God belongs in every area of our lives

Pants are important. Nearly everyone wears them. But what would happen if one day you encountered someone at your office who wasn’t wearing any. No slacks or jeans or shorts. Not a skirt even. Nothing.

And when you ask why they’re running around with no pants on, they tell you that they just don’t think wearing pants at work is a good idea. Now, pants at home are good. Pants at church are fine. But pants at work? Not so much.

You’d probably think they were nuts, right? I would.

That’s a silly illustration, but if you think about it, it’s not much sillier than how we behave when we compartmentalize our lives as Christ-followers.

compartmentalizeToday’s verses are Deuteronomy 6:4-9.

Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy is a book of repetition. God says a lot of the same things over and over again, and it’s a good thing to. I mean we get tired of reading them over and over again, but the more you hear them, the less likely you are to forget them.

I didn’t used to understand this passage. What did it mean to wear God’s commands on your hands and on your foreheads? I mean, I understand the Jewish tradition, but what does it mean for a Christ-follower?

I mean, if you want to write God’s commands on your hands and on your foreheads, that’s fine. It won’t hurt anything. But practically speaking, how do you apply this passage to your life?

It’s actually really simple. Not easy. But it’s simple.

It means to be fully committed to God in every single thing you do every day. When you go to work, you should be focused on what God has for you. When you are at home, you should be doing what God has told you to do. When you go to church, to the voting booth, to school, on vacation, to the grocery store–whatever you do, wherever you go, if you are a Christ-follower, you should be doing what God has told you to do. You should be keeping His commandments.

Compartmentalizing life is an essential skill in many ways. You have to be able to leave work at work. You have to be able to segment your life in ways that allow you to organize it.

But God should never be compartmentalized. Don’t ever try to put God in a box. He doesn’t fit.

If you try to follow God in part of your life and then live the rest of your life however you want it, you aren’t going to have peace. Having a relationship with God was never intended to be part-time. You shouldn’t just keep God housed in your church or just in your home. God should be an integral part of every decision you make, from the big decisions about where to live and what to do with your life to the small decisions about what classes to take or whether or not to go see a movie on Friday night.

Just like there’s no question too big for Him, there’s no question too small either. Don’t cut God out of a part of your life because you think He doesn’t care. That’s not the case. Don’t ignore Him in a part of your life because you’d rather do it your own way. Believe me, it won’t work out.

It’s a strange habit to get into, asking God about what decision to make or comparing the choices you’re making to what the Bible says, but it works. We just have to take God at His word.

So bring down the walls that are keeping God out of the corners of your life. Open the shutters on the dark spots and let God’s light shine through you completely. It won’t be comfortable. He’ll definitely illuminate some things that need to change, but He’ll also give you the strength to do what you need to do.

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Meerkat at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Ask God for help before you need it

I used to work a customer service type of job. It was a position dedicated to helping people find their answers, and even though it was a lot of work, I enjoyed it. The service in customer service is usually fun, until you get a customer who isn’t very nice.

But speaking from the customer’s standpoint (because the customer is always right, right?), I have been in situations where I didn’t receive very good customer service. I came looking for help or looking for answers, and there was no one there to help me. Or the people who were there weren’t very helpful.

Not only is that irritating, it’s discouraging. I’m not one of those people who goes to customer service straight off the bat. I try to figure it out myself first, and if I can’t, then I ask for help. But if the people who are supposed to help me won’t, then it seems like my problem will never be solved because I can’t do it on my own.

Meerkat at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Meerkat at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 69:32.

The humble will see their God at work and be glad.
    Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.

How fortunate are we that God isn’t like a lazy customer service person? He’s our loving Father who wants to help us and who is infinitely qualified to do so.

Not that He’s like a customer service line. God doesn’t work like that. Actually, most of the time, He’s helping behind the scenes before we even know we need His help.

But God never turns anyone who comes seeking Him away. Not ever. Never once in history has He turned someone who came seeking Him away, no matter who they are or what they did. Anyone who came to Him for help, He helped.

So have you asked Him for help today? Or are you stubborn like me and insist on trying to make it through life without His help?

Believe me, the more you try to figure life out on your own, the more trouble you’ll make for yourself. It’s so much better to just start out asking for His help instead of getting to the point where you can’t take another step without Him. Wouldn’t it be better to take the first step with Him?

Be encouraged. God is waiting for you to ask for His help today, so don’t wait. God wants to help us, and we’re nuts if we tell Him we can do it ourselves. Because we can’t.

So what do you need help with? A job? A family member? A friend? Whatever situation you’re in, God can help. He knows what to do. He has an eternity of wisdom to offer. So call Him up and see what He says. You don’t have to talk to a computer, and He won’t try to sell you anything. No strings attached.

Pear growing on the tree - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Asking for better fruit

Summer is hot. Yes, that’s probably a complaint, but I’m not a hot weather type of person. And this weather has been remarkably uncomfortable. Better than last year, I’ll admit because it’s a bit drier. But still — not much fun.

Something about the heat just makes me feel generally unproductive. All I really want to do is stretch out with a cold iced tea and write a book. But it’s rare for life to accommodate.

Pear growing on the tree - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Pear growing on the tree – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Colossians 1:10.

Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

Producing Fruit is one of those phrases that gets used in the church and in religious circles a lot. It used to kind of creep me out when I was little because I couldn’t put the concept of a tree growing fruit on its branches out of my mind, and I think some part of me expected that doing things for God might make apples pop out of my fingers.

But producing fruit for God is more like helping other people come to know Him. Other than bringing praise to God and glorifying Him with our lives, that’s why we’re here. I think Christians forget that sometimes. We need to be telling as many people as we can about who God is and about what He’s done in our lives. Is it up to us if they choose not to believe? No. But it’s our responsibility to tell them.

Another way to produce fruit for God is to encourage other believers. Life is hard, like summers are long, and it’s easy to get discouraged. And if you, as a Christian, can help another Christian to persevere through a difficult season or to get back on the road after they’ve fallen off, that is an accomplishment that will bring glory to God.

This verse is interesting to me, though, because it sounds very much like a process. First, we have to live in a way that will always honor and please the Lord. And as we live that way, our lives will produce every kind of good fruit (not just one kind).

So how do we know how to live in a way that will honor and please the Lord?

Well, notice how this verse starts with the word then? That indicates that this verse follows a statement and that it’s not a standalone verse but a summary of something that’s already been said. So what do the rest of the verses in this chapter say?

This passage comes from Colossians 1:3-14, which is the first chapter in a letter Paul wrote to the Church at Colossi. Like the rest of the epistles, it opens with Paul introducing himself. But in this case, it also identifies who first told the Church about God (a man named Epaphras (Col 1:7). And it’s fascinating to me that Paul tells the Church at Colossi that he has been praying for them constantly (Col 1:9). Ever since he heard about them, Paul started praying for them, and according to the Amplified translation, he hadn’t “ceased to pray and make special requests” for them.

What was he asking?

…[asking] that you may be filled with the full (deep and clear) knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom [in comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God] and in understanding and discernment of spiritual things —

That’s from the Amplified Version. Here it is in NLT:

We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, …

Complete knowledge of his will and spiritual wisdom and understanding — that’s what we need to have if we’re going to live lives that honor and please God. Sounds like a tall order to me. How do you get those?

Well, I suggest doing what Paul did. Ask for them.

Because if you can obtain an understanding of God’s will and an understanding of God’s wisdom, knowing how to live in a way that pleases God will be second nature to you. And if living to please God is second nature, producing fruit for God will be effortless.

And there’s a bonus: you won’t just produce fruit; you will continue to grow as a person, as a believer. And the more you grow, the better you’ll get to know God.

Colossians 1:13-14 (The Message)

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.