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?

Decisive

I am an indecisive person when it comes to what restaurant to eat at. I like food — a lot. So when you give me twelve awesome choices, I have no hope of picking just one. So usually I leave the decision of where to eat with someone who has a stronger opinion.

And I feel, oddly enough, like my normal indecision when it comes to eating establishments has started creeping into other areas of my life. I haven’t really struggled with indecisiveness previously. Usually I can make a choice and stick to it fairly well, but recently? Not so much. I don’t know if I’m just tired. Or if I’m burned out. Or if I’m just so overwhelmed with life, the universe and everything that I can’t make a decision.

Either way, though, it has to stop. Because being indecisive is dangerous. It’s unstable and it can be damaging, not only to myself but to people around me.

Joshua recognized this in the Old Testament when he had completed his task of leading the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. At the end of his story is where today’s verse comes from.

Joshua 24:15

15 But if you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
 
Joshua announced to the whole population of Israel that he and his family would serve God. Along with that, he told them pretty much that he didn’t care what they did. They just needed to choose to do something.
 
Joshua recognized the danger of indecisiveness. It’s dangerous because it keeps us unsteady. We’re not committed to anything. We have no solid ground to fall back on when we are tested because we’ve never given our whole heart to anything.
 
Christians today have one foot in the world and one foot in the Bible. We’re straddling the fence and we think it’s okay.
 
Well, it’s not.
 
Whatever we choose, we need to choose to do it with our whole heart and our whole mind and all our strength because everything we do will be half hearted until we make that final decision.  And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to hand God something half hearted.
 
I have chosen to follow God. So I need to follow Him with everything I have, not just when it feels right and not just when I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I need to do the things He’s commanded me to do whether I can see the good rewards at the end of the path or not. And I don’t just need to walk the path He’s laid out before me. I need to run it. I need to be committed to it. And when the road gets rough and the path takes me up the side of a mountain, I need to keep going.
 
It takes discipline and devotion and dedication . . . . and faith.
 
I am as guilty as anyone of falling prey to the thought that I have enough time to live for myself. I have been running so hard for so long that taking a break and stepping back for a while was necessary — but I think I’ve rested long enough. And now I have to get up and get back into the game.
 
And like Romans 13:12 says, the night is nearly over and the day is coming. So I need to get my perspective straight and get over myself because life isn’t going to continue like this forever. There’s a change in the wind — and in the earth for those of us living in the Wichita, Kansas area.
 
God chose to put me where (and when) He put me for a reason. And I chose to follow Him. So I need to follow Him. Break time’s over. Like the old song says, “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back.”

What to do when your air conditioner gives up the ghost

Life is about making choices. We choose what to eat for breakfast. We choose what clothes we wear. We choose–to a certain extent–what kind of job we work. We choose what music to listen to, what kind of car to drive, what kind of house to live in. Life is about making choices and dealing with the consequences of those choices, whether they be positive or negative.

For example, I had a choice of where to sleep in my house last night. I got home around Midnight, and generally when I get home that late, I sleep on the first level because the house air conditioner cools the place down very well. The second level of my 100-year-old farmhouse has window a/c units that work well but you have to give them a headstart.

It was 90 degrees in the house when I got home at Midnight. So I turned on my air conditioning, took a shower, and then went to bed. I woke up at 2 a.m. covered in sweat and realized . . . the house air conditioner wasn’t working. It was 90 degrees on the first floor. It was 90 degrees in my basement. And it was 94 degrees in my bedroom on the second floor. I’m not sure why the house air conditioner isn’t working, but it would figure that it would break just before I leave the country on Saturday. =) It’s probably all these weeks of 100+ temperatures. It finally just gave up the ghost.

I tried sleeping in the basement, but it was just as hot and I didn’t have a fan going. So I chose to go up to the second floor, turn on my room a/c unit and just wait for it to cool down. I actually got a pretty good night’s sleep (it is currently 83 in my bedroom, where I am parked in front of the a/c unit composing this blog this morning).

I could have chosen to remain on the first floor. I acclimate fairly quickly and I probably could have gotten to sleep, but I would have been a terrible sweaty mess for work today. So I chose to be incredibly uncomfortable for about half an hour in my room while it was cooling down and managed to get a good night’s sleep without drenching myself in sweat.

As I was drifting off to sleep last night, I thought about this too. I had a choice even after I had made my choice. I could have laid in my hot bed in my hot room listening to the a/c unit chugging away doing its darnedest to cool this place down and could have been upset. I could have felt sorry for myself and I could have focused on how unfair it is to lose my air conditioner in the middle of the summer and on how inconvenient it was for me to have to wander around my house like someone who doesn’t know where they’re going to sleep. But I decided that feeling that way was a waste of time. I was in my room (even though it was hot), in my comfortable bed (even though it was hot), and I had an air conditioner. And it was working. Even if it were a tad inconvenient, I had an option that involved sleeping in an air conditioned room. So I chose to be thankful instead.

The verse today is also about making a choice.

Psalm 119:30

30 I have chosen to be faithful;
I have determined to live by your regulations.

Faith is a choice. Trusting Christ to save you from your sins is a one-time decision, but trusting that God knows what He’s doing with your life even when none of it makes sense is a choice I have to make almost every hour of every day.

We can either choose to trust that God is good and that He knows what He’s doing and that He always keeps His promises. Or we can choose to believe that He isn’t and He doesn’t and try to do our own thing. There’s no inbetween choice. Those are the only options. And the consequences from that choice determine what kind of a life you’re going to lead.

If you do your own thing and try to figure life out on your own, you’ll never have peace and life will never make sense. Because life is too big for us to understand. The big picture of our existence is too broad and too detailed and too complex for us to grasp. Our lives are all tiny pieces of a giant mosaic that fit together beautifully, but we are too small to see the whole picture.

But God can see everything. He can see how my life fits into the grand scheme of His plan. And instead of me flailing and floundering trying to understand life on my terms, I choose to just trust Him.

And by choosing to remain faithful to Him, by choosing to live by the Bible, by choosing to live like Christ, I will have a life that God can bless. Abundantly.

And I can speak from experience because it’s true. God has given me everything I need and just about everything I’ve ever wanted. I’ve never lacked for anything, even during the years when I didn’t know how I was going to afford food. Even during the time when I could barely make it paycheck to paycheck, God was faithful me. And now at this point in my life, I couldn’t ask for anything more. Although, a functioning air conditioner for the whole house would be phenomenal . . . . but until we get it fixed, maybe I can start a sauna . . . . It’s all good. Because I have chosen to trust God even in circumstances that seem unfair.

And besides, I’m leaving for Guatemala on Saturday so I’ll just consider this training. I have already gotten used to 106 and 110 degree temperatures outside. Now I can get used to the same temperatures inside.

Make the choice to trust God. Choose to live a life He can bless. Choose to believe He knows what He’s doing. And that way, even though life may not be happy, you can still be peachy.