To make the road obvious

I have no sense of direction on road trips or in buildings or anywhere. Even if the sun is visible and someone tells me which direction I’m going, I can’t tell you which way I’m heading without careful contemplation. So as you can imagine, Google Maps is my friend, and that has special meaning this morning.

As you’re reading this, I’m driving by myself to Estes Park. My best friend got married this past weekend, and now I’m heading out on a week-long sabbatical of sorts. I’ve been this way before, though, so there’s not much chance that I’ll get lost.

I’m stepping back from normal life for a little while, taking a road trip with Jesus, because it’s time for me to take a good, long look at life, the universe, and everything.

At some points in our lives, I think it’s a good idea to reevaluate the decisions we’ve made, to make sure that we’re still heading in the direction God wants. It’s the same reason you carry a compass when you go hiking.

God asks us to follow Him, but if we don’t stop sometimes to make sure we’re still on the right path, we run the risk of wandering off.

My life verse has always been Proverbs 3:5-6, and I’ve always found it to be true. I can make my own plans as much as I want, but ultimately God is the one in control of my life. How foolish would I be if I tried to do things my own way?

But I do. Often.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5-6That’s why I have my compass, Proverbs 3:5-6 — Trust God, even when life doesn’t make sense, and He’ll make your path obvious.

A few other versions of the Bible translate verse 6 to be: “he will make your paths straight.”

But I think I love the Amplified version the best:

In all your ways know and acknowledge and recognize Him, and He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].

How awesome is that?

That’s the kind of awesome I need in my crazy, confused, stressful life, to know for sure that the direction I’m walking is the one God wants for me. That’s the sweet spot, where I want to live.

So that’s what this week is about. Refocusing. Getting centered on God’s Word again. Making sure that I’m following Jesus’ road the way I’m supposed to, not trusting my own interpretation of life, but instead trusting His.

That’s the hard part, because I like to make sense of life. I like to fit the scattered pieces of life into a neat portrait, like a jigsaw puzzle coming together. But life can’t make sense without Jesus. It’s hard enough to make sense of it with Him, I wouldn’t even want to try without Him.

Life can't make sense without Jesus. - A.C. WilliamsSo in those moments where you need to check your directions, remember your compass. Remember that trusting your own understanding won’t help you conquer the trouble life throws at you. Instead, trust what God says. Do what God says. And keep your eyes peeled for the road God wants you on, because as long as you’re relying on His directions, the road you’re supposed to be walking will become obvious.

That’s a promise.

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Faith and common sense work together

Have you ever sat in a chair that couldn’t hold your weight? There’s nothing like that terror as the legs wobble beneath you, and you freeze, paralyzed with uncertainty, because if you move at all, it might collapse and hurt you. At the very least, you’ll look like an idiot. My friends, welcome to faith.

That’s an encouraging thought, right? Faith is like a cheap plastic chair that you aren’t sure will hold your weight until you sit in it. That’s what it feels like sometimes, and honestly there is some truth to that concept.

If you rest your whole weight on a chair that’s too flimsy to support you, it’ll collapse beneath you. That’s just the way gravity works. That’s also the way cheap plastic works too. And to a certain extent, you won’t know if it will hold you until you try sitting in it.

God doesn’t ask for blind faith

Yes, sitting in a plastic chair takes faith. But faith doesn’t have to be blind, and anyone who tells you differently doesn’t really know what he believes in.

Do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit.... There are many false prophets in the world. - 1 John 4:1Personally, I know there’s a lot of me to hold up, so I usually test a chair before I sit in it.

That’s not a lack of faith. That’s just common sense.

And I think that’s where a lot of folks gets confused, because faith and common sense don’t have to be at odds with each other.

Even the Bible says that we’re supposed to think about what we believe and why we believe it (1 John 4:1). Jesus never commanded us to turn our brains off. In fact, He said the opposite. (1 Peter 5:8)

Now, does that mean we’ll understand everything?

Instead of answering, let me ask another question. Do you understand everything anyway?

Faith isn’t an exclusively religious concept. Everyone has faith in some form or another, whether we’re talking about relationships or job positions or the integrity of a plastic chair’s design.

Most of the important questions of life can’t be answered without faith. Granted, maybe your faith is in science, but science can’t explain everything either, which is why some supposed sciences are accepted on faith. (And if you’ve been paying attention to the scientific community over the years, you’d notice that science continually proves the Bible is true. But that’s another blog post.)

The point is, you don’t have to sacrifice common sense to have faith.

You don't have to sacrifice common sense to have faith. - A.C. WilliamsIf a cheap plastic chair doesn’t look like it’s going to support you, don’t sit in it. If a pastor on YouTube is promising success and prosperity if you donate to his organization, you don’t have to do it if you don’t think he’s on the level. If a charity demonstrates a lack of ability to monitor their accounting, you aren’t required by faith to give your money to them.

Don’t turn your brain off. God doesn’t ask you to be blind. He’s gone to painstaking lengths to prove who He is through His Word and through the experiences of people who’ve followed Him.

So ask Him questions. Ask His followers questions. Examine Him. Get to know who He is for yourself, not just the picture that other people paint. He’s waiting for you.

Try it His way and see what happens. You might be surprise how common-sensical following Jesus actually is.

God keeps track so I don’t have to

Have you ever been so far behind that you’ve got practically no chance of catching up in your lifetime? Have you ever been so surrounded by chaos and craziness that you can’t keep your head above the waves no matter how good a swimmer you are? Have you ever trusted someone to help you stand up after life has beaten you down only to feel the shock of them kicking you while you’re too tired to defend yourself?

Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. How about you?

This isn’t a very good blog post.

Since last fall I’ve tried to make these posts deep and rich, full of more than one Bible reference and practical stories from life. But today’s post isn’t going to be like that, simply because I haven’t been able to write that kind of post.

But what’s true in the long, deep, rich posts is true in smaller posts like this one: God is always good, even when your situation isn’t; He never makes mistakes; and He always keeps His promises.

When I reach low points in my life, I run to the Psalms. It’s reassuring to me to read the words of the writers, especially the Psalms of David. David asked God hard questions. “Where are you?” and “How long will you be angry with me?” and “Why are these horrible things happening?” and “Why have my friends turned against me?”

There are no easy answers. God didn’t respond with platitudes or religious verbiage. He didn’t wave the questions away as though they didn’t matter. Instead He granted David (and the other Psalm writers) an understanding of Who He is.

Psalm 56

O God, have mercy on me,
for people are hounding me.
My foes attack me all day long.
I am constantly hounded by those who slander me,
and many are boldly attacking me.
But when I am afraid,
I will put my trust in you.
I praise God for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?

They are always twisting what I say;
they spend their days plotting to harm me.
They come together to spy on me—
watching my every step, eager to kill me.
Don’t let them get away with their wickedness;
in your anger, O God, bring them down.

You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.

My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help.
This I know: God is on my side!
I praise God for what he has promised;
yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.
I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?
What can mere mortals do to me?

I will fulfill my vows to you, O God,
and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.
For you have rescued me from death;
you have kept my feet from slipping.
So now I can walk in your presence, O God,
in your life-giving light.

Not an overused religious cliche in sight, right? David doesn’t pull any punches when he’s talking about the state of the world and the kinds of people who want to destroy him. And I don’t know about you, but some of that sounds awfully familiar to me.

Everyone has people in their lives who are hurtful. We all have relationships that aren’t healthy in some way or another. And maybe no one is actively trying to kill you (I hope not, at least), I’d be willing to bet there are several who are trying to hurt your reputation. Maybe they’re even succeeding. But don’t give up. 

God isn’t blind. He isn’t ignoring you. And He isn’t ignoring them either.

But just because they’re getting away with it now doesn’t mean they’ll get away with it forever. Just because your life is rocky and crazy and overwhelming and frustrating right now doesn’t mean it will continue to be that way. Just because there are people and obstacles in your path that are causing destruction and pain right now doesn’t mean they’ll always be there.

Things may be tough right now, but God hasn’t gone anywhere. Instead of being angry and upset at Him for your life going differently than you wanted, spend the time asking Him what He has planned. Trust me, His plan is better anyway. Just trust Him. Do what He says is right. And keep moving forward.

Whose side are you on anyway?

I thought the nation was divided before, but I hadn’t lived through this November. And here we are, more than a month later, and we’re still reeling. So is the rest of the world. And the only thing that’s certain is how uncertain everything is.

The last year has been about taking sides and switching loyalties and who you support and why. And once everyone made up their mind about all that, it turned into a mud-slinging event, where everyone who disagreed with everyone else made an extreme effort to offend as many people as possible. The last year has been one side against the other, and I’m not sure anyone actually won.

People are really good at taking sides down here. It’s a common topic of conversation, especially around election time. Are you on Donald Trump’s side? Are you on Hillary Clinton’s side? No? Then you must be on a third-party candidate’s side, right? Which one? Who’s side are you on?

If you side with someone, that means you agree with them. That means you believe the same things they believe and support the same causes they support. You stand for what they represent. Right? Isn’t that how it works?

That’s the thought that kicked me in the head during a worship service at my church a few weeks ago. “Our God” by Chris Tomlin is one of those classic worship songs that I never get tired of singing, and I love the way my church sings it. Loud and bright and joyful, because it’s so very true. But as the words of the bridge left my mouth, I stopped.

In case you aren’t familiar with the song, the bridge lyrics are: “And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us? And if our God is with us, then what could stand against?”

Bold words. Powerful words. And true, because they’re based on Scripture. Romans 8:31 says, “What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?” And if you think about it, who wouldn’t want God on your side?

This is God we’re talking about. Maybe I speak for myself, but having God on my side sounds like a pretty fabulous idea. I mean, if God is on my side, that means I’m right about everything.

If God is for us, that means He supports us. He agrees with us. He stands for what we represent. Right? As we understand the concept of taking sides, isn’t that what it would mean?

That’s how we live. That’s how we treat God sometimes. We look at Him like He’s some genie in the clouds, who exists solely to fulfill our wishes. He’s all-loving, and that means He supports us in every path we take. And He wouldn’t ever correct us or discipline us or discourage us from making a choice He doesn’t like. He’s a good God, after all.

Personally, I’m not sure a god who lets us get away with everything can be classified as good. Children who are allowed to get away with everything aren’t usually liked. Parents who let their kids get away with everything aren’t usually considered role models. So why do we think God is different?

But God is on our side. That means He agrees with us.

Maybe not. See that tiny little two-letter word, if? That’s a huge word. If. It means the statement that follows may not be true. It means the statement that follows is conditional.

If God is for us. If God is on our side. If means He may not be.

So what do you have to do to get God on your side? What price do we have to pay? What task do we have to accomplish?

The answer isn’t easy, but it’s very simple.

If you want God on your side, you need to be on His side.

See, God isn’t overwhelmed by our greatness. Compared to Him, we’re less than fleas. He doesn’t play favorites (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11), and our fantastic attempts to doing good don’t impress Him (Isaiah 64:6). We can’t convince God to be on our side through our own merit.

And, frankly, why would God want to be on our side? What can we do for Him? What can we offer Him? He’s God! Maker of the Universe. Inventor of gravity. Creator of quasars and feathers, to quote singer Chris Rice. He can do anything. He can be anywhere. He knows everything. Time has no meaning to Him.

We are nothing. And the only thing we can offer Him is our hearts.

Exodus 32:26
So he stood at the entrance to the camp and shouted, “All of you who are on the Lord’s side, come here and join me.” And all the Levites gathered around him.

Who’s on God’s side? That’s the question we should be asking. Who represents what God stands for in our culture? Who agrees with God? Who supports God?

There are only two sides that matter, God’s side, and the world’s side. I don’t have a side. Neither do you. Neither does the President or your senator or your town mayor or your teacher or your annoying little brother or sister.

Whose side are you on?

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to choose sides. But this world isn’t perfect. And we do. But when it comes to who you support or what you choose to do or how you choose to do it, you only have two choices for what side to take. You can either choose to do what the world says is right, or you can choose to do what God says is right. There’s no middle ground. There’s no third party.

If you want God to be on your side, you have to be on His side first.