Why should we have confidence in God?

When I first started writing, I wasn’t very confident. I could write anything, but I had no faith that it was any good. Then, one day, I got brave enough to share it with a friend, and thanks to her positive feedback and encouragement, I kept writing. And I kept sharing it with friends, who also responded positively. But even then, I wasn’t what I would call confident.

It took years of writing (and a whole heck of a lot of rejection notices) before I started seeing my writing as something worthwhile. But the confidence didn’t come until I got hired on as a copywriter, where the people I worked with acknowledged that I could write. That sounds weird, maybe, because of course I can write. But it’s one thing to write for fun; it’s something else for people to pay for what you write.

I had to write for pay for three years before I truly began to feel confident in what I could do, and after that? After I figured out the confidence thing, writing was no problem. I can pick up a piece of paper and knock out a story in an hour. I can write a novel in a month or less. Maybe they won’t be very good, but that doesn’t bother me anymore. I know I can do it.

That’s where confidence comes from. You have confidence because you know for sure that your abilities (or the abilities of the one you’re relying on) are enough.

man-person-fog-mist_1516x1011Today’s verse are Psalm 27:11-14.

Teach me how to live, O LORD.
Lead me along the right path,
for my enemies are waiting for me.
Do not let me fall into their hands.
For they accuse me of things I’ve never done;
with every breath they threaten me with violence.
Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’s goodness
while I am here in the land of the living.
Wait patiently for the LORD.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.

So when was the last time you had confidence in the Lord? I mean, it’s easy to have confidence in your own abilities. You can control those. You can see the results almost immediately. But confidence in God? God doesn’t always work the way I want Him to. Actually, He rarely does. How can I have confidence in God if He doesn’t work according to my timetable?

That’s a tough question because it touches on deeper issues than just having confidence in God. A question like that means your own schedule matters more to you than God’s plan. Just being honest here.

What it comes down to is who God is. If confidence stems from someone’s abilities, how can we not have confidence in God? God is God. He’s the Creator, the Maker, the Redeemer, the Father, the Lover, the Master, the Lord. He can do anything and everything. He can be anywhere and everywhere, whenever, wherever, and however He chooses.

So the question isn’t how we can have confidence in God. The question is why should we.

God is good. Truly good. He’s the only one who actually is good. So everything He does is good. Don’t get the brokenness of the world or the brokenness in our own lives mixed up. People question God’s goodness because bad things happen, but bad things happen because the world is circling the drain as a result of our own choices. It’s not because God isn’t good. God is so good that He offers us a way out when we don’t deserve it.

God always keeps His promises. His plans are for our best. He never makes mistakes. That’s the kind of person you can be confident in, because He won’t ever do anything that isn’t for our best. That’s what you can have confidence in. That’s why you can trust Him.

No, you may not always like the roads He takes you on, but those are the times that make you stronger. Those are the moments that teach you who God is. And when the struggle is over, you’ll have more confidence than ever in how much He loves you, because you’ve seen it firsthand.

Living a victorious life in spite of a broken world

Ever have one of those days (or weeks or months or years) where it just feels like everyone and everything is out to get you? It’s not enough to have one problem. No, you have to have 12 all hit at the same time. Money problems and job problems and family problems and relationship problems and church problems and the list goes on and on and on. It’s different for every Christ-follower, but the story is the same.

In situations like that, it always makes me wonder if I’ve done something wrong. I never want to assume that I’m in the right, especially where my relationship with God is concerned. I always want to ask myself and judge my own heart to make sure I haven’t gone against the Lord in some way that He needs to correct. I never want to be so proud that I miss what He’s trying to teach me.

But what about when I haven’t done anything wrong? Sometimes life just stinks. The world is broken, and sometimes that brokenness affects my life, which has been redeemed but still exists as part of a fallen world. When that happens, what do we do?

gazing-rain-window_1555x1037Today’s verses are 2 Corinthians 4:7-9.

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.

It’s easy to get discouraged when you think about the state of our world, but we need to remember that this world isn’t our home. And even though we live here for now, that doesn’t mean we live here alone or that we’re helpless.

Every Christ-follower has power. We can face life with hope and strength and courage because God is walking this path with us, and if we rely on Him, He’ll give us what we need to get through the day.

So even in our darkest moments, when we’re surrounded by trouble, when we’re confused by circumstances, when people are out to get us, or even when we fall flat on our face, we can still live a victorious life. We don’t have to give in to the petty, grasping arguments and disagreements of the people around us. We don’t have to hurt each other. We have the power to choose love. We have the power to be like Jesus, and Jesus is undefeated.

If you’re down today, choose to get up again. And if you don’t have the strength to get up, ask for it. You’re not alone.

Sometimes even weeds can be beautiful

In the spring and summer, our yard here at Safe Haven Farm is full of dandelions. Weeds. All over the place. We’ve had some years when the yard was practically yellow from all the dandelion flowers. And what I’ve learned about dandelions over the years is that the more you try to get rid of them, the more keep popping up.

Dandelions are like the Hydra from Greek mythology. Whenever the hero would chop off one head, two more would grow back. Weeds are the same way. You can chop them off, poison them, hack them to bits, but they always come back because the roots are too deep in the soil to remove completely. Have you ever stopped to think that worry and anxiety is exactly the same?

No matter how efficiently you think you’ve dealt with your worrying, it won’t go away completely. No matter how far away you’ve distanced yourself from anxiety, those horrible, twisting anxious thoughts keep coming back. And it’s not because you want them. It’s because the root of the problem is buried too deep to reach.

What is the root of the problem? For me, it’s fear.

I’m afraid that I’ll fail, that I’ll disappoint people, that I’ll screw up, that I’ll make a mess of things, and that I’ll do such a good job of it that not even God will be able to get me out of it. That’s the fear that whispers to me. Fear tells me that I’ll never be good enough, that I’ll make mistakes so great and so grave that no one will forgive me. And even as I listen, I know it’s all lies, but somehow I still worry. Even though I know it’s not true.

So what do you do? How do you respond to the paralyzing fear that holds you in place and tries to convince you that it’s not worth even trying anymore?

Dandelion at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Dandelion at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 56:1-4.

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?

Fear doesn’t come from God. That’s not how He works. So if you’re making decisions based in fear, you might want to make sure you’re following the right person. If you’re feeling fear, which is leading to worry and stress and anxiety, that means you’ve got the enemy’s attention. Usually that means you’re doing something right.

I know that’s not much comfort. Believe me. But it’s the truth.

So how do you manage worry and anxiety if it’s never actually going to go away? And it’s not happening because you don’t trust God. You do. You wake up every morning determined to trust Him for everything, yet still that little voice whispers in your mind. And soon you’re in knots because you’re worrying, and then you tie yourself in more knots because you try to stop worrying so that you won’t worry about worrying. Ugh, it’s a vicious cycle.

I don’t know the answer, but I do know who God is. And I know what this verse says. When I’m afraid, I need to trust God. When I’m afraid, that means I’m trying to solve problems on my own. I’m looking at the difficulties I’m facing and trying to overcome them in my own strength, and I can’t do it. I’m not big enough.

The problems in my life are God-sized. And when anxiety gets the better of me, it’s usually those moments when I’m trying to rush God’s plan or trying to do it myself without Him, usually because I feel like He’s moving too slowly.

Trusting God means not taking matters into your own hands. It means letting go of your plans and your dreams and your goals and giving them to Him. It’s hard and scary, and often it hurts because letting go of anything that matters to you isn’t fun. But that fear you feel in response to letting go isn’t from God. It’s from Satan. He’s trying to keep you from experiencing the very best God has, because God can’t transform your life while you’re still holding on to it.

Remember what God promised. He won’t leave us. He wants the best for us. And His plans for us are good. So it doesn’t matter what anyone else can do to you, as long as you’re on God’s side. You stay right with Him, and He’ll take care of the rest.

You can wear yourself out pulling weeds, and they’ll all just come back again the next day. No, just wait. Let them bloom. Let the seeds scatter. And if at all possible, enjoy them. Even weeds can be beautiful at times, and even weeds like dandelions have can be useful.

How does God give us strength to face life’s challenges?

I don’t like social events with people I don’t know well. Just being honest. I know that’s usually the point of social events–to get to know people better. But I am a classic introvert. I detest small talk, and I have very little talent for starting a conversation with someone I don’t know.

But if I can go to a social event with someone I know well, things are different. Or if there is someone in attendance at the event that I know well, my comfort level goes through the roof. Why is that?

Whether it’s my brother or my best friend or just someone who I’m close to, as long as they’re by my side, I feel ten times stronger. I don’t know if it’s the comfort factor of knowing they’ve got my back. Maybe it’s knowing they can help me pick up the conversation with a stranger if it starts to lag.

All I know is that when someone else is by my side, it’s not so hard to do the things I need to do, whether that’s as an accountability partner or as a sidekick in a socially awkward situation.

too_heavyToday’s verse is Haggai 2:4.

But now the Lord says: Be strong, Zerubbabel. Be strong, Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people still left in the land. And now get to work, for I am with you, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

This isn’t the only verse in Scripture that makes the correlation between being strong and God’s presence. The Bible is full of instances where God tells His people to be strong because He’s there. And I guess just practically speaking what does that mean for us today?

It’s all well and good to say, “Be strong because God is with you” when you’re going through a tough time in your life, but that doesn’t mean God is going to show up and fix your problems for you. That doesn’t mean He’s going to do that scary job interview for you. That doesn’t mean He’s going to do the heavy lifting in your life.

Is it just a generic feel-good statement? “Hey, God’s here, so don’t be afraid!” Great for comforting people in an ethereal, religious sense, but what does it actually mean?

I like practicality. I like useful statements. And what I’ve learned about the Bible (and about God) over the years is that He is both practical and useful. There’s nothing fluffy about God. He doesn’t waste words. So if He feels the need throughout Scripture to make a connection between His presence and our comfort, there must be a practical reason for it. And there must be a practical application for our lives.

Have you ever been in the situation where you had to face a terrible challenge? Maybe it was an illness or the loss of a loved one. Maybe you lost your job or the funding for your school bills didn’t come through. We all have those moments in life where it feels like everything comes to a standstill while we deal with the grief and the disappointment and the anxiety.

In the aftermath of those moments, or even while we’re still dealing with them, where do you get the strength to keep going? Where do you draw your strength to face those challenges without giving up?

Some people do give up. Some people throw in the towel and walk away, and that’s certainly their choice. But the heroes of our world are the ones who stick to it and face impossible odds and overcome, but where does that strength come from? Sure, maybe some people have a moral strength of character that’s superior to others, but nine times out of ten, the people who have overcome the impossible things in life are drawing from a well of faith.

God’s presence doesn’t mean that He’s going to take our troubles away. No, most of the time, we need to face those troubles to learn something. But knowing that God is by our side throughout those struggles should bring us comfort and peace in the midst of them. Why?

If we trust that God is with us, that means we aren’t facing these troubles alone. If God is with us, He knows what’s coming and He’s someone we can turn to for guidance and wisdom and unconditional love no matter what.

God has ways of communicating with us. It’s not voices in the clouds or religious portraits in grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s through the Bible. It’s through His servants. And it’s through His Spirit in us.

There have been so many times in my life where I’ve been going through a difficult time and didn’t know what to do, and all I had to do was ask God for help and suddenly I’d know the answer I was looking for. Or I’d find it in Scripture. Or a mentor or friend would say something to me that helped me see the problem in a different light.

Having God by my side means He knows what is coming in my life. He’s God. He’s seen it. And He knows I can get through it. And that gives me courage to face whatever comes. No, God’s presence won’t magically imbue us with superpowers. I mean, it could. There’s no limits on what God can do. But generally speaking He doesn’t choose to act that way frequently in our world nowadays.

God loves us unconditionally. God has seen the plans He has for us, and they’re good, by the way. And for those who love Him, He’s working out the details for our benefit and His glory. That’s who God is. That’s who has your back, because He’s also promised to never leave us.

Knowing that, we can all be bold. We can all have courage. Because, seriously, who wouldn’t want to go to a party with Somebody like that?

Be brave enough to get out of the boat

Whenever you read the Bible, I’m betting there are people in it you recognize. Not because they’re people you’ve read about before or heard talked about before. But because they behave the same way you do.

If you ask the average dedicated Christ-follower on the street which Bible personality most reflects their own, I’m betting most people would say Peter.

Ah, Peter. The rough-and-tumble, brash, impulsive fisherman. I swear his foot spent more time in his mouth than it did in his sandals. He’s easy to identify with because he just shoots his mouth off all the time. And that’s reassuring, because if Jesus could use someone like Peter, surely he could use anyone, right?

But I really don’t think we give Peter enough credit. Yes, he was loud and rash and reckless. He didn’t always think about what he said before he said it. But he got to do things nobody else got to do, and he got to do them because he was willing to jump when Jesus called.

After all, when was the last time you walked on water?

730729_13973862Today’s verses are Matthew 14:22-31.

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone.

Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!”

Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”

“Yes, come,” Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted.

Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”

Peter and his adventure walking on water has been heavy on my mind in recent months. Imagine. Walking on water. And not calm water–stormy water. There was a heck of a storm blowing all around him when Peter climbed out of that boat and went to meet Jesus on the waves.

But Jesus called him out. So he went. He might not have made it very far, but how many of us can say that we’ve done that? How many of us can even say we’ve tried?

As 21st Century Americans we are wired to expect life to be a certain way. If your family is godly, it’s usually safe to assume you’ll have some sort of Christ-like influence in your childhood. We expect to go to school and then on to college and to graduate with a degree that we may or may not ever use. We expect to get a job working from 9 to 5. Somewhere in there, some of us may get married, may have children, and some may find success–at least what we have always been told is success.

We expect all these things just as we expect that water will never be solid enough to walk on.

But what makes us think that a life following Christ is supposed to be what we expect? Isn’t it supposed to be more?

That’s why I love Peter. Not because I see myself in his faults but because I want to be the person with enough courage to get out of the boat.

You shouldn’t be able to walk on water, but if you’re following Jesus, you can. You shouldn’t be able to achieve impossible things in your life and your career when you don’t follow the crowd, but if you’re following Jesus, you can.

What is God calling you to do today? He’s calling me to do something crazy. Or at least, it’s something a lot of people will think is crazy. But I’m sure the rest of the Disciples thought Peter had lost his marbles when he jumped out of that boat. I can’t help but wonder what they must have thought when he didn’t sink.

What we all have to remember is that it’s not your will that keeps you walking where you shouldn’t be able to walk. It’s your faith. How much do you trust Jesus?

If you get out of the boat in a storm, you’re going to get wet. You’re going to be thrown around. You’re going to be uncomfortable, and you might even get a little scared. But you can be uncomfortable and scared and keep trusting Jesus.

Finding the courage to face yourself

Have you ever had to face someone who screwed up? Maybe you had to ride in an elevator with them. Maybe you had to carpool with them. Whatever the situation, if you’ve ever had to talk to someone you know has failed miserably, what did that conversation sound like?

Maybe it was work. Maybe it’s their behavior in general. Whatever they’ve messed up in their life, it makes them very difficult to talk to, unless you’re just really good at pretending that nothing is wrong. Or if you’re oblivious.

It’s hard enough to try to have a conversation with someone you’re uncomfortable talking to, but imagine if that person you couldn’t face was yourself. So many times we talk about how difficult it is to face people we don’t like, but have you ever imagined what it would be like if the person you can’t live with is yourself?

How often do shame and regret get the better of people? How many times does failure convince us that we are worthless? Is it possible to have the strength to face ourselves when we know who we are and what we’re capable of?

379470_5874_brokenmirror3Today’s verses are Psalm 130:8-12.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He will not constantly accuse us,
nor remain angry forever.
He does not punish us for all our sins;
he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him
is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.
He has removed our sins as far from us
as the east is from the west.

It’s really easy to believe that God is a harsh, tyrannical dictator in the sky, pointing out our errors and holding them over our head. It’s easy to believe that He doesn’t care. It’s easy to believe that He doesn’t love us. It’s easier to believe all of that than to accept the truth: He loves us even though we’ve given Him every reason not to.

Haven’t you noticed how much easier it is to hate yourself than to accept the gift of forgiveness from someone you hurt? Maybe that’s just me, but I’d rather beat myself up for ten years or so than to willingly accept forgiveness I don’t deserve. But that’s not what God calls us to do. He doesn’t call us to roll around in our sorrow and grief when we’ve repented.

God has promised that when we turn our lives over to Jesus and ask for forgiveness, He takes our sin–all the things we’ve done wrong–and removed them. They’re as far away as the east is from the west, and He remembers them no more.

God isn’t up in heaven pointing out all the things you’ve done wrong. Sure, He knows about them, but if you believe in Jesus, God only sees Christ’s blood on you and not your sin. That doesn’t give you a free pass, of course. You still have to deal with consequences of your sins, but that’s a whole different issue.

If God doesn’t remember our failures anymore, why do we? Why do we get stuck on the past and what we’ve done wrong?

Revelation 12:10 calls Satan, “the accuser of our brothers and sisters.” Do you know what that means? Most of us know that we have an enemy in Satan, but I don’t think we stop to think about what that means. Satan hates us because we belong to God, and he’ll do anything to get us to give up on our relationship with Christ.

Have you sinned? Have you done wrong? Well, join the club. We all have things in our lives that we’re ashamed of. Have you asked forgiveness? If you’ve asked God to forgive you and you’ve chosen to see your actions the way God sees them, you’re forgiven. God promises that. He won’t remember them anymore.

But Satan does. And he will use our past faults and failures to beat us bloody. The easiest way to get someone to fall back into the sin they’ve turned away from is to remind them that they’ve already done it and to convince them that God doesn’t really forgive. Because we have to deserve forgiveness, don’t we?

If you’ve given your life to Christ, if you’ve turned your heart over to Jesus and asked forgiveness for your sin, you are washed clean in Christ’s blood. Period. So when that voice in the back of your brain rises up to condemn you for the things you’ve done, recognize that for what it is.

Our enemy. Trying to derail you. Trying to distract you. Trying to get you to fall.

You have a choice. Don’t listen.

No one deserves God’s grace. No one deserves God’s forgiveness. That’s the point. It’s a gift.

Don’t let Satan beat you up with his lies. Turn to God and remember His grace. He has forgiven you. He promised you He would, and He always keeps His promises. Remember that and you will find the courage to face yourself, no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve come from.

A full orange moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Facing the demon in the storm window

I got home from the Realm Makers conference in Philadelphia on Sunday around 3pm. Both my roomie and I were both exhausted, so instead of being productive like we probably should have been, we decided to watch some Firefly.

So we did–and that’s when we heard it.

*thump-thump*

Like someone walking around upstairs.

Nobody else should have been in the house. At first, I thought I’d imagined it, but we heard it again. So we both crept upstairs, me carrying a flyswatter (stop laughing; a flyswatter is a perfectly legitimate weapon). We did a quick search of the first floor.

Nothing.

We went back downstairs and resumed our watching.

*thump-thump*

Again. Like someone dropping shoes on the wood floor. Or like something banging on the outside of the house.

We repeated this process about four times, growing more and more unsettled with each suspicious thump-thump until we ended up standing outside trying to find out what on earth could be making the sound. And that’s when we saw motion in the storm window.

It turned out to be a cottontail rabbit. A young one I think. It had gotten stuck in the storm window and was trying to jump out. Every time it jumped it would bang its stupid bunny head on the window.

Yes, I’m uncompassionate. It made me laugh. And then it made me think. What I would have done? Would I have been brave enough to stay in a house where there was a creepy ghosty noise banging away on the windows when I couldn’t explain it?

A full orange moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

A full orange moon setting at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse 2 Timothy 1:7.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

Fear is dangerous. Granted, not all fear is bad. Some fear is good. Fear is a natural response to stupidity–or at least it should be. But some kinds of fear are paralyzing and not in a good way.

We fear things that we can’t control, and because we can’t control them, we make no attempt to change them. Fears can become like shackles, binding us up and keeping us locked in a dark corner instead of living in the light like we were created to do. If we aren’t careful, our great big lives can be made teeny tiny by our fear.

And one thing I’ve noticed, especially among Christians, is that we fear the world. We fear the darkness in other people, in organizations, in countries. And darkness is certainly worthy of respect but not fear–fear and respect are totally different. The trouble with fearing darkness is that it’s easy to turn away from it. It’s easy to ignore it. It’s so much easier to pretend that it doesn’t exist because we can’t control what might happen if we face it.

At the Realm Makers 2014 conference, the keynote speaker, New York Times Best Selling author Tosca Lee, had this to say about the darkness of the world and the Christian’s response to it:

“Darkness is a fact of existence, as is light. If we cover our eyes in response to darkness, we are afraid of it. And we are commanded not to fear.”

The world is full of fears, but God has given us His Holy Spirit. And He who lives in us every day is bigger and stronger than any darkness we may face in the world, so why are we afraid? Why do we give into the fears our enemy whispers in our ears?

I’m not saying to accept the darkness or condone it. I’m saying we shouldn’t ignore it. I’m saying we shouldn’t change the subject or write it off like it doesn’t matter. Darkness does matter, and we who are armed with the Light have a responsibility to conquer it in the name of Christ.

I’d like to tell you I would have slept just fine without knowing about the Demon Bunny in the storm window, but I’m not sure what would have happened if I hadn’t found it. The point I’m getting to is that I went looking for an answer. I didn’t just ignore it. I didn’t just put it out of my mind. I ventured out of where I was comfortable to find the cause, and when I found it, I dealt with it.

If we can face the darkness of our world with that kind of fearlessness, I think our lives would be different. I know our faith would be stronger.

What are you afraid of today? What dark aspect of the world are you setting aside and refusing to face because it will make you or others uncomfortable?

Stop. When you’re afraid, remember that fear doesn’t come from God. If you have an opportunity to share Christ’s light with someone lost in darkness, fight the fear. With God on your side, your fears are nothing but a stupid bunny trapped in a storm window. All they do is make noise.