Little yellow bug on a big yellow sunflower at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

No wonder my heart is glad

We have a lot to be thankful for. We have so many good things. Even on our worst day, even when we are experiencing stress, even when we are overwhelmed with all the tasks we have to accomplish or our responsibilities, we still have more than enough good in our lives that we should be thankful.

So why are we grumpy? Why are we focused on the negative? Well, it’s human nature. But if you follow Christ, you aren’t subject to your human nature. You have two natures now, and you also have a choice which one to listen to.

I love the Psalms of David because so many times they speak to me in a way regular Scripture doesn’t. Whether it’s because they are mainly about praise or maybe because David was a fellow artist, I don’t know. But the Psalms incorporate statements that rock my world.

Little yellow bug on a big yellow sunflower at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Little yellow bug on a big yellow sunflower at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s passage is Psalm 16.

Keep me safe, O God,
for I have come to you for refuge.

I said to the Lord, “You are my Master!
Every good thing I have comes from you.”
The godly people in the land
are my true heroes!
I take pleasure in them!
Troubles multiply for those who chase after other gods.
I will not take part in their sacrifices of blood
or even speak the names of their gods.

Lord, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!

I will bless the Lord who guides me;
even at night my heart instructs me.
I know the Lord is always with me.
I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.

No wonder my heart is glad, and I rejoice.
My body rests in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead
or allow your holy one to rot in the grave.
You will show me the way of life,
granting me the joy of your presence
and the pleasures of living with you forever.

So much of our attitude comes from our perspective. If you focus on the negative in every situation, you’re going to have a negative attitude. Granted, if you only focus on the positive, you’re going to annoy the crap out of anyone you talk to and you won’t be realistic or relevant to anyone. Why? Because we don’t live in a positive world. And being falsely happy and cheerful all the time isn’t helpful or encouraging. We can’t ignore the negative elements in our world, but we don’t have to focus on them.

David had issues. He had troubles in his life. Where do we even start with the troubles in David’s life? Even this Psalm starts out with him asking God for protection, asking God to be his refuge. But then it quickly moves into praise. David talks about his relationship with God, who God is to Him, what God has done for him.

And that’s what we need to do too.

Recognize that God is our refuge. He is. He’s our shield and the One who protects us, and as the days grow darker that protection will be very much needed.

But He’s more than just our refuge. God is our joy. Every good thing we have comes from Him. He is our future and our heritage all at the same time. And the good things He has given us now pale in comparison to what’s coming. And as we wait for that day, He won’t leave us. Ever.

No wonder David’s heart was glad. And our hearts should feel the same way. If they don’t, stop focusing on what you don’t have or what you don’t like or what has made you unhappy and focus on the God who is both your protection and your light. Think about what He’s done, think about what He’s doing (because He’s never still), and even if the day is dark and your life is full of struggle, you’ll be okay because as long as we can see Him, we can remember what we’re living for.

Moonset at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

How much do you trust God?

I’m ready to go home. Anybody else ever feel that way? When it just seems that the whole world is falling apart? No matter who won last night, I’m positive the lack of civility would have continued either way.

I have to say, I was shocked by a lot of the despair I read, and while I will admit that I’m rather disappointed at the choice the country has made, I’m not too worried. In fact, I’m a bit excited. Because the closer our country moves toward socialism, the more our country embraces their selfishness and indolence, the closer we get to the end. And when the end finally gets here, all of this grief will be over.

It won’t be easy to live through. And the very patriotic part of my spirit is grieved for what America has become, but God doesn’t make mistakes. Do you think last night’s outcome surprised God? No. And that encourages me. And it helps me face today with positivity and excitement. And you should too, no matter if you’re disappointed or not.

Moonset at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KSToday’s verse is 1 Peter 4:19.

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you.

The problems facing America right now are about to get a lot more complicated. And the obstacles in the path of true believers are going to become more difficult to overcome. The further away our society moves from the ideals it was founded on, the more difficult it’s going to become to be a Christian.

Let me rephrase that: It will become very difficult to be a Christian who believes the Bible.

You think it’s hard now? Wait.

But in waiting, remember that this is supposed to happen.

I believe the Bible. So when the Bible says in Romans 13, that all authority is ordained by God, that includes President Obama. I don’t agree with any of his politics or his programs or his approach to just about anything, but he is the President of the United States, and I will respect him. If you say you follow Christ, now’s the time to prove it. If you say you follow Christ and you didn’t vote for Mr. Obama, respect him anyway because he is the one God wants directing America right now.

I don’t have the time to go into it in depth, but Daniel 4 recounts a time in Babylon when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, which was to serve as a warning. Basically, the king had been doing some things he shouldn’t have been doing, and God was going to strike him mad until he understood a very simple fact: “The Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.” (Daniel 4:25)

We’re in a tenuous position in our world. This blog isn’t intended to be political, and I apologize for three straight blog posts with political undertones. But this was important. And today, I think it’s more important than ever to focus on the real question: How much do you trust God?

Do you trust Him enough to keep following even when He makes no sense? Do you trust Him enough to believe that He knows what He’s doing when we can’t see the light at the end of this tunnel? Do you trust Him enough to jump when He says jump or to wait when He says wait?

How much do you trust God?

If you need some encouragement along those lines, maybe you’ll find it where I did this morning in 1 Peter 4. What’s beautiful about Scripture is it rarely requires commentary. Commentary can help, but honestly the Bible can speak for itself.

1 Peter 4 (The Message)

 Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.

You’ve already put in your time in that God-ignorant way of life, partying night after night, a drunken and profligate life. Now it’s time to be done with it for good. Of course, your old friends don’t understand why you don’t join in with the old gang anymore. But you don’t have to give an account to them. They’re the ones who will be called on the carpet—and before God himself.

Listen to the Message. It was preached to those believers who are now dead, and yet even though they died (just as all people must), they will still get in on the life that God has given in Jesus.

Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!

Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.

If you’re abused because of Christ, count yourself fortunate. It’s the Spirit of God and his glory in you that brought you to the notice of others. If they’re on you because you broke the law or disturbed the peace, that’s a different matter. But if it’s because you’re a Christian, don’t give it a second thought. Be proud of the distinguished status reflected in that name!

It’s judgment time for God’s own family. We’re first in line. If it starts with us, think what it’s going to be like for those who refuse God’s Message!

If good people barely make it,
What’s in store for the bad?

So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it.

US flag against a storm front - Hutchinson, KS

God wants all of you (including your politics)

So … have you voted yet? I usually do my best to avoid political statements on this blog. This isn’t a forum for me to get on a political soapbox, and I really don’t want to start a discussion, especially during this election season when so many of my friends can become so completely uncivil toward each other.

But I have a thought to consider. And if you aren’t one of the people who voted early this year, I just wanted to share a thought I had for myself, and maybe it will be encouraging for you. Or maybe enlightening. Or maybe enraging. I suppose that’s possible.

US flag against a storm front - Hutchinson, KS

US flag against a storm front – Hutchinson, KS

Today’s verse is Luke 9:23.

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.

I’m going to be brief about this because Jesus said this pretty succinctly. If you want to follow Christ, if you want to call yourself a true Christian, you have to turn over your life to God. You have to deny what you want. You have to surrender your whole life. And you have to follow Christ.

Taking up your cross is a metaphor. Christ isn’t saying that we have to go be crucified somewhere, but what He is saying is that we have to be willing to give up everything we think we need for Him.

It’s very popular in American Christianity to talk to the talk. It’s easy to post messages of faith on your Facebook wall. It’s easy to go to church and look like a Christian. It’s easy to give God part of your life. It’s easy to give Him part of your heart. But that’s not what He says to do.

God wants it all.

And if you have given your whole life to Christ, you cannot separate your political beliefs from your belief in the Bible. You can try. But if you succeed, if you believe politically something that the Bible says is wrong, how do you justify calling yourself a Christ-follower? If you deny the very truths that Christ believed, how can you identify with Him in your faith but not in your political position? How can you be double minded like that?

Again, this isn’t a political statement as much as it is a desperate cry for reason among the people who say they follow Christ. Think. Think about how illogical you are being.

I don’t care how you vote. I am actually at the point where I don’t care who wins. I truly believe this country is screwed either way. But my heart is grieved to the point of pain at so many people who say they follow Christ who obviously don’t know what it means give their lives to Him.

I have struggled with this. Because there’s a part of me that wants to keep faith out of politics. Because if you bring faith into any arena in America now, you rapidly become unpopular. And little people pleasing me likes to be liked.

But people didn’t like Christ. He wasn’t popular first. And I have chosen to follow Him, and that means bringing His truths and His choices and His sacrifice into every arena of my life — not just the ones where people agree with me.

America is a country of compartmentalized Christians. That’s how we can get away with saying we follow Christ but living our lives however we want.

It doesn’t matter who wins the election tomorrow. Well, maybe it does. But it doesn’t matter as much as everyone seems to think. Whatever happens tomorrow, the hope for our country and our world isn’t sitting in the Oval Office in Washington, D.C. There’s no man alive in our world who has the real answers to solve the problems we’re facing.

Our only real hope is Christ. And I’m on His side. And He supersedes political parties, religious denominations, tax brackets, life situations, social class, and skin color. He is the only answer.

So … go vote. But if you say you follow Christ, give your whole life to Him and not just the easily hidden part.