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.

Choosing to be faithful when you don’t understand

Have you ever obeyed a rule when you didn’t understand it? Personally, I’m not one for blind obedience. I like to know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I like to understand the ins and outs, the possible repercussions, the potential for success, before I commit to doing anything. But sometimes we don’t get that luxury. Sometimes as Christ-followers, all we know is that God said it so we have to do it. And we do it because God is good.

Ever been there? You’re faced with this choice between doing something the world says is nuts or doing what God says is wrong. Those are your choices. The world will tell you that God’s ways are outdated, irrelevant, and will leave you vulnerable. But God comes along and tells you to do what He says is right, regardless of the outcome. How are you supposed to handle that?

EPRUD1TPG0Today’s verses are Psalm 119:25-32.

I lie in the dust;
revive me by your word.
I told you my plans, and you answered.
Now teach me your decrees.
Help me understand the meaning of your commandments,
and I will meditate on your wonderful deeds.
I weep with sorrow;
encourage me by your word.
Keep me from lying to myself;
give me the privilege of knowing your instructions.
I have chosen to be faithful;
I have determined to live by your regulations.
I cling to your laws.
Lord, don’t let me be put to shame!
I will pursue your commands,
for you expand my understanding.

That last line always stops me short. How does pursuing a command expand understanding? I mean, what does it even mean to pursue a command? Think about it. It doesn’t say obeying God’s commands helps our understanding grow. It says that our understanding will increase if we pursue God’s commands.

That means chasing them down. That means reading the Bible, looking for God’s commands, and learning how to apply them in everyday life. The more we look for the ways God asks us to obey Him, the better we’ll understand why.

The longer I follow God, the more I understand why He asks us to do things that don’t make sense to the world. That doesn’t mean I always understand. And it certainly doesn’t mean I always obey. But He’s let me fall on my face often enough that I don’t take Him for granted as much as I used to.

God’s rules and laws and commands aren’t just lists of good ideas and bad ideas. I mean, you can treat them that way if you want, but if you do, you’re missing the point. God’s laws, God’s Word, brings life.

You need to understand why Christ-followers are supposed to do what God says is right. Don’t just accept it because your parents did or your teachers did. You have to understand it for yourself. But realize that sometimes life is just not going to make sense. And sometimes neither with God. And it’s in those time when you have to cling to His Word, to His promises, because then there’s only one thing you need to know.

God is good. All the time. And regardless if we understand or not, we are to do what God says is right, because we aren’t responsible for the outcome. We’re only responsible to obey. He’s the one who works out the details.

Don’t let shame drive you away from God

Do you ever wonder when God will lose His patience with you? I lose my patience with people very easily, especially when I’m driving. But while I know God sometimes shakes His head at me, He’s never given up on me.

And it’s shocking if you really believe what the Bible says, because the Bible says God won’t ever give up on us. He won’t deal harshly with us. He isn’t cruel to us. Even if we deserve cruelty, even if our foolish mistakes make us worthy of His wrath, He won’t stay angry with us.

57J9ZJN1HMToday’s verses are Psalm 103:8-14.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.
The Lord is like a father to his children,
tender and compassionate to those who fear him.
For he knows how weak we are;
he remembers we are only dust.

I don’t understand God’s love, but I’m thankful for it. You’re going to make mistakes, that’s true. So prepare yourself mentally for it now. Because after you sin, you’re going to want to hide. Adam and Eve did. Everyone in history who has committed a sin has always tried to cover it up, which is funny in a way because who do we think God is? Do we really think we can hide from Him?

I’m only partially joking. Because I hide when I do wrong.

I don’t want to face what I’ve done. I would much rather crawl under my bed and live in denial, but that’s not what I’m called to do. So don’t let shame and fear drive you away from God. If you’ve done wrong, the shame and fear you’re feeling is only going to hurt you, and it’s only going to prolong your misery.

Give your shame to God. Give your fear to God. Let Him take it. Let go. It’s easy to want to hang on to it, but it’s too heavy for you. God is strong enough to carry it and take it away, so far away that you’ll never have to deal with it again, so far away that He won’t even remember it anymore.

It’s hard to believe that God would continue to love us even when we do wrong, but He does. God has no illusions about us. Like the verse says, He knows that we’re only dust. That means He knows we’re going to fail.

Granted, that doesn’t mean He expects us to fail. No, He has great plans and expectations for us, just like a parent has for his or her children. But do you stop loving your children when they don’t measure up? No. And how do you want your children to behave when they screw up? Who do you want them to turn to for help? Their friends? Their teachers? No, you want them to come to you.

Guess what? God feels the same way.

Seeking mercy even though you don’t deserve it

Nobody’s perfect. We say that all the time, but do we ever really think about what it means practically? If you’re not a perfectionist, maybe this doesn’t happen to you. But when you screw up, how long do you spend beating yourself bloody because you should have known better? How long do you lock yourself in the dudgeon of self-incrimination where you proclaim awful truths about yourself? Or am I the only one who does that when I make mistakes?

We all screw up. We all jump the gun. We all fall on our faces. How much is worth to us to know that God understands?

black-and-white-person-woman-girlToday’s verses are Deuteronomy 30:1-3, 9-10.

In the future, when you experience all these blessings and curses I have listed for you, and when you are living among the nations to which the Lord your God has exiled you, take to heart all these instructions. If at that time you and your children return to the Lord your God, and if you obey with all your heart and all your soul all the commands I have given you today, then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes. He will have mercy on you and gather you back from all the nations where he has scattered you…. The Lord your God will then make you successful in everything you do. He will give you many children and numerous livestock, and he will cause your fields to produce abundant harvests, for the Lord will again delight in being good to you as he was to your ancestors. The Lord your God will delight in you if you obey his voice and keep the commands and decrees written in this Book of Instruction, and if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.

God knows that we’re going to fail. He wants us to do our best not to, of course, because that speaks to a heart attitude. But He knows that we can’t be perfect. He knows that we can’t earn redemption. That’s why Jesus died for us.

Our job is to take responsibility for our failures and turn our eyes to God. If we’ve broken God’s rules, if we’ve done what God says is wrong, we need to admit that. We need to confess to Him that we’ve screwed up, and then we need go back to doing what He says is right.

There’s something inside us that tells us He doesn’t want us. Our poor, confused, deluded hearts will point us in the opposite direction because of our shame. But God doesn’t care about your shame or your failures or your screw ups. He just cares about you. So turn around. Go back to Him. And He’ll restore what you’ve lost.

God is a God of mercy. He’s never turned anyone away if they came to Him truly seeking. That hasn’t changed. God hasn’t changed.

So you’ve screwed up? Join the club. God’s waiting with forgiveness and mercy and help. So what are you waiting for?