Awesome fried chicken given to me for lunch, San Miguel, Peten, Guatemala

If it doesn’t cost money, does that make it free?

My random desk calendar shared a bit of wisdom with me yesterday that I don’t really agree with. The best things in life are free.

Are they really? I mean, I understand what it means. It means that the best parts of life can’t be purchased with money. But just because something doesn’t cost money doesn’t make it free. Everything costs something.

Awesome fried chicken given to me for lunch, San Miguel, Peten, Guatemala

Awesome fried chicken given to me for lunch, San Miguel, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verses are Joshua 24:11-15.

When you crossed the Jordan River and came to Jericho, the men of Jericho fought against you, as did the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. But I gave you victory over them. And I sent terror ahead of you to drive out the two kings of the Amorites. It was not your swords or bows that brought you victory. I gave you land you had not worked on, and I gave you towns you did not build—the towns where you are now living. I gave you vineyards and olive groves for food, though you did not plant them. “So fear the Lord and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord alone. But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve.

It’s easy sometimes to forget all that God has done for us. I’m guilty of it. I get to thinking about how hard I’ve worked and what a good person I’ve been, and then I almost convince myself that I deserve the good things in my life because I’ve worked so hard to achieve them.

And I’m not knocking hard work. Hard work is essential. And when you work hard, it’s natural to reap the benefits of your work. But there’s a fine line between earning a reward and deserving a reward, and we should never forget that we don’t deserve God’s grace. We can’t work for God’s grace. We can’t earn it. It’s a gift, pure and simple.

But Christians can grow big heads about grace, which is ironic because nobody can earn it. But we think we can. We live a good life, so we think we deserve it. Maybe we’d never say it out loud, but deep down in our hearts, that’s what we think sometimes.

Loosen that halo up, brothers and sisters. I can’t be the only one guilty of this. Maybe I am, but I don’t think so.

It’s that tiny little voice that whispers to you, reminding you of all the good things you’ve done and that you have a right to expect good things and that if God is who He says He is He won’t let anything bad happen to you because you’re such a good Christian.

I think everyone hears that voice, but it’s up to us whether or not to listen to it.

See that’s what happened to the children of Israel after God delivered them from Egypt. I think they got comfortable. They got used to the luxury of living in the Promised Land, and they forgot to be thankful. They forgot who it was who had provided for them.

God brought them victory. It wasn’t their soldiers or their battle tactics or their generals. They weren’t particularly fearsome. They weren’t particularly bright. But they triumphed because God was on their side. And then God gave them homes they didn’t build and crops they hadn’t planted, provided everything they needed, and they didn’t have to do anything to get it.

But that didn’t make it free. Someone had to build those homes. Someone had to work the land. And I’m betting the Israelites appreciated what God had given them a few years down the road when they lost everything.

The best things in life don’t cost money, but that doesn’t make them free. We should never forget that, and we should never take it for granted when someone does something for us. Never take grace or mercy for granted.

If we ever get used to mercy, if we ever forget the cost of grace, God may have to remind us. And when God has to remind us of something we already know, it’s never fun.

So take a moment today and just be thankful for all that God has given you in your life. Everything that matters that you didn’t have to pay for. All the things you could never replace that God simply gave you because of His great love.

Don’t take them for granted, and never forget that you could never pay the price for them. That’s why God had to do it for us.

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Late miracles are miracles still

I’ve posted about perspective before, but I’m really needing a good reminder about it this morning. Having the right perspective is vital to following God. Granted, it’s not necessarily required to follow Him, but it certainly helps your attitude because God doesn’t do things the way you want Him to.

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 25:1.

O Lord, I will honor and praise your name, for you are my God. You do such wonderful things! You planned them long ago, and now you have accomplished them.

My parents and I arrived at the Mayo Clinic on Sunday morning this week. It’s now Thursday, and we still haven’t gotten to see the specialist we wanted to see. And it’s looking like we may have to wait until next Wednesday.

It’s easy to get discouraged about this, honestly, because God opened all sorts of doors for us to be able to come up here in the first place. So I had expected Him to keep opening doors. So what does it mean when He opens a door and then shuts it just before you walk through?

When you hit those moments, you need to take a step back and calm down, first of all. You can’t make wise decisions when you’re upset. And then you need to take some time and think about who God is.  I think that’s the key we forget often because we think God has to be bound to our schedule. We expect God to work the way we want Him to, and He doesn’t. He’s not bound to do what we want. God is sovereign. He works according to His plan, in His time, and He has the right to do what He wants, when He wants. Because He’s God.

But the Bible tells us something really important about God that we shouldn’t ever forget: God is good.

Over and over and over again. God is good. God is good. No one else is good but God. If there’s one thing you can know for sure about God, it’s the fact that God is good. So when He does work, even if it’s not according to what we want, we can still trust that what He’s doing is good.

I thought saving my vacation to use on myself would be good. I thought spending my time off with friends instead of my parents would be good. But do I know what’s good? Do I really know what’s good for me? I don’t. But God does.

It all comes down to trust. Do I trust God enough to turn over the tiny little things I’ve convinced myself I own? Like my vacation time?

Once you establish that you trust God with everything, your perspective changes too. Because there’s nothing you hold back from Him. He can do whatever He wants with everything you have and everything you are, and then you don’t waste time worrying about things you can’t control. You just enjoy being where you are, being around the people you’re with.

How many miracles does God have to do in our lives before we trust Him completely? Just because it’s not the miracle you wanted doesn’t make the impossible any less miraculous.

God does awesome things. He does amazing, impossible things every day. By all rights, we shouldn’t even be up here. We shouldn’t have gotten an appointment in the first place. That’s a miracle. And what we’ve learned so far has already been helpful.

So what if we have to stay another week? So what if we have to leave and come back? We’re here now. We have the opportunity to meet with a specialist. That’s more than we had two weeks ago.

Perspective. Don’t miss the miracles. God has planned great things in our lives, and He won’t stop working until they are all accomplished. No, He may not accomplish them when we want Him to, but He’ll still make it happen because He has promised. And we can trust Him because He’s good.

Wheelbarrow full of snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Fight discouragement with praise

 

The National Weather Service tells me I have a foot of snow outside at the moment, but one thing I’ve learned living out here is you don’t know exactly how much snow you’ve had until you go out walking in it. From the windows it’s deceptive. Yesterday, I was out walking around when we only had 8 inches, being doubly thankful I have a job that I can work from home, and I managed to end up in a drift of snow that was a lot deeper than I expected it to be. It came up past my knees. Compared to the rest of the landscape, the drift didn’t seem obvious, but it was there, and it slowed me down enormously as I was trying to walk.

Life is kind of like a yard full of snow drifts. You don’t always know how deep they are, and if you aren’t careful you can end up stuck.

I’ve been posting this week about discouragement, and I ran into a verse this morning that really encapsulates everything we need to do to fight discouragement in our lives.

Wheelbarrow full of snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheelbarrow full of snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Isaiah 12:4-5.

In that wonderful day you will sing:
    “Thank the Lord! Praise his name!
Tell the nations what he has done.
    Let them know how mighty he is!
Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things.
    Make known his praise around the world.

I’m going to make this brief because my home office is still freezing in spite of my little electric heater. I’ve been working for fifteen minutes, and my fingers are already going numb. (Please excuse typos if you see them!!)

Discouragement isn’t something that we just have to accept and move on with. We don’t have to live with discouragement, and God has given us all sorts of weapons to use in the fight against it. One of those weapons is truth. Knowing God’s truth will help us face the lies that discouragement whispers to us, but another weapon is praise.

Praise is hard on a good day, let alone on a day when you feel lower than low, but praise is one of the best things to do when you don’t feel like it. Worship takes your eyes off yourself and puts them on God, telling Him how awesome He is, how wonderful He is, and thanking Him for everything He’s done in your life.

Yes, maybe your life sucks right now, but it’s not as bad as it could be. Seriously, think about it. Take your worst moment and you’ll be able to find something positive about it with God’s help. Our lives are never as bad as they could be, and that’s God’s grace.

So in those discouraging moments, those moments where you end up stuck in the snow drifts, step back and praise God. Focus all your energy on telling Him how great He is, on telling others How great He is, instead of how difficult your life is at the moment, and something miraculous will happen. Your situation won’t change, but the way you see it will.

And, if you ask me, life is less about what happens to you and more about how you respond to it. So if you can face difficulty and discouragement with a smile and still keep praising God in the darkness, you’ve won the bigger battle anyway.

Turkey at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

I’ll bring the pie

Thanksgiving wasn’t an official holiday until President Lincoln made it that way in 1863. Americans have a lot to be thankful for, even though the state of our country isn’t perfect. But beyond the borders of country lines, Christ-followers have a lot to be thankful for. No matter where we are today, no matter what country we’re living in now, one thing that so amazes and excites me is that everyone who follows Christ has a permanent home in heaven, where all of us have our true citizenship.

So, Christ-follower, no matter what kind of situation you’re dealing with right now, just remember that you have God’s grace in your life. Take a moment to celebrate, even if it’s just a few seconds to acknowledge who God is and what He’s done for you. He deserves it. He’s worth it.

May everyone have a truly blessed Thanksgiving, whether you’re American or not. And one day we’ll all be able to have a giant feast of thanksgiving together in eternity.

I’ll bring the pie. =)

Psalm 100

Turkey at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Turkey at the Sedgwick County Fair, Hutchinson, KS

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!
Worship the Lord with gladness.
Come before him, singing with joy.
Acknowledge that the Lord is God!
He made us, and we are his.
We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving;
go into his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good.
His unfailing love continues forever,
and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Black rhino at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

You never know … but God does

Life doesn’t always go the way you want it to. Sometimes, it goes the opposite direction. Sometimes you end up stuck in situations you would never have chosen, and you didn’t do anything to deserve it. You didn’t break the rules or do something stupid. Life just happened, and boom! You’re stuck.

When was the last time you thanked God because you were stuck? When was the last time you thanked God because something bad happened in your life? Those occasions don’t usually call for a praise service. It’s escaping those circumstances that normally bring on the adulations and exultations. But the Bible says over and over and over again throughout the Bible that we are to be thankful and that we are to thank God for our circumstances, good or bad, when we’re through them or when we’re in them.

Why is that? Is it just for the sake of our perspective? I do think that plays a role. When you wake up and you choose to be thankful no matter what, it does something to your attitude. But is there more to it than that?

Black rhino at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Black rhino at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Isaiah 55:8-11.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”

Who gets God? Who understands Him? Who can wrap their mind around the way He thinks? Anyone?

I don’t know anyone who can claim that. Granted, I know people who do claim it without really saying that they claim it. But no one really understands God in the same way that people understand people. Why? Well, there’s no one like God. No one else even comes close. So why do we think that we can think they same way He does? Why do we think we can put words in His mouth?

Now, I do believe Christ-followers have insight into why God does what He does, and maybe even a glimpse into His plan through the power of the Holy Spirit. But there’s a difference knowing God’s heart and knowing His thoughts.

Here’s the thing about bad circumstances or unhappy situations: they might just happen sometimes but they don’t ever happen in a vacuum. When something bad happens to you, the way you react to it will set the tone of the circumstance as a whole. You can treat it like a curse, like a problem, like a punishment. Or you can treat it like an opportunity to get to know God better. The way you tackle trials in your life makes all the difference in the world.

But I still think this concept goes deeper than just perspective. I honestly think there’s a very practical reason why God tells us to be thankful for every part of our lives, including the bad parts. Simply because we don’t always know what’s good for us and what’s bad for us. Sometimes we see things in our lives, and we think they’re bad. But God allowed those bad things to cross our paths because He planned to make something good out of it. Sometimes we look at a bad problem as a punishment, when it’s really just God preventing something worse from happening in our lives.

This is a corny example but how many times have I gotten on the road later than intended? For whatever reason. Cats underfoot. Garage door broken. Can’t find my pants. I could get upset in those moments and take my frustration out on God, but what would have happened that day if I had made it out the door on time? I might have run across a wreck, a wreck I missed because I was running late.

There have been so many other examples like this, but you get the point. It’s quite practical.

Bad things happen. Horrible things happen in life, things that tear you up inside and rip you apart and leave you a shell of who you were. But just because a situation looks bad now doesn’t mean that it will always be bad.

That’s what’s so amazing about God is that He can take those bad situations and turn them into something we’re thankful for down the road. In some instances that doesn’t seem possible. How can the dark, horrible parts of my life ever be something I’m happy for? I used to think that; now I’ve lived it.

What bad thing has happened to you? What terrible trouble is hovering over your head? Stop looking at it like it’s bad. Yes, it may be bad, but just because it’s bad now doesn’t mean it will always be bad. God has a habit of redeeming the bad and making it better than good. Who knows? The bad in your life right now might be what’s keeping you from running into something worse.

You never know, but God does.