God is who He is regardless of where we are

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I love the idea of spontaneity. I love being free. But spontaneity can be scary sometimes, especially if you’re someone who likes stability and control and predictability. And it’s nice because God is a God of order. God doesn’t do chaos. You can trust that God will alway be who He is, where He is, everywhere, all the time.

But because God is always in one place, does that mean we have to be too?

One of the things I’m learning about God is that even though I may move around, He moves with me. God is the only person in the entire history of the universe who can both stay here and go with me at the same time. So when God says clearly, GO!, you don’t have to go alone.

Like the Bible says in Deuteronomy 31:8, “Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

Maybe your situation has been the same for a while. Maybe your life is stagnant. Maybe it’s comfortable, but nobody plants a flower and expects it to stay a seed. Even if it stays in one place, it’s still growing. It grows up into the unknown. It grows down into the unknown. But all the time, it stays rooted in one place, even though it’s ever-expanding.

[su_pullquote]We’re rooted in truth that can move with us.[/su_pullquote]

-I cannot fail. Trusting the God who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will be well.-I think that’s how our lives are supposed to be. We’re rooted in God. We have our foundation in His truth, His love, His presence, His Word. But that doesn’t mean we stop expanding our horizons. It doesn’t mean we can’t just drop everything and push out into the world, because unlike a tree, we’re not rooted in place. We’re rooted in truth that can move with us.

So where is God telling you to go today? Are you scared? Are you uncertain? Are you reluctant because it sounds crazy?

Ask yourself, who matters more, your peers or your God? Because if God is telling you to go do something, you’d better go do it, regardless of what people think. If you know it’s from God, don’t hesitate. Just go. Just do it.

God will never tell you to do something that goes against His Word. He’ll never contradict Himself. He’ll never tell you to behave in a manner that isn’t consistent with His teachings. So if what He’s telling you meets those criteria, what are you waiting for?

Don’t worry if it sounds crazy. Don’t worry if it feels responsible (you performance-driven perfectionists, you). Don’t worry period.

Because God is constant, we don’t have to stay still. God is who He is regardless of where we are, and that won’t change no matter where you go.

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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.

Christmas doesn’t have to be stressful

Nothing is more stressful than the holiday season. Don’t get me wrong. Christmas is my favorite time of year, but it’s also when a lot of stuff happens. A lot of things go wrong. A lot of people come to visit. A lot of things need to get done. And when you add all that up, it can amount to a heaping helping of stress and anxiety.

But the more Christmases I live through, the more I learn that my stress and anxiety during the holiday season doesn’t stem from family and friends visiting or expectations of others or needing to bake and cook and clean. No, anything negative I experience happens because I’ve got my focus in the wrong place.

christmas-xmas-santa-claus-adventToday’s verse is John 15:4.

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

The world is complicated and stressful without the hustle and bustle of the holidays, and it’s always a temptation to step away from God’s way and do things ourselves. But when we try to accomplish anything in our own strength, we will ultimately fail.

Like a branch can’t produce fruit if it’s severed from the tree, a Christ-follower can’t accomplish much without God’s power in his or her life. And that relates to everything we do. At our jobs. In our homes. In our churches. Among our families.

So as you gather with family and friends today and tomorrow, don’t let stress dictate how you feel. Don’t let the craziness of the season tempt you away from remembering what it’s all about.

Christmas is about Jesus. It’s the day He came to save us from our sins. It’s the day God kept His promise. Who cares if the pie burns or if your in-laws are being rude? So what if you couldn’t get the exact present you wanted? Whatever is bothering you today, shelf it. Let it go. Instead, focus on what really matters, and find your strength and patience in Christ’s love and grace.

It’s a stressful time of year, but it doesn’t have to be. With God, anything is possible. And if you’re a Christ-follower, you have free access to His power, and God is just waiting for you to sit down at His table.

Don’t let your insecurity dictate your direction

I struggle with insecurity. A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them that, but it’s true. I’m a recovering people pleaser, after all. Insecurity is part of the gig. It’s taken me a long time and a lot of emotional trauma, but I’ve finally come to understand that insecurity is something everyone struggles with. We’re all insecure about something. It’s just not the same from person to person, and we all react to our insecurity in different ways.

Some people lash out. Others tear people down. Some hide. Some run. Some fight. But at the root of it all is this cold pit of fear in your stomach that won’t go away no matter how many times you tell yourself that you know what you’re doing. Living with insecurity is miserable because it makes you miserable. It colors the way you see yourself and others, and it endangers your relationships.

So what beats insecurity? Confidence and peace. But those aren’t things you can pour out of a bottle or find stashed in a treasure chest. I don’t know about you, but a load of confidence and peace sounds like something I could use right now. So where do you get them?

WJDK7M84F9Today’s verse is Romans 15:13.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible calls God the source of hope. I think it’s important we remember that. Too often we put our hope in things that can’t really satisfy us or solutions that treat the symptoms of a problem instead of its cause.

If you’re struggling with insecurity today, the first thing to realize is that you can’t find security anywhere other than in Jesus Christ. If you look to other people or titles or wealth or status to give you the security you crave, you’re going to be disappointed. People will always let you down, and all the success in this world won’t amount to much when you die. You can’t take it with you. So instead of letting your wealth or your family name or your reputation define you, start looking at yourself the way Jesus does.

Another way to find confidence is to ask God for it. That’s something we can ask for. Confidence and peace aren’t mystical, ethereal constructs that can’t be understood. No. If you need confidence and peace, ask God to give it to you. But realize where it comes from. Confidence and peace come because you trust God.

That’s the tough part. You’ve got to trust God.

Trust that He’s in control. Trust that He hasn’t made a mistake. Trust that He’ll tell you when you need to turn. Trust that you’re where you are now because you’re following Him. Trust that He won’t leave you alone and that He won’t abandon you.

For me, my insecurity comes when I stop trusting God. When I take matters into my own hands and try to accomplish things in my own strength, that’s when I start getting nervous and unpleasant. That’s when I get snappy and grouchy, because I’m relying on myself, and Myself isn’t strong enough.

Maybe no one understands you. Maybe it’s just you and God on the road right now, and you’re starting to wonder if the compass God gave you is actually working. Let’s get something straight. God doesn’t change, and I’m not aware of any time in Scripture where God set someone off on a path and then changed His mind about where they were going or what they were doing. God sees things through. He finishes what He starts, and He’s not done with any of us yet.

So trust Him. He’s worthy of it. Don’t listen to the naysayers. Shut out the negative voices. Granted, don’t be a jerk about it. And always be humble enough to hear correction, because you aren’t perfect. But don’t ever put someone else’s thoughts, feelings, or opinions higher than God’s.

Don’t let your insecurities dictate the direction you’re going. That’s God’s job. So learn to recognize His voice apart from the voices of insecurity and the lies of the enemy. Then, once you know what God wants, trust it. Trust Him. And shut out the insecurity using the peace and confidence you gain from knowing who God is and that nothing can ever separate you from His love.

God provides for us what He requires from us

Ever feel like you’re in over your head? Golly, I’ve been there more than once in my life, with the majority of those times happening within the last 10 months. Without fail, most of the times when I feel overwhelmed is when I’m doing something I know God has told me to do.

Something I’ve learned following God all these years? He asks me to do things I can’t do, and He does it all the time. Talk to strangers. Do math. Run a business. I don’t know how to do any of that. But those are specific things He’s told me to do. Well, not the “do math” part, but it’s implied with the “run a business” part.

When God tells you to do something impossible, you’ve got two choices. Either you tell Him no, or you ask Him for help. Because, yes, God asks us to do impossible things, but He knows we can’t do the impossible. That’s why we have Him. And if we know nothing else about God, we know that God has always, always provided for us what He requires from us.

Happy Scottish sheep grazing on the green grass near Hadrian's Wall in Northern England

Happy Scottish sheep grazing on the green grass near Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England

Today’s verses are Genesis 22:6-8, 13-14.

So Abraham placed the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac’s shoulders, while he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them walked on together, Isaac turned to Abraham and said, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“We have the fire and the wood,” the boy said, “but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?”
“God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,” Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.

Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

God told Abraham to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, and Abraham was willing to do it. The writer of Hebrews states in chapter 11 that Abraham had faith that God would resurrect Isaac if need be, and he didn’t even hesitate. God told Abraham what He wanted, and Abraham went to do it. And God provided the sacrifice for him.

Over and over and over, throughout Scripture and even throughout the lives of Christ-followers in history, God has always provided. Maybe it’s food. Maybe it’s faith. Maybe it’s clothing or shelter or safety or status. Whatever a Christ-follower needs, he or she gets exactly when they need it. The trick is you probably don’t have it to start out with.

You have to be willing. Abraham was willing to give up his son because God asked him to, trusting that God knew what was best. And when God asks us to do something, we should be willing to obey even if what He’s asking doesn’t make sense right away.

God won’t contradict His Word, though. So be sure you always weigh what you think He’s telling you to do against Scripture. But once you determine the path He wants you on, get on it, whether you think you’re equipped for it or not.

So what’s keeping you in place today? Are you scared because you don’t know the future? Well, nobody does, so don’t let that stop you. God knows what’s coming, and He can be trusted. Do you lack money and finances? Do you lack independence? Do you lack courage? What about education or experience?

Don’t listen to the fear that’s holding you down. If your reason for telling God no is because you’re afraid, you’re listening to the wrong voice. God doesn’t operate through fear. And if He is asking you to do something for Him, He will provide you with everything you need to make it happen. Maybe you think it’s impossible. It probably is, but with God, all things are possible.

Give God a chance. Be willing to take that first step. God has always provided what He requires, and He won’t stop now.

A lifestyle that’s for the birds

Yesterday, a friend and I went hopping all around Wichita scouting locations for some photoshoots that will be featured on the next year’s catalog of books from Crosshair Press, and we found ourselves in the renovated jungle exhibit at the Zoo. Seriously, if you’re in the Wichita area, you must go to the Zoo. It’s amazing.

But as we were walking around, I kept hearing this one particular bird. Now, the jungle exhibit is packed full of birds. There are always birds singing. But this one bird? My goodness. That sucker had a set of lungs. And I had no idea where it was until it landed on the post right in front of me, and I snapped this photo.

Imagine. Being a bird. You eat. You sing. You hop around and look pretty. And that’s about all you’re responsible for. No wonder birds sing all the time. That’s got to be the greatest life! No worries at all!

Know what? That’s the kind of life you can have too.

Really loud bird singing his heart out at the Tropics exhibit (Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS)

Really loud bird singing his heart out at the Tropics exhibit (Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS)

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:26-27.

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

I always think of this verse when I hear birds singing. Birds are carefree because they don’t have to worry about anything. But it’s not that birds have nothing to worry about. They just know they don’t need to.

People are a different story. We have the ability to worry, so we take advantage of it. We think about what we’re going to eat. We think about what we’re going to wear. We think about what we’re going to drive. We think, think, think all the time, and when we discover that most of the things we think about are out of our control, we worry.

Stop right there. That’s not the life we were designed for. I’m talking to myself here, because worry is one of my besetting sins. I don’t talk about it out loud, but inside I’m usually a mess of anxiety and nerves about something. And in my brain I know that worrying is silly, but I can’t seem to help myself.

So it was a joy yesterday to run into this little fellow singing his little birdy head off. A great reminder that birds don’t worry about tomorrow because they’re trusting God to take care of it. God is trustworthy. He’s never let them down, and He never will. So why stress?

That should be our lives. That should be my life.

I belong to Jesus, but it’s a daily choice to follow Him and live the way He would. Sometimes is less of a choice and more of a battle. But regardless, God has promised to take care of me and provide for me and help me. He’s made the same promise to the birds, and He’s never let them down. He’s never let me down either. And He won’t let you down.

So that think you keep worrying about? Let it go. And when you start worrying about it again? Let it go again. Sing a song instead of worrying. Turn your praise music up as high as it will go and sing at the top of your lungs. Tell God how great He is and get on with your day.

It works for the birds. It’ll probably work for us too.

Planning for a tomorrow that won’t happen

Yesterday was a historic day in geekdom. If you’re familiar with the Back to the Future movies, you might remember that yesterday marked the day that Doc Brown and Marty McFly visited in the future–October 21, 2015. If you go back and watch Back to the Future II, it’s really hilarious where people in the 1980s thought we’d be.

Flying cars. Hover boards. Self-adjusting clothing. Rehydration machines. And a whole host of other technological advancements. Granted, many of those things exist, but they aren’t available for common usage yet.

I’m a big fan of science fiction, because I like to imagine the possibilities. It’s fun to think about what could be tomorrow or what might be next year. But nobody knows what the future actually holds, so we really shouldn’t be too surprised if our plans don’t always work out.

road-street-desert-industryToday’s verse is Matthew 6:34.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

This is a good verse for me at this stage in my life. I’m in a place where I’m not guaranteed a paycheck, so I’m tempted to worry about where my provision will come from. I’m working in an industry that is solely dependent on opinion. Working as a creative writer (novelist, copywriting, etc.) is a subjective field. That means people don’t have to even have a reason why they don’t like your work; they just might not like it. But that’s scary.

Movies like the Back to the Future trilogy envisioned a world where all these impossible things were suddenly made possible through technology. And we’re well on our way to achieving those things in the actual 2015, but most of their predictions were wrong. I mean, granted, they got a few things right … like Star Wars VII and the Cubs in the playoffs. 😉

But the point is that tomorrow is unknown. We can guess. We can plan. We can schedule. But in the end, we have no power over tomorrow. It’s not something that we can control or predict. That’s why it’s so important to trust God.

God knows tomorrow. He knows the day after tomorrow too. And the day after that and the day after that. Everything that’s coming, He already knows about. So when we go through tough stuff in our lives today, it’s a fair chance that He’s simply helping us get ready for what’s happening tomorrow.

It’s okay to plan. It’s okay to be ready. But don’t live for tomorrow. If you do, you’ll miss out on what God has for you today. It’s tempting. Believe me. I want to look ahead. I want to spend all my time planning and figuring out the best way to do stuff, but my plans rarely work out. And that means I’ve spent all my time and energy today planning for a tomorrow that won’t actually happen.

So the next time you feel yourself tumbling down the rabbit hole of attempting to predict the future, put the brakes on. That’s a pit you don’t want to dig. So make a few notes if you must, and then focus your attention on what you can do today. You only get one today, and then it’s gone. So don’t waste it.

Only God knows the future. And He’ll let us know what we need to know about it when we need to know, but not before.