stop with just one.

person-woman-art-creative-smallToday’s verses are 1 Peter 3:10-12.

For the Scriptures say,
“If you want to enjoy life
and see many happy days,
keep your tongue from speaking evil
and your lips from telling lies.
Turn away from evil and do good.
Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right,
and his ears are open to their prayers.
But the Lord turns his face
against those who do evil.”

Lying is easy, especially when you’re trying to cover up something you’ve done that you don’t want to admit. Telling the truth is hard. Telling the truth requires humility, the willingness to accept the fact that you screwed up.

Let’s face it. We all screw up. And the more we try to be perfect, the more we screw up because we’re depending on our own strength rather than God’s. When you lie, you’re trusting yourself to find the answer for your problems. When you choose to lie, you’re telling God you don’t want His help, and He’ll honor that. If you’re intent on doing things your own way, He’ll let you.

I love the Bible. It’s practical and simple. Want to know the secret to a happy life you can enjoy? Don’t speak evil, don’t lie, and do good. Notice it says to turn away from evil, meaning that you have a choice. When you encounter evil, regardless of what it may be, you have the option to not give into it. You can seek peace. You can do right. You can look for the Lord.

And that also tells me that even if you’ve done evil in the past, if you turn away from it today, God will hear you. It doesn’t say that God watches over people who’ve never done wrong. It says God watched over people who do right. Present tense. Yesterday doesn’t matter.

We live in a culture of blame and semantics. We point fingers like it’s an Olympic sport. It’s never my fault. It’s always someone else’s. And it may feel easier to let a little white lie slip, thinking you’ll get away with it, but you won’t. Lies and half-truths have a way of coming back to bite you just when you least expect it. And when they come back around, they’re much bigger than the little white lie you let slip. And if you’re a Christ-follower? (Yes, Christ-followers lie sometimes too.) Oh, you know better than to choose to go against what God says is right.

And, yes, lying may be easier at first, but give it time. And a few years down the road, you’ll be in consequences so deep you’ll desperately wish for the chance to make a different choice.

Telling the truth today means you have to own up to your failures. It means you have to admit you’ve done wrong. It might even mean you have to disappoint someone you love. But honesty truly is always the best policy, because God can help an honest person. And other people can too.

No, it won’t be fun, but that’s the result when you screw up. There are consequences. Better to face them now rather than ten years down the road when they’ve turned into a tidal wave threatening to pound you into a pulp.

And the good news? God knows. He knows your heart. And He’s never turned anyone who came to Him seeking away.

Life’s too short to live without laughing

 

I laughed a lot yesterday. It’s been a while since I laughed so hard. Long enough that I’d almost forgotten what it feels like–that pleasantly sore feeling in your ribs and stomach, aching from full-body laughter. It’s probably embarrassing when I laugh, because I’m not exactly quiet. But I remembered something yesterday: Real laughter is a natural antidepressant.

It’s hard to be down or discouraged when you can’t breathe because you’re laughing so hard. And after you spend an hour or two of hilarious, uplifting, God-centered conversation, I dare you to walk back into the darkness and think it’s still impenetrable. Laughter lightens your spirit, and that’s why it’s important to have friends who help you laugh.

J13BCL98JMToday verse is Proverbs 17:22.

A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

Laughing is good for you. It’s a scientific fact. I can’t quote the science, but I’ve read about it, that a life full of laughter helps you stay younger and maybe even healthier. The problem is that life isn’t always fun. It’s difficult to laugh in the tough moments. It’s hard to hold on to that spirit of lightness when just living feels like a burden too heavy to bear.

I’ve been hunkered down for most of this month working on novel revisions, limiting my contact with the outside world to a small number of very close friends. I’m introverted. Very introverted. So the alone time doesn’t really bother me. I actually enjoy it.

But this month has also been extremely trying. Just loads of difficult, frustrating things have happened, piled on top of each other in one big suffocating mass of ugliness. And I really buried in my self-imposed deadlines, and my perspective suffers. I try to keep my eyes on the prize, but when you’re locked away in your office trying to knock out 5,000 to 7,000 words a day? It doesn’t leave a lot of time for listening to others, and that’s a mistake.

Yesterday I got to have lunch with two of my favorite people–friends I haven’t been able to hang out with for a long time. Friends I can pick up with right where I left off and it doesn’t feel like any time has past.

Everybody needs friends like that. People you can real with, who know the real you and–more importantly–who know Jesus and who know that God has everything under control.

If you can’t get your own perspective sorted out, you need to ask for help. Go to someone you love, someone you know loves you, and just spend some time with them. If you need to talk about what’s bothering you, do it. But you don’t always have to. Sometimes you can just have a silly, inconsequential conversation about nothing, and it can still encourage you. Just taking the time to talk to someone who loves you can make all the difference in the world.

Life is far too short to live it by yourself, and maybe some folks can get through it alone, but I don’t recommend it. The journey’s a lot more fun if you go with people. And if you’re one of those privileged people who still get to have lunch with friends you’ve known for 10, 15, 20 years, don’t take that for granted.

So tell stories. Remember good times. And laugh your butt off. I guarantee the weight on your shoulders will feel much lighter if you do.

 

Photo by Kryziz Bonny, some rights reserved, creative commons

That I might not be silent

 

Life is one big balancing act sometimes, where you have to figure out how to take the good and the bad. And sometimes you run into situations where you’re powerless to help. There are some things in life that you can’t fix. Eventually, we all have to face the reality that life is more than we can handle alone.

And that’s where God comes in. With God, we can face any challenge, conquer any enemy, and win any battle. Maybe some days it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s the truth. And when we know we have God on our side, we can stand up to the troubles of the world with our head held high, and we can laugh–genuinely laugh and honestly rejoice–in the face of darkness. Because we have faith that God will bring us through.

So throw off that robe of mourning. Yes, there’s a time for it, but that time will eventually pass. Abandon that hiding place where you’ve taken refuge to recover from your wounds. There’s a time to rest, but that time passes too.

It’s time to get back to what we were made for. Forget the quiet. Let’s get loud. Let’s remind the world who Jesus is and what He’s done for us–and what He will do.

Psalm 30

Photo by Kryziz Bonny, some rights reserved, creative commonsI will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me.
You refused to let my enemies triumph over me.
O Lord my God, I cried to you for help,
and you restored my health.

You brought me up from the grave, O Lord.
You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones!
Praise his holy name.

For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime!
Weeping may last through the night,
but joy comes with the morning.

When I was prosperous, I said,
“Nothing can stop me now!”
Your favor, O Lord, made me as secure as a mountain.
Then you turned away from me, and I was shattered.

I cried out to you, O Lord.
I begged the Lord for mercy, saying,
“What will you gain if I die,
if I sink into the grave?
Can my dust praise you?
Can it tell of your faithfulness?
Hear me, Lord, and have mercy on me.
Help me, O Lord.”

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing.
You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy,
that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!

Looking for the light when all you see is darkness

Everyone knows that one person who always sees the bright side. They’re sickening, aren’t they? The ones who pipe up in the dark moments with the obscure silver lining that’s absolutely true and positively irritating? I know, because I’m one of those people. Practically Pollyannish, people have called me. Unfailingly cheerful to the point of living in denial.

It’s true that those overly positive people can make you want to claw your eyeballs out or plug your ears (or at least stuff a sock in their mouths), but the reason they’re so irritating is that we know they’re right. Especially if you’re a Christ-follower, you know there’s always a bright side. Now, that doesn’t mean we can’t be sad. That doesn’t mean we should grieve. But it does mean that grief and sorrow shouldn’t ever get the better of us, because God is stronger.

We don’t have to live in darkness, because if you follow Jesus, you can always look for the light.

Today’s verses are Micah 7:7-8.

As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
I wait confidently for God to save me,
and my God will certainly hear me.
Do not gloat over me, my enemies!
For though I fall, I will rise again.
Though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.

What is light anyway? It’s all well and good to talk about light and darkness in symbolic terms. It’s very poetic, but I’m practical. What does it even mean?

All throughout the Bible, God calls Himself the Light. Jesus calls Himself the Light. The Word is called the Light. What do all those things have in common? Well, one major thing is that They’re all 100% true. God can’t lie. Neither does Jesus, neither does the Bible. God’s truth is light that shines in the darkest moments of our lives.

Even when we’re surrounded by the darkness of fear and uncertainty or loneliness or sorrow or pain, what we need to remember is that all those things will lie to us. Fear and uncertainty tell us we’ll never be good enough. Loneliness and sorrow and pain tell us that this life is all there is. And that’s not true.

In those moments when the darkness threatens to overwhelm you with its lies, remember the truth. Let God’s light in. Stop hunkering in the shadows, letting our enemy whisper his devious lies to you to break you, to stop you, to scare you. That’s what he’s doing. Don’t let him.

Instead, get up and look for the light. Look at your situation and try to see God in it. If you’re a Christ-follower, He’s there somewhere. He may not be obvious, but He’s present. He probably won’t be where you expect Him to be, but He’s there. But you don’t have to acknowledge Him for Him to work. He’ll do His part without your knowledge, but if you can see Him, it makes life a lot easier.

On one hand, it’s irritating to be around people who always see God working. They just have this effusive cheerfulness that nothing seems to touch. And in some cases, that’s bad, because humans need to feel. We all experience sorrow and sadness, but if we don’t allow ourselves to feel it–to admit to feeling it–and to learn to manage it, we’ll run ourselves into the ground.

Even negative emotions have a purpose, and you should never ignore them. Just don’t try to face them without God’s help. You won’t get through life without falling. Everyone falls, but you don’t have to stay there. Get up. Look for God’s light. And don’t stop until you find it.

So don’t let the darkness slow you down. Don’t let the lies break your spirit. God has plans for you, friend. He’s seen them, and they’re good.

 

Even in the darkness, you never walk alone

Have you ever been in a situation that goes from bad to worse? I mean, before you even have a chance to wrap you brain around the first problem, another one pops up? It’s like trying to catch waves on the beach. Just when you think you’ve stopped one in its tracks, it slips away, only to knock you over with a bigger one.

Everybody knows that life is like that, but there’s this idea that following Jesus isn’t. And that’s a lie. If anything, following Jesus just makes life feel harder sometimes. Because you know what’s wrong with the world, but you can’t do anything to fix it. You even know what’s wrong with yourself, but you have the same problem. And regardless of how sad you feel or how alone you feel or how useless you feel, you’re not supposed to let on, right? You’re just supposed to keep that happy face plastered on so nobody will think your faith is weak.

Well, friends, just being honest here … that’s silly.

Today’s verse is 2 Corinthians 1:8-10.

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us.

This is Paul talking. The Paul. This man had an encounter with Jesus Himself. He’s responsible for penning most of the New Testament. And this is him talking about his great achievements, right? How he always faced difficulty with a stiff upper lip and a spring in his step?

If you got that out of the passage above, I suggest reading it again.

Paul was always honest about what He was feeling. He wasn’t the emotional type, like Peter, but he never hesitated to let people know what was on his heart. This man was a leader of the Early Church, and right here he’s admitting that he nearly gave up! He expected that he was going to die.

But….

I love that word but. It means that the story isn’t over. It means that there’s something better coming.

But … Paul said when he realized the situation was beyond his control, he learned to rely on God. Oh, if only I could learn that lesson too. In those moments when life is too much for me (they come frequently), if I could just remember to trust God, I think I would see my situation much differently.

It’s not easy, because you keep thinking there’s something you ought to be doing. And maybe there is, but most of the time what needs to happen is beyond your control anyway. You need to let go, and you need to trust that God will bring a solution when it’s time.

I love what Paul says. That God rescued them from mortal danger, and that He would do it again. That rescuing them was something God would continue to do. Not just something He did once or twice. Not just something He did in the past. He would always come to their rescue when they needed Him.

There’s no shame in admitting you feel lost and confused. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about if you’re lonely or angry or sad. We all feel that way. We all want to give up. We all experience that moment of balancing on the brink, where one wrong move might send us toppling over. But God’s pretty good at rescuing people. He’s been doing it for a long time. He’s good at putting pieces back together again too.

The world is a dark place. It’s full of hurt and hurting people and broken dreams and sorrow, but you don’t have to walk it alone. God is strong enough to get us through it. He’ll come alongside us and walk with us and help us. No matter how dark the darkness gets, you don’t have to face it by yourself.

Take a moment to remember who God is

Every now and then, we all have bad weeks. But sometimes we have epic bad weeks, where nothing goes right and where every hour only provides another opportunity for life to go wrong somehow. We’ve all been there. And if you haven’t been there, be patient, because you will be.

In those moments, when your heart is so tired it doesn’t know what to say, when the darkness is so deep you aren’t sure you can find your way out, or when you are just so exhausted you can’t stand up anymore, let yourself have a moment to just remember who God is and who you are to Him.

It’s easy to isolate ourselves. It’s easy to think we have to do it all on our own, but that’s not how God wants us to live. And most of the time, He’s standing right in front of our eyes, waving at us, trying to get our attention, because He wants to help.

God is protector, provider, and leader. He wants to be active in our lives, but we have to get out of His way and let Him work. And after He comes through (because He will come through), don’t forget to thank Him.

Psalm 16

cellKeep me safe, O God,
for I have come to you for refuge.
I said to the Lord, “You are my Master!
Every good thing I have comes from you.”
The godly people in the land
are my true heroes!
I take pleasure in them!
Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood
or even speak the names of their gods.
Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!
I will bless the Lord who guides me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.
No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
My body rests in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.

Jesus is stronger than your worst storm

Living in Kansas, I get to see some pretty spectacular storms. I’ve seen funnel clouds before, and I’ve been close to tornadoes on several occasions. But I’d never actually seen a tornado form–until last week.

It had been a scorcher of a day. The temperature without the heat index was about 104. With the heat index it was around 110. Dad had been airing out the camping gear in the yard for our upcoming camping adventure. I can’t even remember what cause me to look out the window, but I did. And far in the distance, I saw a funnel cloud dipping out of the dark clouds to the north of us. It was some distance off, far enough away to know we weren’t in immediate danger. So what did I do? That’s right. Like a good Kansan, I ran outside to take photos.

As we watched (and tried to pack up the camping gear, losing a tent stake in the process), the tornado formed to the north, the funnel stretching down to meet the rising dust cloud from the earth halfway. It was an impressive sight, and it probably would have been much scarier if I’d been closer to it.

Tornado touching down nearly 20 miles from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Tornado touching down nearly 20 miles from Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Matthew 8:23-27.

Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”

This is one of those stories I dearly hope God recorded for posterity. I’d love to be able to relive the moment when the disciples, terrified and dripping wet, rush into the innards of the boat to find Jesus asleep. He was taking a nap during a crazy, wild, outrageous storm. He wasn’t worried or bothered at all, in spite of the fact that the storm was threatening to completely overwhelm them.

That tells us a lot about Jesus, even without knowing what happens next.

One thing I love about Kansans is that we don’t freak out about storms. We don’t let the weather determine our activities. If we waited to accomplish something until the weather got better, we’d be waiting forever. Instead, we learn to deal with whatever the weather is doing.

That doesn’t mean we’re stupid. We know when a tornado is on the ground heading our direction that at some point we’re going to need to get into the basement. We get it. But one of the joys of living in Kansas is being able to see 20 miles in all directions, so if it’s a tornado on the ground during the day, usually you can see it coming a long time before it hits.

Kansans understand the power of tornadoes, and we don’t take them for granted. But we’ve prepared for them, and we know what to do when one comes at us.

What’s awesome about Jesus is that He is stronger than any storm. Period. It doesn’t matter if it’s a tornado or a hurricane, an earthquake or a blizzard, whatever. He can calm the winds, stop the rain, and still the earth, because He made all of it.

I think in their deepest hearts, the disciples knew that, but they just forgot. The wind and the rain was just too much too fast. It all came down at once, and they didn’t know what to do. And they panicked.

How often do we respond the same way? When the avalanches of life assault us on all sides, when the storms of politics, legal disputes, office relationships, and family drama threaten to overwhelm us? There’s really no difference between a physical storm and an emotional storm, when you get right down to it. They both do damage. They both can destroy. And they’re both things only God can fix.

Rest assured, whatever storm you’re going through right now isn’t upsetting Him. Jesus is sawing logs at the bottom of the boat of your life, just waiting for you to come tell Him you need help. He isn’t worried. He isn’t panicking. Because He’s stronger than the storms you’re facing. So what are you waiting for? Go ask Him for help.

There’s no storm He can’t get you through safely. Maybe you’ll see some damage before it’s over, but He’ll take care of you until it ends.