Small sunflower on the ledge below the brown bear exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

We’re already dependent on God

If you’ve been following Christ for any amount of time, you’ll recognize pretty quickly that the way we are supposed to think, to live, and to see ourselves is completely opposite from what the world says. The way the world thinks, acts, lives, focuses–does anything–is usually backward in comparison to what the Bible says, but somehow we all have gotten it in our heads that what the world says matters more than what the Bible says. So even believers who’ve been following Christ for years will still look at what Jesus said and think it sounds weird or difficult or impossible, but it’s not.

One of the most ironic, life changing passages in the Bible is in Matthew 5, a little chapter that’s actually part of a larger sermon that Jesus preached, usually referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. I believe it’s three chapters, Matthew 5-7, and nestled in the beginning of chapter 5 is a small section called the Beatitudes. And in it, Jesus says some revolutionary things, things that shocked people. In fact, the Bible even says in Matthew 7:28-29 that the crowds were awed by his words because “he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.”

Small sunflower on the ledge below the brown bear exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Small sunflower on the ledge below the brown bear exhibit at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:3.

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
    for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

I always think it’s a good idea to read multiple versions of the Bible if you don’t speak the original language Scripture was written in, and one of my favorite versions to compare is the Amplified Version because it goes very deep into word meaning. This is Matthew 5:3 in the Amplified Version:

Blessed (happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous—with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions) are the poor in spirit (the humble, who rate themselves insignificant), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven!

As an independent person, I struggle with this, because “knowing how much I need someone” and “being happy” don’t usually go in the same sentence. But if I follow Christ and if I believe the Bible, I have to believe that this is true. And if you think about it and apply what you know about God to it, it makes sense.

I wouldn’t say that our culture directly pushes us to be independent. Actually, our culture is becoming more and more dependent but not on God. We become dependent on comfort, on technology, on government, on pleasure and convenience. Our culture encourages us to think the same and fit into the same mold. But who do you know who follows that sort of thinking who is happy? Not rich. Not successful. But happy.

Conversely, how many people do you know who are entirely dependent on God who are happy? Granted, I know a lot of people who say they follow Christ who aren’t happy, but in those instances, I wonder if they are truly as dependent as they say.

Think about a life entirely dependent on God. Think about what that kind of life would look like. If we were entirely dependent on God, if we got it through our thick skulls that God provides everything we need when we need it, we wouldn’t need to worry about anything. We wouldn’t be discontent with anything because we’d understand that God has given us everything already and just because someone else has more doesn’t make us less of a person. We wouldn’t need to find our identity anywhere else. We wouldn’t need to find happiness anywhere else. And we wouldn’t be constantly seeking satisfaction from sources that will never satisfy.

Who couldn’t be happy with a life like that?

The only thing preventing me from living that life is letting go of my independence. Because God already holds that place in my life. I am already entirely dependent on Him. He gave me breath when I woke up this morning. His grace sustains me through my days. His strength helps me focus on things I need to do. He’s already providing everything I need. The one place where the whole thing breaks down is me–my attitude about Him.

Attitude is everything.

I am already 100% dependent on Him, but if I refuse to acknowledge that fact, I will never be happy. Even though He’s already giving me everything I need, until I acknowledge how much I need Him, I’m going to keep on worrying, keep on fighting, keep on struggling, keep on envying, etc. etc. etc. And that’s not the way we’re supposed to live.

Acknowledge your insignificance. Understand His grace and love. Depend on Him. You already do, whether you accept it or not, but once you get past the roadblock of pride and realize how much you need Him, something changes in your thinking.

Is it weak to depend on Him like this? Absolutely.

Guess what? We’re all weak. Nobody is strong enough to make it through life without Him. Anybody who says different is lying to themselves. And the more we try to be independent in life, the more unhappy we will be. We weren’t designed to live on our own. We were designed for life with Christ. And until we accept that, we’ll never stop searching.

Roses at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

What is a good thing?

Some mornings, you just need a Psalm. That’s my opinion at least. Some days, it’s good to remember who we are and who God is and how much we really depend on Him. Wasn’t it Martha Stewart who would say, “It’s a good thing”? I always think of that when I read this Psalm because it was the basis of an old chorus we used to sing. I’ve always thought of this as the “good thing” Psalm.

The funny part is that I doubt Martha Stewart, or many others of her rank, would agree on what “good” is. What is a good thing? Do we even really know? If there aren’t even any good people in the world (Romans 3:10), how do we know what’s good?

Well, that’s what we have this Psalm to tell us.

Roses at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Roses at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Psalm 92

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
    to sing praises to the Most High.
It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
    your faithfulness in the evening,
accompanied by the ten-stringed harp
    and the melody of the lyre.

You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!
    I sing for joy because of what you have done.
O Lord, what great works you do!
    And how deep are your thoughts.
Only a simpleton would not know,
    and only a fool would not understand this:
Though the wicked sprout like weeds
    and evildoers flourish,
    they will be destroyed forever.

But you, O Lord, will be exalted forever.
Your enemies, Lord, will surely perish;
    all evildoers will be scattered.
But you have made me as strong as a wild ox.
    You have anointed me with the finest oil.
My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
    my ears have heard the defeat of my wicked opponents.
But the godly will flourish like palm trees
    and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.
    They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
    they will remain vital and green.
They will declare, “The Lord is just!
    He is my rock!
    There is no evil in him!”

It’s a good reminder for a Friday. As we end another week, let’s remember that it’s good to praise God no matter where we are in our walk with Him. Don’t ever lose the sense of thankfulness and smallness you feel when He answers your prayers, and don’t ever forget that the only reason we succeed is because of everything He has done for us. Never let go of your joy and remember that even though it seems like people who do wrong have it made now, the story isn’t over.

Wheat almost ready - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Who needs a paycheck?

I’ve been praying for my neighbors because we are hovering on the edge of one of the most amazing harvests I can ever remember. The wheat has never looked so beautiful. The photo for today comes from a week or so ago, and since then most of the fields around my home have turned almost completely golden. There’s no sight like it on earth.

Now if we can just hold on for a few more weeks with no major storms, no major floods, Kansas could have a very good year. And about time too. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good harvest in these parts.

I think farming and writing are very similar in some ways, especially when it comes to harvests. Because in both professions you can pour your heart and soul into what you do and never see a positive financial return. You can farm and farm until you’ve planted acres and acres of every crop, and (at least in Kansas) one bad storm can wipe it out. It has nothing to do with your dedication; it’s just life.

Writing’s the same in some cases. I realized the other day that I’ve been writing for almost 20 years, and I have yet to see an actual return on any of it. Granted, I only started letting some of that writing out into the public eye in the last five years. But still. If you run the numbers, you can get discouraged pretty quickly. And then you stumble into a verse like today’s?

Wheat almost ready - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat almost ready – Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Luke 6:38.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

How does that work? I can honestly tell you that I’ve worked my fingers to the bone writing since I was a child. My dream since childhood was to be a published author. And I haven’t cut corners. At all. I’ve never expected a free ride, and I’ve dedicated every free moment to it. Even my vacations have been an opportunity to pursue writing.

So according to this rule, the rule of sowing and reaping, I should get back what I invest. And I should get back more of it. This is a law of nature that God created when He made the world. Newton figured it out too; for every action there is a reaction. Cause and effect.

So where does Jesus get off telling me this today?

Farmers plant fields and harvest crops, unless you live in Kansas. Then, generally, you plant crops and harvest dust. Much like writers write books and harvest disappointment when no one wants to buy their work. Am I wrong?

I’m only being partially facetious.

I would be right, yes, if Jesus were only talking about financial returns. I can’t really speak to farmers because I don’t farm (unless you count weeds), but when it comes to writing there is something more satisfying than being paid for your work. And that is when your work touches someone else.

No, I haven’t published a novel yet. But you’re reading this blog post, aren’t you?

No, I haven’t received a financial return on anything I’ve written, but I didn’t really start writing to get rich and famous. I started writing and telling stories because it was an outlet where I could share what God has done in my life. And so much more important to me is communicating that truth to other people, whether it’s in blog posts or articles or short stories or novels. And maybe I haven’t written anything that’s made money. And maybe I never will. But if you count up the people I’ve been able to share my story with through words, that vastly outweighs a paycheck of any kind.

I’ve invested 20 years of my life in writing, in learning how to tell stories, in sharing what God has taught me through words. And I can tell you, the returns I’ve seen, while not financial, are greater than what I originally invested. I’ve given my life to writing, and I’ve watched God take that and make it into something bigger than what I could have imagined, not only being a blessing to people but encouraging others to start sharing their story too. And that’s worth more to me than almost anything.

So whatever you’re doing in your life today, remember that the whole principle of sowing and reaping applies. It really does. It just may not pay off in the way you’re expecting. If what you’re doing in your life honors God, you will see a return. That’s a promise. So don’t give up.

Who needs a paycheck anyway, right? … Like I said. Partially facetious. =)