You can’t walk right with two different shoes on

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I went on a walk a few days ago. It was such a beautiful day outside, so I didn’t want to do my two miles on the treadmill. I wanted to be out in the sunshine. And it was beautiful. Blue skies. Puffy clouds. Whispering wheat. But something wasn’t quite right. I just couldn’t figure out what it was.

Yup. Crocs. Just like these. ... Not.

Yup. Crocs. Just like these. … Not.

One mile into my walk, I realized that my right toe was rubbing on the front of my shoe. Now, you avid walkers will probably be cross with me, but I usually wear Crocs when I’m out on my walks. They’re comfortable, and while they don’t really provide any ankle support, I’m not running.

But that morning, my right foot seemed to have grown several sizes. My left foot was fine. But my right toes were rubbing the front of my right shoe, and my right heel was hanging off the end. I was puzzled. But, stubborn as usual, I finished my two miles. And when I got back to the house, I pulled my Crocs off and compared them.

Yep. The right Croc was about three sizes smaller than the left.

The rest of the story? My mom and I both have a pair of tan-colored Crocs, but Mom usually keeps hers in her closet. Well, she’d left her pair out on the porch a few days earlier. When she took them back to her closet, she took one of hers and one of mine.

You guys may laugh at me, but one of the first thoughts that came to me was Ephesians 5:15, which says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.” That word live actually communicates the concept of walking. So basically, it’s saying that a Christ-follower should be careful how he/she walks through life.

Life is full of traps and tricks and enemies just waiting for the opportunity to ensnare us. It’s full of awesome things too, but as a Christ-follower, we need to have the wisdom to know the difference. And that’s great to say. Be wise. Live wisely. Make the wise choice. But what does that mean practically?

Frankly, it means you need to make sure your shoes are the same size. Wearing two different-sized shoes can make you walk funny, which might hurt your ankles or knees, which will hurt your legs, which hurt your back, which hurt your shoulders. You get the point. You also run the risk of tripping because your steps aren’t consistent.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Our own path is our security blanket, so that when God lets us down, we still have a backup.[/su_pullquote]

Maybe that’s a silly example, but think about how we live. With one foot, we stay on the path that God has laid out for us. With the other foot, we break our own ground because even though we say we trust God, we’re really trusting ourselves instead. Our own path is our security blanket, so that when God lets us down, we still have a backup. But your walk isn’t consistent.

So check your shoes today. Are they the same size? Are you limping and stumbling down the road trying to do it God’s way and your way at the same time? Well, stop it. It doesn’t work, and it only causes more trouble for you down the road.

Be wise about how you walk through life. You can’t rely on yourself and rely on God at the same time. You’ve got to choose one.

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If I’m a winner, why do I live like a loser?

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I can’t do anything right. I’m a failure at life. It’s not even worth trying something new because I’ll ultimately screw it up and let everyone down. Ever feel like that? I’ve had a month of feeling like that, which is utterly ridiculous because it’s been a great month. A successful month. A month full of positive momentum. Yet emotionally, spiritually, and mentally I’ve been stuck in this unending quagmire of discouragement.

God is gentle with people many times. He calls to us softly in that still, small voice of His. He beckons us closer to Him with promises of peace and assurances of unconditional love.

Well, I’m not people. And gentle promises and soft speeches rarely do anything for me except make me suspicious, and that’s probably a character flaw. But thankfully my God knows how to talk to me. He’s my Shepherd, and He knows how to get my attention. And usually it involves a two-by-four.

I was out on my morning walk yesterday, and I’d started the morning slow and draggy, uninspired, discouraged, beaten down for no real reason. I just felt mopey. But I’d decided to start walking in the mornings, so I got ready to go. To make matters worse, my MP3 player died for no reason, which put me in a bad mood. Walking my two miles was going to be harder without something to listen to.

So I just chalked it up to the kind of day I was going to have, and I started down our old loose-gravel road, struggling against a hard south wind. But because I didn’t have anything else to listen to, I just decided to tell God about all my problems.

The whole two miles, I just told Him what was on my heart and how sad I felt and alone and discouraged. Like nothing I do matters. Like nothing I try succeeds. And somewhere along that two-mile stretch, WHAM! This verse hit me like a ton of bricks:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

That’s Romans 8:37, if you care to know. And it echoed in my empty brain for about five minutes while I walked, stunned into silence. The realization that accompanied left me shaking. Because if I believe that, if I truly believe that God has made me more than a conqueror, I should be living like it. But I wasn’t. I was living as though I’d been defeated.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Why would I choose to live defeated when I have the opportunity to live victorious?[/su_pullquote]

It’s so hard to see the light sometimes. It’s so hard to focus on everything that’s right, especially when you feel overwhelmed by everything that’s wrong. That’s when discouragement hits. That’s when it takes all your strength to pull yourself out of bed in the morning. That’s when you tell yourself that you can’t win, can’t succeed, can’t do anything right. You’re choosing to see all the obstacles in your path instead of the bright, shining path God has opened up for you.

I am a conqueror.

Not will be a conqueror. Not used to be a conqueror. I AM a conqueror. Not in my own strength or abilities or talents. Not by any gift or virtue I possess but through Jesus. God has made me a conqueror through His power. So why would I choose to live defeated when I have the opportunity to live victorious?

Maybe that bright shining path Jesus provided only stretches out for the current day, and I can’t see tomorrow. Isn’t that all right? Isn’t it enough to know that you have what you need for right now? It’s difficult to live that way. It’s hard for this control freak to wrap her brain around it, but there’s no better way to live.

Why be satisfied with the little shack you can build with your own hands when God wants to help you build a mansion?

Against all odds, God has provided for me today, and He has promised to provide for me tomorrow. Do I really need more than that? Do you?

No more choosing to see the obstacles. No more choosing to see what’s wrong. No, that doesn’t mean I ignore them, but I can acknowledge an obstacle without letting it discourage me. God has made me a conqueror. God has made me victorious. Through Him, I can do impossible things.

And so can you.

What’s in your heart is more important than what you do

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We have pear trees at Safe Haven Farm, but they aren’t just any pear trees. They’re wood pears. They’re wicked hard and unbelievably stubborn. Nothing kills these things, and you have to wait until they’re on the edge of being rotten before you can get a knife into them.

I’ve always figured it’s because the trees themselves are so old. The pears are as tough as tree bark because the trees are ancient. At least, the trees are ancient by Kansas standards. Trees don’t always last long around these parts.

But in the last few years, a tree sprang up in the orchard that produced smallish round pears that you could eat straight off the branch. We’re still at a loss as to where the tree came from and why its fruit is so different, but the old trees make me a appreciate the new one.

The Bible has so many stories about farming in it, and it always makes me smile. In Galatians 6:7-8, the Bible says, “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

God set the Laws of Nature in motion when He created the world, and nothing (except Him) can stop them. That means if you plant a pear tree, you’ll get pears. If you plant a wheat field, you’ll get wheat. If you plant green beans, you’ll get green beans. You can’t plant green beans and expect to get strawberries. It just doesn’t work that way.

Life works exactly the same. If you do good things, you’ll receive good things. If you do bad things, you’ll receive bad things. Yes, in some cases, you can do good things and be rewarded with bad things, but the bad things are usually temporary—a preliminary bump in the road on the way to better things.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]But what I’ve learned about following Jesus is that it isn’t really your actions that determine your success.[/su_pullquote]

But what I’ve learned about following Jesus is that it isn’t really your actions that determine your success. Yes, your actions play a huge role. But more important than your actions are your motivations. Why do you do what you do? What is in your heart?

I mean, look at our pear trees. Sure, they’re both pear trees, and they both produce pears. But the old trees give us big, hard, misshapen fibrous chunks of woody fruit. The new tree gives us soft, sweet, juicy fruit. The old pears are perfectly edible. They just take more work to process because you have to cut out all the bad stuff to get to the parts that actually taste like pear.

You can work with the old hard pears, but you have to dig to get to the good stuff. The same is true if you do the right thing with the wrong motivation. Maybe you do what God says is right, and that’s great, but your heart isn’t joyful about it or happy or humble. You’ll get a good result back, yes, because you planted a good seed. But that result will be tainted by your bad attitude. And if you want to do something useful with it, you’ll have to dig out the unhelpful bits.

It’s so much better to do what God says is right with a heart that’s right too. That way, the results you get won’t just be pleasant, they’ll be useful. And you can build on your results right away because you won’t be spending time separating the bad fruit from the good.

It’s important to plant good seeds, so that you’ll harvest a good crop. But even more so, it’s important to plant good seeds with an attitude that’s right. An attitude that recognizes God as Lord and not just God.

Worshipping in spirit isn’t as weird as it sounds

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I love people who love to worship God. Do you have people like that in your life? If you don’t, you should find some. They always help you see life more clearly.

I used to associate worship with raised hands and eloquent prayers and fiery speeches, and it used to really discourage me. Because I wasn’t really capable of any of that.

And maybe it’s a character flaw, because I have so much to be thankful for. Shouldn’t I feel like singing all the time? Shouldn’t I just turn loose and shout at the heavens how awesome God is?

Well, I could. God has certainly given me more than enough reasons over the years to do that. And if that were my personality, I would. I know people who do, and I love them for it. But I’m really a demonstrative person. I don’t like attention. I don’t like standing out.

That being said, everything I say and do (I hope) brings glory to the Lord. He gets the credit for the good things in my life. I acknowledge Him as the reason why I do the things I do, why I live the way I live, why I have the priorities I have. And what I’ve learned over the many years of following the Lord is that while it’s important to praise God in the loud moments, it’s just as important to praise Him in the quiet ones too.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Worship is a term that scares people sometimes because it just feels like such a religious thing.[/su_pullquote]

Worship is a term that scares people sometimes because it just feels like such a religious thing. But there’s nothing creepy or weird about worship (at least, there shouldn’t be). Worship is just expressing someone else’s worth through your actions or words.

We learn in John 4:24, “For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” Worship is an attitude. It’s more than something you say or do. It’s how you live. It’s what you think about. It’s the reason you do anything you do, say anything you say.

Worship is telling God how much He means to us. Worship is the purposeful act of directing your thoughts toward God when you don’t feel like it. Worship is trusting that God forgives you even when you make a horrible choice. Worship is giving Him the credit for the work you think you have done all by yourself. Worship is living life for Him and not hiding it.

It’s not just singing. It’s not just doing good deed. You can worship God when you’re standing still. You can worship God when you’re singing or when you’re dancing or when you’re playing an instrument. You can worship God at church, but you can also worship in your home, in your place of work, in your relationship with other people.

You can worship when you’re having a great day. And you can worship when the day is long and cold and dark and depressing and it feels like there’s no end to it. You can worship Him when you’re sad. When you feel discouraged. When you feel alone.

Worship Him with everything He made you to be. Trust Him. He can see the entire picture of our lives, every little detail, and He knows exactly how everything is going to work out. And it’s going to be good.

God never gives up on anyone

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Sometimes I want to give up. I want to stop fighting. I want to walk away from people and situations in my life that make my life more difficult and more dramatic than it has to be.

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been tempted to give up on people. So-and-so won’t ever wise up. So-and-so won’t ever realize he/she’s being a dummy. So-and-so won’t ever grasp the truth of life. So on and so forth. You’ve got those people in your life too. And you may have walked away from them.

Know what? That’s okay. You don’t have to keep holding on to people. In some cases, it’s better to let them go. It’s better to step out of their lives. Sometimes you’re making it worse. But there’s a difference between investing emotionally in someone and giving up on them.

The truth is, I don’t think we’re supposed to give up on anyone. Step out of their lives? Maybe. Cut off communication? Possibly. Get out from between them and God? Definitely. But none of those things require you to give up hope that a person will one day find his or her way to God.

We’re in a series on the book of Ruth at church right now. Ruth is one of my all-time favorite Bible characters, and one of the things I love best about her is that she never gave up. Not once. Her mother-in-law Naomi was a wrecked shell of a woman when they left Moab to return to Israel. Ruth had every reason to walk away from her, but she didn’t. Some of the most famous words in the Bible are recorded in Ruth 1:16-18:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

What loyalty. What love. That’s how I want to live.

Yes, the Bible does say that the Spirit won’t always keep trying, but that’s between the Holy Spirit and God. And I don’t know about you, but I’m not privy to Their conversations. God has never told me to give up on anyone. Sometimes a relationship has to change, but just because a relationship is different doesn’t mean the relationship no longer exists.

You can disagree with how they’re living their life and still love them, still be there for them, still think the best of them.It’s hard. It’s exhausting. It’s heartbreaking. But let God give you the strength to keep believing. Draw strength from Him, because He has strength to spare.

They hurt you. They’ve disappointed you. They’ve broken your heart. They’ve left you bleeding at the side of the road. And you have every rational reason to walk out of their life and never look back, never think about them again, never speak to them again. But since when has God called us to be rational?

God calls us to be like Him. And God never gives up on people. So why should we?

Don’t forget to put your armor on

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Samurai were scary people. Many of the popular movies about them have been toned down to make them sympathetic characters, but in reality, they were a brutal, unyielding segment of a society. They had no pity and no mercy, and while I’m sure they had some concept of love, it wasn’t the same as a Westerner like an American would comprehend.

That being said, the samurai fascinate me. They always have. Japanese culture in general is one of my favorite topics, but samurai in particular captivated my interest from the time I was a child. And if you want a really interesting read, there’s a book called Code of the Samurai, which is actually a fast, in-depth read about samurai culture (for any of you culture nerds out there).

A samurai was always ready for battle, always ready to take up arms against an enemy. They were ever-vigilant. And they were obsessed with honor and respect. And nothing is more samurai than the samurai armor, but how long did it take to actually get into one of those rigs? Hours probably. But would a samurai go into battle without his armor? Very unlikely. A samurai’s armor was the symbol of his family, his heritage, his honor, and, honestly, it was just common sense. Who goes into battle without armor?

Unfortunately, I do it every day, and I’m not supposed to.

If you’re a Christ-follower, you have access to armor. And not just any armor—God’s armor. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:12-13, “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

There’s a war raging around us every minute of every day, and we can’t see any of it with our eyes. It’s a struggle for our attention, our faith, our belief. Demons and angels. God and Satan. Granted, God already dealt Satan a fatal blow when Jesus saved us on the cross, but Satan hasn’t backed down yet. He still thinks he can win, so he’s throwing everything he has at us.

So God has given us everything we need to fight back. We just have to choose to accept it.

Truth. God’s righteousness. Peace. Faith. Salvation. The Word. God has given these things to us to fight against what Satan throws at us. If we use them, nothing can hurt us. So why don’t we use them?

Honestly? I forget I have it. I get into the groove of living and think that I’m on my own. I think I have to do it all myself, and that’s a lie.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]We are fighting the remnants of a war that God has already won for us.[/su_pullquote]

Christians, remember that every day is a battle, and we’re not fighting against what we can see. We don’t fight against our coworkers (no matter if they annoy us) or our family (even if they frustrate us) or our government (even though The Man is getting a little big for his britches). We are fighting the remnants of a war that God has already won for us.

Don’t forget to put your armor on. Cling to truth. Hold tight to what God says is right. Seek peace and faith. Trust God’s salvation and His Word. And don’t listen to what the devil whispers in your ears. The devil has already lost this war, and when we draw on the power of God’s armor, we’ll win the battle too.

God’s great key to ultimate success in life

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When I was in third grade, my brother and I would do math speed drills. We were homeschooled, so Mom just decided to give him one of my speed drills, even though he was a year younger. I think he finished in half the time it took me.

Well, I couldn’t have that. I was older. I needed to be better, smarter, faster. So the next time we did a speed drill, I rushed. We finished closer to the same time, but all of his answers were right. Practically none of mine were.

I stink at math. True story. I can do it, but I have to go very slowly and think about every equation three times before I decide on an answer. And for those of you who know my geekwad, nerd-faced little brother, you know he’s faster and more efficient than some calculators.

Eventually, Mom convinced me that I didn’t have to be brilliant at math. I was great at writing, so that’s what I needed to focus on. (Props to Mom. I did!) But my drive to beat my brother at math speed drills didn’t come from a desire to be better at math; it came because I thought I already was better.

And that’s kind of how the world sees it, isn’t it? I was the older sibling, so I was supposed to be more advanced. Or, like in a work place, maybe you have a degree, so you’re supposed to be a better employee than someone who only has a high school diploma. There’s always something about us that makes us better than the next person, right?

That’s not what the Bible teaches. Probably one of the most confusing verses in all of Scripture (practically speaking) is James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” Does that even compute?

God’s great key to ultimate success: Let someone else go first.

Really? What sense does that make? We can’t go out into our cutthroat world and let others go ahead of us. We can’t walk out into the savage landscape of commerce and think of others as better than ourselves. We can’t forfeit our rights to make our own decisions and expect to succeed. Can we?

[su_pullquote align=”right”]God’s great key to ultimate success: Let someone else go first.[/su_pullquote]

The straight facts are pretty simple. The Bible is true. All of the Bible has to be true, or none of it is. So if I believe one part of it, I must believe the rest of it. And that means, God is right, and humility is the key to getting ahead in life.

No, that doesn’t mean you have to let people treat you like a doormat, but it doesn’t mean you get to think you’re better than everyone else for any reason. Nobody is better than anyone else. Some people are gifted in areas others are not, but that’s because we all have different functions. God made us each unique and perfect just the way we are, and instead of competing with each other, we should be more concerned about helping each other.

So be humble. Do what God says is right. Give up your place in line to help someone who needs it. Say nice things about your competitors and treat them with respect.

Maybe it doesn’t make sense in our perspective, but since when have God’s rules ever made sense to our broken world? God is the one who is responsible for exalting us. Success comes from Him. Yes, we can work hard. Yes, we should work hard. But if we succeed in life, we do it through His strength, His grace, and His gifts.

Don’t forget it. Recognize God’s authority in your life, and He’ll take care of the details.