A giant wolf spider who took up residence in my bathroom cabinet, Haven, KS

Running from trouble gets you nowhere

My house is full of spiders. Granted, it’s not as bad this year as it’s been in previous years, but it’s still pretty bad. I snapped this cell phone shot of a wolf spider who was living in my bathroom cabinet.

Believe it or not, I almost left him alone because wolf spiders are the natural enemies of brown recluses, one of the most poisonous spiders ever. And my house is loaded with brown recluses. Seriously. I have a ton of them. But they are recluses for a reason and usually run away .

In any case, the wolf spider didn’t make it. But in case you’re wondering what this has to do with anything, I was sitting at the computer in my hotel in Bellevue, Washington, and a spider came crawling down the wall. And I’m pretty positive that it was a brown recluse. At least, it looked like one, and it behaved like one.

And I couldn’t help but laugh because the rainy, cold Pacific Northwest was the last place I thought I’d find another brown recluse. I usually only find them in the hot, dryness of summer in Kansas.

But it made me think about something. When I see a spider now, I squash them. Or I spray them. Or (in some rare cases) I leave them alone. But I made the decision years ago on how to handle them and have taught myself through years of experience how to deal with them. So whenever a see a spider, I know what to do.

Now what if I hadn’t done that? What if I hadn’t trained myself how to handle spiders? I’d go running and screaming every time I saw one, no matter where I went. So I’d run and scream at home, and I’d run and scream at my hotel in Seattle. The spiders aren’t going to change. There are spiders everywhere. But how I respond to them can.

It’s just like troubles in our lives. We all have them. They just look different. But when you run away from them, you’re just going to find the same problem farther down the road. You can’t escape them. You have to learn how to face them.

A giant wolf spider who took up residence in my bathroom cabinet, Haven, KS

A giant wolf spider who took up residence in my bathroom cabinet, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Lamentations 3:30.

Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them
    and accept the insults of their enemies.

Dealing with people who don’t like you can be really difficult. And I’m not saying to fall down and allow people to beat you up. That’s not the point.

Sometimes, it’s better to be the one who backs off. Sometimes, it’s better to be humble. Sometimes, it’s better to be the one who takes it on the jaw.

As Christ-followers, we’re strong enough to take it. God gives us the strength to go through anything. And we need to remember that in this life, we’re going to have trouble. We aren’t going to find the perfect solution to living on this Earth because this isn’t our home. And if we keep packing up and moving on to every new situation that comes our way, we won’t learn the lesson God is trying to teach us through the struggles He has allowed into our path.

You’ve heard that the grass is always greener on the other side? It’s not. It’s the same grass. It’s just your perspective on it. Grass is grass wherever you go, and it’s subject to the same problems and difficulties everywhere.

So if you don’t learn how to handle the problems you’re facing today, you won’t know what do to when the same problems pop up a few miles down the road.

So stop running. Face your troubles head on. Let God help you, let Him make you strong, and let Him show you what you need to learn.

Spiders come in every shape and size, but they all squash the same. Learn how to deal with the small ones, and the big ones won’t be that scary.

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The grounds at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

What is faith and how do we find it?

I’ve grown up hearing stories of heroes from the Bible and from everyday life who accomplished great things because they trusted God to do something miraculous. From Abraham to John Bunyan, from Joseph to Jim Elliot, from Ruth to Amy Carmichael … so many heroes, and the one thing they all had in common is faith. But faith is such an innocuous term anymore. If you even look it up in the dictionary, the first definition is practically generic. Faith means, “belief in someone’s abilities.”

So what is faith? And why does it matter so much? And why are there so many connotations?

The grounds at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

The grounds at Glen Eyrie, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Galatians 5:22-23.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

In this verse, along with about 240 others in the New Testament, the word faith (πιστις) refers to being persuaded. This is the actual definition of the word out of Stong’s Greek Lexicon: “persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation.” So when the Bible talks about faith, at least when it uses this word, it’s talking about being persuaded that Jesus is who He said He was.

But this isn’t just a random Bible verse pulled out of Scripture. This passage is talking about the gifts the God gives us, the results of the Holy Spirit in our lives. So not only is faith being persuaded, it’s also a gift from God. But faith goes beyond the fuzzy, ethereal, feel-good pep talks some Christians use when they feel like waxing eloquent about something. Faith is a choice, and if you are a follower of Christ, faith is something God has already given you.

We have to make the choice to take God at His Word, yes. But once we do that, you’ll find it’s not so difficult to believe that God is there. The Bible won’t seem so far out anymore. And life doesn’t seem accidental like it used to. You stop looking at coincidences and start seeing purpose and plan. And the more you get to know Jesus, the easier it is to let Him take over your life.

So what is faith? Faith is choosing to believe what God says instead of what anyone else says. Faith is listening to what the world uses as evidence and choosing to believe what the Bible says about it, even if it’s contradictory or controversial. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that faith is blind, though. It’s not. God isn’t asking for a leap of faith from us, at least not when it comes to trusting Him initially. He’s already provided all the proof we need of who He is. The difficulty is choosing to listen to your peers versus choosing to listen to Him.

Faith is consulting the Bible before you check with your favorite talk show host. Faith is talking to God about a situation before you call a Christian radio station. Faith is letting go of what you know you don’t need to hold onto, even though your peers look at you like you’ve lost your mind. Faith is knowing who God is and walking side-by-side with Him every day. Faith is seeing Him in the small things. Faith is seeing Him in the big things. Faith is seeing Him in everything.

And the Holy Spirit is that still, small voice at the back of your mind that whispers not to worry. He’s the one who reminds us that God has a purpose and plan for our lives, and all we have to do is trust Him.

The same God who walked with Abraham, Joseph, and Ruth is the same God who gave vision to John Bunyan in prison, who gave courage to Jim Elliot in his last moments, who inspired Amy Carmichael to do the unthinkable, and He’s the same God who I talked to this morning and asked to help me write this devotional in a way that makes sense to somebody. I know that. I know it’s true because the Bible says it is, and I know the Bible is true because I know where it came from. I know God is God because He says He is. Creation proves that He is. His work in my life proves that He is.

Anyone who says different doesn’t lack faith. They just have their eyes closed.

So do you want faith? Guess what, Christian? You already have it. It’s that still, small voice at the bottom of your heart that urges you to take a chance on God. You probably know the one I’m talking about. It’s the one you shove to the back of your mind. I do it all the time. But what happens if you listen? Do you think there was anything special about Abraham, Joseph or Ruth or any of the other heroes out of the Bible? Do you think there was anything special about John Bunyan, Jim Elliot, or Amy Carmichael or any of the other heroes of faith from history?

No. The only difference is that they made a choice to listen and obey when God spoke.

What is God telling you to do today? Do it. Trust Him. And if you don’t feel like you can, ask Him to help you have faith. You have the faith already, but ask Him to show it to you. He will.