Don’t give power to powerless things

We have a little garden plot here are Safe Haven Farm. It isn’t much, and it’s actually much less now than it used to be. But we get some fresh veggies out of it.

When I was younger, we’d eat out of the garden. We had potatoes and carrots and onions. We had everything to make salsa, except the tortilla chips. I loved the results of gardening. What I didn’t like was the work behind getting those results.

In this part of Kansas, our soil is fertile, but it’s filled with clay, which makes digging difficult. And then there are the weeds.

Weeds, weeds, everywhere, from dandelions to cheat grass and everything in between. Weeds make gardening difficult. They sap the nutrients from the fruit-bearing plants, and sometimes they’re difficult to distinguish too.

And even if you can tell the difference between a weed and a real plant, usually their roots are woven together, so you can’t pull one up without killing the other.

I hate weeds. Everyone does. I think that’s one of the reasons they’re part of the original curse (Genesis 3:17). But weeds don’t just affect our gardens. Weeds can affect our lives too. Weeds can be spiritual.

Idolatry is a spiritual weed. Ever thought about that?

When I think about idols and idolatry, I envision mass groups of people in robes bowing down to bronze statues or singing in foreign languages. Like some twisted church service thousands of years in the past when people didn’t know any better.

Maybe in some cases that’s true. Historically some cultures did bow down before forged statues, but you won’t see that kind of idolatry happening in the United States. American idolatry is much more subversive.

Sports. Artists. Politicians. Performers. Your job. Your friends. Your family. Idols can take the shape of even the most innocent relationships. It’s the power you give them over your life that makes them idols.

Those bronze statues people worshiped in ancient times had no power at all, except what the people who bowed down surrendered (Jeremiah 10:5).

We all have idols. Let’s just admit that right now, because it’s true. We all have something or someone in our lives that is fighting to take precedence over God and His plans. The question is who you’re willing to surrender your life to.

An idol is anything that takes the place of God in your life. So to figure out what idols are in your life, you have to ask yourself what role God should be filling.

God is our comforter. He should be the one who helps us manage our stress. Are you turning to something else other than His Word or His promises to calm you down? That’s an idol.

God is our sufficiency. He should be the one who makes us whole. Are you looking to another relationship to complete you? Are you looking to something you can achieve to make you feel worthwhile? That’s an idol.

God is our security. He should be the one who makes us feel safe, who makes us feel loved. Are you looking to what another person makes you feel to sooth your insecurity? Are you looking to your success personally to make you feel safe? That’s an idol.

Your sports team may be a community, but it shouldn’t be the root of your community. Your job may be how God provides for you, but never forget that it is still God who provides. And you may never be happy with the way you look, but you should always remember that God made you the way you are. And God doesn’t make mistakes.

But identifying idols is only one part of this. And it’s the easiest part. Removing idols from your life is difficult, painful work. Not only does it hurt you, but it hurts the people around you.

You have to dig up your life to expose the roots of the problem. So do the people who care about you.

If you’re blessed (like I am), you have people in your life who love you so deeply that they’re willing to experience the pain of uprooting your idols alongside you. No matter how much it hurts them or inconveniences them, they’ll hang in there right beside you. They’ll walk you through the pain and the heartache of realizing how flawed you actually are, and they’ll love you throughout it all.

But how much better would it be if we didn’t let idols put down roots in our lives? Remember, idols only have the power we give them (Jeremiah 10:5). So wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we didn’t give our idols any power at all?

That job you think matters so much? Instead of trusting your finances, how about you try trusting your faith?

That person whose opinion will make or break you? How about you care less about what they think and more about what God says?

That relationship you think you can’t lose? Ask God what He thinks about you and then reevaluate how the people in your life treat you.

Identify what could become an idol before it puts down roots. It’s like pre-treating your garden plot for weeds before you plant. That way you can pull it out before it damages your life and the lives of those around you. (Matthew 13:24-30)

God has give you the power to choose who will control your life. You can either hand that power over to powerless things, or you can give it back to God, who can actually do something with it.

Which do you think is a better idea?

Baseball players from Baylor and K-State standing at first base, Manhattan, KS

When their priorities don’t match yours

Imagine that you have something that absolutely must get done today. If you don’t get it done, your life is going to be really difficult. Or you’ll lose someone’s respect. Or you’ll disappoint someone you shouldn’t. So you simply MUST get this item checked off your to do list.

The one problem? You can’t finish it without somebody else’s help. And it doesn’t matter to them as much as it matters to you.

Have you ever been there? Where you can’t get something done because someone else is holding up the process? Have you ever been in the situation where your work is delayed—or even canceled—because someone further up the chain of command doesn’t have time for it?

It’s hard enough to handle when it’s your peers holding up the process. What happens when it’s your boss?

Today’s verses are Romans 13:1-5.

Baseball players from Baylor and K-State standing at first base, Manhattan, KS

Baseball players from Baylor and K-State standing at first base, Manhattan, KS

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.

I’ve been in a lot of frustrating situations where my projects or my goals were held up because I couldn’t get the other project members to do their part. And I have to struggle with my attitude whenever it happens because usually the blame falls back on the person in charge of the project—me. And it’s really easy to get irritated because life isn’t always fair.

And that’s true with my relationship with God too. There have been so many times I’ve identified things I wanted to do, ministries I wanted to be involved in, trips I’ve wanted to take, etc. But God said no. Or He set life up so that it would never work out. Talk about not fair.

But what I’ve learned about following God is that sometimes He doesn’t let us do things because He’s protecting us. Sometimes we want to run ahead and do things our own way instead of waiting for Him, and getting ahead of God is never a good idea. No, it’s not the unforgiveable sin, but it will make more trouble for you in the long run. It’s always better to wait on God than to spend a few extra years wandering in a wilderness of your own making.

But what about with work projects? What about bosses who don’t support you? What about those situations?

Well, you do know that authority comes from God, right? All authority in our lives comes from Him, and all authority is there for a reason. Whether it’s your parents, your local legislators, your boss, all the way up to the president, God installs the leaders He wants for the times we’re in. And going against them is tantamount to going against God (unless those leaders are ordering you to go against God anyway).

So if your boss is making your project late, chill out. Maybe it’s not time yet. Maybe pushing to get it out will backfire. Maybe God is keeping that project delayed for a reason. God’s not too big to care about your everyday issues.

God has a reason for everything He does (or doesn’t do). There are no accidents in life, and God plays a role in every area of our existence. So if your project is late (even though it’s not your fault) or if you let someone down (even though it’s not your fault), God has a reason for it. God can move your boss to work on your project if He wants. God can convince the people you live with and work with and serve with to get busy. If He wants to do that, there’s nothing and no one who can stop Him.

He can do it if He wants to. Just like He doesn’t have to do it if He doesn’t.

So when you’re running late on something and you’ve done nothing to cause it, take a moment and stop to breathe and recognize that God isn’t punishing you. On the contrary, He may be saving you trouble in the future.

So don’t push and nag and make trouble. Don’t gripe and complain and whine. Don’t attack your coworkers or your boss. And don’t, don’t, don’t blame it on God. You don’t know. He might have a huge plan for that canceled project that you don’t know anything about yet.

You just be the person you’re supposed to be. You maintain your testimony. You be steady in your pursuit of God and your lifestyle as a Christ follower. Live above reproach.

That doesn’t mean you won’t have trouble. That just means when people try to find something you’ve done wrong, the only fault they’ll find in you is virtue.



Want all the latest news on my writing? Maybe even some giveaways and discount codes? Sign up for my newsletter below!

K-State baseball player running for home, Manhattan, KS

Do we need to ask God’s permission?

Have you ever felt like you’ve been weighed down with responsibilities but don’t have the tools at your disposal to actually make anything happen? I’ve been there before, and it’s a really frustrating place.

Well, I learned something yesterday. And I’m sure it’s something I’ve always known, but it never really clicked with me before. Definitely there are some exceptions, but generally speaking the people in your life who you are subject to aren’t unreasonable. Yes, there may be some people who have it out for you, or there may be some people who are just jerks. But generally speaking, everybody’s boss wants to be a good boss. And that means it’s their job to provide you with the resources you need to do your job. Anything else is unreasonable.

Sometimes it’s tempting to think that your boss is just demanding results without trying to understand your limitations. That’s probably rarely the case.

The trouble comes when we start looking at God the same way. There are lots of examples in life where it feels like He has commanded us to do something but He hasn’t given us anything to do it with. And that’s not true. That’s our fear and our insecurity talking.

God has given us everything we need to accomplish the tasks God has set out for us to do, and that includes the authority to do it.

K-State baseball player running for home, Manhattan, KS

K-State baseball player running for home, Manhattan, KS

Today’s verses are Luke 10:18-20.

When the seventy-two disciples returned, they joyfully reported to him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name!”  “Yes,” he told them, “I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightning! Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them. Nothing will injure you. But don’t rejoice because evil spirits obey you; rejoice because your names are registered in heaven.”

Did you know Jesus did this? He picked 72 more disciples and sent them out to spread the word about Him? And obviously these people got an opportunity to see God work through them in miraculous ways. These guys came back after seeing everything God did through them and were so excited that evil spirits obeyed them.

Does anyone out there remember the really funny Bill Engvall/Travis Tritt song, “Here’s Your Sign”? I kind of feel like this is what Jesus is saying to these 72 disciples. Of course, God worked through them. Jesus had given them authority over all the enemy’s power. He wouldn’t have sent them out if He hadn’t.

I get stuck in a very traditional, hierarchical view of life. In work, in church, everywhere, if someone is older than me, I automatically assume he or she knows more than I do and I bow to their opinion. And that’s not wrong. No, in many instances, that’s right. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to realize that just because someone is older than me or has a higher position than I do doesn’t automatically make them better qualified to answer some questions.

And I think it’s good and beneficial for us to be subject to those kinds of people throughout our lives. It’s a good way to learn patience and submission and compassion, to learn how God can bless us when we submit to authority that really doesn’t have a clue.

But when it comes to doing what God has called us to do, do you realize that we don’t have to ask permission? We don’t have to wait for a sign? All we need to do is do it.

So what desire has God put in your heart? What path has God set you on? Are you waiting for His permission before you embark?

There are many reasons to wait, and if God is telling you to wait, then for heaven’s sake stay where you are. But is He really saying to wait? Or are you just waiting because you’re afraid?

If what you want to do matches up with Scripture, if it’s not going to compromise your faith or your testimony, if you believe it’s the direction God is calling you to go, you don’t have to wait for permission. God’s standing on the sidelines with a checkered flag screaming at you to floor the accelerator, cheering you on.

Don’t sit still. Don’t accept the status quo. Don’t just keep doing the same thing over and over again. You were meant for more than this. You have all the authority you need, and you have God on your side. So what are you waiting for?

The fountain on the plaza at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Bosses are people too

Are you a manager or a supervisor? Are you responsible in some way for people? Whether it’s for work or ministry, serious or play, if you’re in a position of authority, you probably look at the world a little differently than those who report to you.

When you aren’t responsible for other people, you have a lot more freedom in how you live and how you make choices. When you are in a position of authority, your choices directly affect the people who you’re responsible for. So you can’t exactly just do what you want to do. I mean, you can. But it may cause more trouble than it’s worth.

The fountain on the plaza at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

The fountain on the plaza at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are 1 Timothy 2:1-4.

I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior,  who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

Why am I bringing this up? Well, in the past few days, God has brought a couple of situations to my attention where I haven’t been as thankful for my leaders as I should be. And I know I haven’t prayed for them like I should either.

But there’s this little voice in my head that always whispers to me that if they didn’t want to be a leader, they could just step down. Well, they can’t always do that. A leader can’t always just walk away from his or her responsibilities. Life doesn’t work that way.

I’ve been in enough situations of my own where people were relying on me that I couldn’t just give up and walk away.  And leadership works like that no matter what sort of job or ministry you’re working in.

Do you ever think about your boss? Do you ever think about the pressure and the stress he or she must feel? I mean, I’m sure you have enough on your plate as it is, focusing on your own work, but just for a little while, take a moment and think about your workload. And then think about your boss’s workload. Not all bosses shovel their work on to their minions, you know. A lot of bosses have to pass it on down because they have too much other stuff to concentrate on doing.

We are commanded as Christians to pray for the people in authority over us. That’s part of our job. That’s what God wants us to do, and sometimes it can be very difficult to do. I’ve been there. I’ve had people in charge of me that I didn’t particularly care for, bosses I didn’t really like, although those have been few and far between (thank God).

But beyond just praying for them, have you ever taken the time to thank them? Maybe your boss is a jerk, but you still have a job. Maybe your boss is lazy, but he or she is still your boss. And nothing happens without a reason. People don’t come into your life without a purpose. There are no accidents.

So, yes, pray for them. Ask God to bless them. Seriously, ask God to bless them because the more God blesses them, usually the more you’ll be blessed too.

But go the extra mile. Don’t just pray for them. Take a moment to thank them. Stop by and just tell them that you’re glad to work for them. And if you can’t say that honestly, just tell them that you hope they have a great day and that you’re praying for them. Gracious, just smile at them.

People have no idea how far a smile can go.

Bosses are people too, and (just like you) they aren’t perfect. Just because they’ve been given rank and authority over you doesn’t mean they have any more of an idea about life than you, even if they have to act like they do. So give them a break.

God wants us to pray for our authorities, and that includes our bosses, whether you like them or not, whether you agree with their policies or not. So do it. And I’d be willing to bet your perspective on your boss might change after a few weeks of praying for them. After all, it’s really difficult to be angry at someone you’re praying for on a regular basis.

The flag of Texas at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Obedience is better than sacrifice

I’m independent. I like my freedom. I like being able to do what I want to do without having to ask anybody for permission, without having to clear my schedule with anyone else, without having to juggle my life to suit someone else (unless I want to). And apparently I’ve always been that way.

Turning 31 yesterday brought up some old stories of when I was little, and I always get a little nostalgic when it comes to birthdays. I can’t say I struggled with authority when I was little, but I certainly had my own opinion about how the world should work. I’m so thankful my parents taught me to respect and obey authority. Why? Well, the Bible shows a direct connection between obedience to authorities and the blessings you receive.

I ran into a bit of an incident last night at the Judgement House dress rehearsal. I’m not going to go into details because there’s no point, but suffice it so say some people decided that they were going to do things their own way rather than obey the authorities who had been put in charge over them. And things like that always irritate me because Judgement House isn’t about getting our own way. It’s not about being cool. It’s not about getting to hang out with friends. Judgement House is a declaration of war against our enemy, and it burns me up to see people not taking it seriously.

I almost did something. I almost said something. But someone gave me great advice many moons ago: Never write a letter when you’re angry. Same thing applies to dealing with people. Don’t deal with people angry because people aren’t you’re enemy. And while part of me wanted to go all righteous on these other people and how they flipped the authorities off, the other part of me reminded my traitorous brain that I’m not that much different from them. I understand the urge to buck the system all too well. I understand the deep, yearning sensation to go against the grain, to tell the powers that be that they’re morons, to do my own thing because it’s easier and–let’s face it–my way is better.

Anybody else been there? Well, you’re not alone.

The flag of Texas at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

The flag of Texas at the Dallas Arboretum, Dallas, TX

Today’s verses are 1 Samuel 15:22-23.

But Samuel replied, “What is more pleasing to the Lord: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols. So because you have rejected the command of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”

The first king of Israel was a guy named Saul, who was set up to be the king because he looked kingly. And he did a pretty good job starting out, but it wasn’t long before he was eaten up with insecurity. And people who are ruled by insecurity make very unwise decisions. And soon, Saul was doing his own thing his own way. Because his way was better. God didn’t get it, and it wasn’t like He’d do anything about it. So Saul was free to do as he pleased.

Not so much.

The High Priest at the time, Samuel, delivered this message to Saul. And it was something that I needed to remember before I turned my righteous indignation against someone else who was thumbing their nose at authority.

Obedience is better than sacrifice.

Think about that. Think about what that means. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Doing what God tells you to do is better than giving up something you think will make Him happy. Ouch. That’s where I get stuck because I don’t have a problem sacrificing. I can throw time and energy and finances at every God-cause that comes my way, but just because I’m willing to do all that doesn’t mean that’s what God has asked me to do. I mean, none of those things are wrong, especially if you’re doing them for the right reasons. But what is that one thing God has told you to do that you haven’t done? Are you just sacrificing things for God to make up for it?

I’m sorry to say, it doesn’t work that way. Obedience is better than sacrifice.

I’m not always that good at obedience. I want to do things my own way in my own time the way I want to do them, and I don’t like having to wait for God, having to think like God, having to do what God would do. But the plain and simple truth is that blessings come from obedience. Saul disobeyed, and God rejected him as king.

So who is the authority in your life today that’s causing you a headache? Who is the authority that you don’t want to obey? The authorities in my life are there because God put them there, and disobeying them is tantamount to disobeying God (with the exception of when they ask you to act contrary to how the Bible says to live, but that’s a different topic).

Stop fighting it. Stop sacrificing for it in vain; it’s not fixing the problem. Obey. Just do it. You don’t have to understand, and you sure don’t have to like it. But blessings will follow, if not from your direct authority then from God Himself.