A bad choice is bad, regardless of who makes it

Imagine that you’re riding in a car with a friend. When you get in the car, you notice that your friend doesn’t buckle his (or her) seat belt. When he’s driving, he doesn’t use his turn signals. And he goes much faster than the posted speed limit. Are you shocked and surprised when your friend gets pulled over by a police officer? Are you stunned speechless because you could never have imagined your friend in that position?

Come on. Be honest.

No, you’re not surprised. You probably figured it was only a matter of time. Why? Because your friend doesn’t obey the rules of the road. That doesn’t mean he’s not a great friend. It just means that neither he nor you should be surprised by the consequences when they catch up.

Today’s verses are Matthew 7:15-20.

Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

How closely do you really pay attention to what people say and do? Would you recognize a red flag in a relationship if you saw it?

You have to be careful with statements that you can identify a person by their actions or choices, because we are more than what we do and say. But it is true that you can identify wisdom in a person by their choices, just like you can identify foolishness. And that’s what we’re supposed to be looking for.

Bad choices lead to bad consequences. Just like good choices lead to good results. That’s common sense. That’s a law God set in motion from the beginning of time.

Somehow this always comes back around to judging and how we’re not supposed to judge, and that’s true. But what this is truly saying is that you have to keep your brain switched on. You can’t just turn off and accept whatever hair-brained idea your friends suggest. You have to think.

If someone is choosing to do something dumb, identify it for what it is. It’s dumb. And you can’t get smart from dumb. Senselessness never magically produced sense. It doesn’t work that way. Just like a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. Just like foolish choices can’t result in a truly positive outcome.

We all run into people like this in our lives, the ones who say they’re our friends but who really only care about themselves. Be aware of them. Learn to recognize them for what they are–not true friends. And keep your distance. otherwise they’ll drag you into their problems, their consequences, their issues.

All of a sudden, even though you’re just a passenger, you’ll still have to face consequences of your own. A bad choice is a bad choice, regardless of who’s driving or who’s just along for the ride.

The difference between being Christian and being Christ-like

Imagine, one day you meet someone who says he or she is a writer. That’s awesome, right? So you ask them what they write, and they respond: “Well, I’m not really writing anything now. But I will soon.” Are they really a writer?

Let’s try another job description. One that’s not artsy. How about an engineer? If someone tells you they are an engineer, generally you ask what they build or what they design. But what if the engineer you’re talking to has never built anything or designed anything?

There’s a big discrepancy in both of those situations. You can claim to be a writer all day long and never act like a writer. You can know everything you need to know to be an engineer but never act like an engineer. So why do we think it’s different with our faith?

roads-divergingToday’s verses are Deuteronomy 30:19-20.

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. And if you love and obey the Lord, you will live long in the land the Lord swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

My Bible study group recently finished a section on the Book of Deuteronomy, which is Moses’ instructions to the Children of Israel before they are about to go into the Land of Canaan.

God is really straightforward with them, and He repeats Himself a lot. Basically what He says is that if they obey Him, they’ll be blessed, and if they disobey Him, they’ll be cursed. Pretty simple, right? If you’ve read the book, you know how that story goes.

And, yes, God is speaking directly to the Children of Israel in this particular verse, but what He’s saying relates to our lives today as well.

We all face choices every day. We can choose to take God at His Word and obey Him, regardless of whether it’s fun or not. Or we can choose to live life on our own terms. Those are the only choices we have. You choose life or death, blessings or curses. Just like the Children of Israel did.

And just like the Children of Israel, if you want to be obedient to God, you need to love Him and commit yourself to Him. That means doing what He says is right. That means living your life in a way that would please Him. That means making choices that honor God. That means living a Christ-like life.

But how many of us know it’s true that you can call yourself a Christian all day long but not be Christ-like?

Just like a writer who doesn’t write or an engineer who doesn’t design, a Christian isn’t automatically Christ-like. That’s a choice you have to make every hour of every day.

I know a particularly troublesome Christian who is sometimes the least Christ-like person you’ll ever meet. I saw her in the mirror this morning. 😉

I’m stubborn. I want my own way. I think I know best. And I don’t want to do it God’s way because He’ll take me down a road that won’t be fun, and I just want to have fun. And believe me, I’ve lived through the consequences of those choices, and I can tell you from experience that it’s better to listen to God. But I’m a work in progress. Every Christian is.

You’re a Christian the moment you trust Christ for your salvation, but becoming Christ-like is a process.

If you want to call yourself a Christian, fine. Carry a Bible. Memorize Scripture. Go to church. Do the Christian thing. But what difference will a title make in your life if you don’t do what a Christian is supposed to do? A Christian is supposed to be Christ-like, and that doesn’t happen just because you install a Bible app on your smartphone.

Learning to follow God is more than just going to church or memorizing Bible verses or going to a Bible study. You follow God in the little things. Following God happens in the small moments–or at least, they may be small moments to you. They’re the moments when you refuse to participate in office gossip. They’re the moments when you decide to bite your tongue instead of saying something rude. They’re the moments when you do something kind instead of something mean. They’re the moments when you choose to love someone you don’t think deserves it.

In those moments, you choose to do those things for no other reason than God told you to. Those are the moments when you are Christ-like, and that’s far more important than being a Christian any day.

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

How do you live for God’s glory?

I like practical advice. When I ask a question, I’d like a straightforward answer. Life doesn’t have to be complicated, and faith doesn’t have to be confusing. Unfortunately, so many times that’s what it becomes.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m so thankful to have grown up in the Church (capital C … because the Church is something bigger than a building), but we do have our own language. Don’t we?

What I find ironic about religious jargon is that most church people can’t even define it. It just sounds good when said out loud. And those phrases that sound good said out loud rapidly become catchphrases we Christians spout off, but do we ever really think about what they mean?

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Corinthians 10:31.

So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Is it just me or does “do all for the glory of God” sound a little foggy? Maybe it’s because we don’t talk that way. Somehow this powerful little statement became a widely used phrase that you hear everywhere in religious situations.

For the glory of God this. For the glory of God that. And obviously it’s important, because it’s in the Bible. But what does it mean? If that’s what God wants from us, then I want to do it. But how do I do it?

Well, first of all, we need to break the phrase down and identify what it’s actually talking about. What is glory? If you look it up in the dictionary, in most cases it will say that glory is something people give people they want to honor or praise or worship.

I was curious, so I did a little word study over at BibleHub.com. I don’t speak Greek, so I could have it wrong. But from what I can tell, the original Greek word used (δόξα) literally means “what evokes good opinion, i.e. that something has inherent, intrinsic worth.”

Have you ever thought about it that way? Saying that you want to live in a way that brings glory to God is a florid, dramatic statement in my opinion. Maybe that’s just because I know so many extroverts, but even the word glory makes me think of people with their arms spread wide, shouting to the sky. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But can I really drink a cup of coffee to the glory of God?

Today’s verse says to do everything for God’s glory, so how would drinking a cup of coffee fit into that?

Thinking about it from this other perspective might clear it up a bit. As Christ-followers, we are to live the kind of life that gives people a good opinion about God.

How does drinking coffee fit into that? Well, for one, we can do it. That’s a huge blessing for me, and it’s probably an even bigger blessing for the people around me, especially in the mornings.

Because of God’s covenant with us through Jesus, we don’t live under a set of laws. We’re under grace, which means that God will grant us salvation through Christ free of charge, with no expectation, because we couldn’t afford it anyway. So we can eat meat. We can eat vegetables. We can drink coffee and Coke and–gasp!–yes, even alcohol!

There’s nothing we can do that will separate us from God’s love. There’s nothing a Christ-follower can do that will cause God to reject him or her. The only unpardonable sin is refusing to accept Jesus in the first place.

But that still doesn’t answer the question. How do I live for God’s glory? What do I have to do to live a life that will give people a good opinion of God?

Like I said before, I like practicality. And it doesn’t get much more practical than this: Find out what God wants you to do and do it.

That’s it.

There’s no magic formula. There’s no special chant. There’s no secret handshake. You read the Bible or seek Christian counsel to learn how God says to live, and then you live that way. And when someone asks you why, you tell them you make your choices because of what God says is right.

That’s what it comes down to. Choices. Everyone has choices. We face choices every day, ranging from what color socks to wear or what career path to take or whether to speed on the way in to work or not. The question isn’t how do you live life for God’s glory. The question is how does God want me to live?

Love God. Love people. Do what God says is right.

Road construction at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

How do you pick the road God wants?

Do you ever wish God communicated with neon lights? If His plans were that bright and loud and unmistakable, maybe we wouldn’t miss them so often. Or maybe making a decision wouldn’t be so hard.

Deciding between doing something the Bible says is right and doing something the Bible says is wrong is easy. If you want God’s blessing and favor, do what He says is right. That’s not the problem.

The problem comes when you have two good choices, when you have two great opportunities. How do you choose? How do you know what the right choice is?

Road construction at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Road construction at Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Psalm 25:4-5.

Show me the right path, O Lord;
    point out the road for me to follow.
Lead me by your truth and teach me,
    for you are the God who saves me.
    All day long I put my hope in you.

It’s good to know that we aren’t the only ones who struggle with knowing God’s plans. David asked questions like this all the time, which I think is important to note. So many times I think we try to make decisions about what we should do or where we should go without talking to God about it.

That’s basically what David does. He just tells God what’s going on in his life, asks the hard questions, and waits for God to tell him what to go do with himself. And I may be wrong about this (I haven’t done an in-depth study), but I don’t think David ever heard God speak to him. God communicated to David through prophets. And when David didn’t have a prophet to tell him what God was up to, he acted on what he knew about God.

No prophet came to David to tell him to stand up to Goliath. David knew God was on his side and was on Israel’s side, and he just did it.

Sometimes I think we are too cautious. We get caught up in the details, in the questions, in the unknowns. We want to make sure we’re good stewards of the resources God has given us, and that’s a wonderful thing. We should be responsible with what God has entrusted to our care. But sometimes we have to take risks. Sometimes we have to step out on faith. Sometimes we have to do what God is telling us to do even if it doesn’t make sense, especially if it’s something we don’t want to do in the first place.

Sometimes that means leaving what you know; other times that means staying where you are. But the one thing both decisions have in common is why. Why would you stay? Why would you go? Is it for you? Is it to achieve something you think will make life more fulfilling? Is it because you’re afraid? Is it because you don’t think you can do it?

Find the why. And once you know the why, hold it up to the Truth of Scripture. Does your why stand up? Just because both of your choices are God-honoring doesn’t automatically mean your reasons for wanting both of them are too.

What’s awesome about God is that He doesn’t expect us to know where we’re going. He just expects us to know who to follow.

We focus on the road God wants us to take, but what if it’s not about the road? What if it’s about the map? And as long as you are reading the map, as long as you are living the life God has called you to live, seeking Him in every choice, He will guide your steps. You can’t take a wrong road.

So it really is up to you what kind of road you want to travel. There’s a straight shot. There’s the windy, curvy roads. Then there are the rugged back roads. Some are easier to travel than others, but generally speaking, the best sights and the greatest adventures are on the roads less traveled.

What path are you supposed to take?

Believe it or not, Christian, God’s already told you what road you’re supposed to be on. His. But you can’t say that God only sanctions the highway. God’s will is big enough to have highways and freeways and county roads and gravel roads and goat paths and whatever.

You know how you’re supposed to live. So go out and live and trust Him. Seek His will first. Be open to doing whatever He wants you to do. He won’t let you go the wrong direction as long as your heart is set on following Him.

The bathroom door in the entryway of Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Don’t close the doors God opens

What do you do with an open door? Maybe the answer to that question is more revealing than we think, but usually my first inclination when I see an open door is to close it. In Kansas, an open door usually means two things: you don’t have allergies or you don’t care about your electricity bill.

But what about doors that should stay open? Am I wise enough to leave doors open when they should stay open? Because most of the time I’m going around closing doors, what if they’re the ones that I shouldn’t be closing?

The bathroom door in the entryway of Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

The bathroom door in the entryway of Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Galatians 5:13-14.

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

One aspect of following Christ that I’m still trying to wrap my head around, even after all these years, is the freedom we have. God’s grace covers our sins, so we don’t have to live under the law thanks to what Jesus did for us.

But just because we’re free to do anything doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to do everything. Some things are harmful. And while doing those things won’t bring our salvation crashing down, it can stop our growth and get us in a lot of trouble. Just because you are a Christ-follower doesn’t make you immune to the consequences of bad choices.

But that’s not what really strikes me about this verse. Yes, it’s important to remember that God didn’t save us just so we could twist off and live a life that shames Him, but more than that, because of our salvation, we’ve been given an opportunity to serve.

How many times do we look at our new life in Christ as an opportunity to help other people? So many times I think we see our personal relationship with Jesus as an opportunity to save ourselves, and that’s true. We should want to save ourselves, but what’s your motivation for reaching safety for yourself first?

In a crashing plane, why do you put the oxygen mask on your face first? Because you’re worth saving? Or so you can effectively help the person sitting next to you?

The more I think about it, the more I realize that God opens many many doors in my life so that I can help others in His name. And I’m really sad to admit that in some of those instances, I’ve shut those doors, mainly out of fear of rejection or failure (fear doesn’t come from God, remember).

Yes, shutting doors to preserve and protect your electricity bill is a good idea, but don’t shut the doors God leaves open. Otherwise you’re missing an opportunity for a blessing–not only to receive a blessing but to be a blessing. Walking through a door God opens gives you the chance for God to bless you and for you to help someone else realize how much God loves them. Have you ever thought about it that way?

It’s important to accept Christ. That’s the first step, but it is just a first step in the process that is living for Christ. Choosing to follow Christ is a one-time decision that leads to lifetime of choices to either obey or disobey. Choosing one or the other won’t compromise your salvation, but only one will result in a satisfied, healthy life.

God didn’t save us so that we could sit back and live an easy life. Life with Jesus isn’t easy. Living as a part of this world isn’t easy. We don’t belong here, and the people of the world who don’t know Jesus don’t understand us. It’s our job as Christ-followers to be ambassadors for Him, to help the people who don’t know Him yet see that living life with Jesus is the greatest decision any person can make.

God opens doors for us to do just that in our lives every single day, but whether we take the opportunities He provides for us is up to us.

So what door has God opened in your life? What opportunity has He laid at your feet? You have the choice. The ball is in your court. Are you going to close the door because you’re afraid of what might be on the other side? Or are you courageous enough to trust God for your insufficiencies and walk through it?