The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

Watching clouds when you’ve got a job to do

I put unpleasant things off. Don’t you? If I have a task to do that I know isn’t going to be fun, I tend to avoid it until it’s absolutely necessary. That’s one reason why I schedule dentist visits six months in advance, so when the appointment comes around, I have to go.

It’s easy to avoid conflict. It’s easy to put uncomfortable tasks off. I reason with myself that now isn’t the best time anyway. I’ve got too many other things going on, and I’ll take care of it when life slows down a little. But God has something to say about that mindset.

The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

The wheat field across from Safe Haven Farm ready for harvest, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Ecclesiastes 11:4.

Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant.
If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.

Usually it’s not a good idea to pick single verses out of Ecclesiastes. It’s one of those books where context is especially important, but this verse is self explanatory. Procrastinators never get anything done. And they look for excuses to keep putting things off.

Can you imagine a farmer waiting for perfect weather to plant a field? In Kansas, that just never happens. We only have perfect weather when we don’t need it. The important times of years, planting and harvest times, it’s either too hot, too cold, too wet, or too dry. But the farmers here make it work in spite of the weather. And that’s the mindset we need to attack life with.

Our lives will never be perfect. There will always be something wrong. Maybe it’s a job or a relationship. Maybe it’s financial trouble or health issues. Whatever is going wrong in your life isn’t significant reason to avoid doing the right thing. If you can’t do the right thing when life sucks, you won’t do the right thing when life is better.

That begs the question, what is the right thing? Like always, the answer is what’s in the Bible. What does God say? God tells us what He expects from us. He has shown us how to live our lives. The example He set for us, and the examples other godly men and women have set for us, led us to live lives that aren’t always fun. Sometimes we have to make hard decisions. Sometimes we have to take a stand against friends and family and loved ones, and sometimes that will make us the bad guys in their eyes. But what is right is right.

Don’t run away from the right thing. Don’t run away from doing what God has told you to do. You know what God says. And if you don’t, pick up a Bible and start reading. He’ll talk to you soon enough.

But whatever you do, don’t wait. Don’t sit around making promises to do what God has told you to do when life gets better. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll make the right decision when things aren’t so stressful or when you’ve cleaned up all your messes. You’ll never get there. Life is messy, and you can’t even begin to start cleaning it up until you bring it to God anyway.

If you don’t know what to do, keep waiting. God will show you. He’ll make it obvious. Believe me, He’s not that subtle. You’ll know what you’re supposed to do when the time comes. And until the time comes, just keep living life the way He says.

But if you know what God wants you to do, why are you waiting? Why are you sitting there? Do it. I know it’s scary. But your life isn’t going to work until you take the next step and do what God says. Stop putting it off. Stop making excuses. Stop watching the clouds. You’ve got a job to do.

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Changing lanes without clear vision

When we left to go camping for a week, we loaded my dad’s HRR down with all our equipment and supplies. There wasn’t an inch to spare. The stuff in the car was piled so high you couldn’t see out the rear window, which meant the rearview mirror was of no use whatsoever. So for every turn, every lane change, and every instance of backing up, you had to use the sideview mirrors.

It’s completely doable, and I don’t feel like we took any major chances with not behind able to see, but there’s something intensely disconcerting about not being able to see straight behind yourself when you’re driving. If you’ve got to change lanes or back up, you don’t always get a clear picture of what’s behind you, what you might hit or bump or run over. Sometimes you have to see it from the side. Seeing something from the side isn’t always easier. Most of the time it takes more than one glance to make sure you’re seeing it clearly, but you can see it. You can know what’s behind you even if you’re looking at it from a different angle than you’re used to. And then, you have to make the choice and change lanes, even if it feels like you can’t see everything.

road-street-car-vehicleToday’s verses are Psalm 37:5-6.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

When you’re navigating through life, you aren’t always going to feel like you know the right answers. Sometimes it will feel like you’re trying to change lanes when you can’t see out your back window. In those moments, you have to trust what you know.

Just like I could use my side mirrors to see behind me, you have to use the information you have available to make the best decision you can. It’s the same for following God. You might not be able to see all of His plan, but you can see bits and pieces. And you can know who He is. So that gives you enough to go on.

Even if all you knew about living was that God is good, that would be enough to know you could trust Him. Because you can always trust someone who is 100% good. That person won’t ever do anything wrong, won’t ever do anything to harm you, and even if you end up in difficult circumstances, that person won’t ever turn against you.

But we know more than that about God. We know God is good. We know God has a plan for His children. We know His plans are His best for us. We know He’s promised that everything in the life of a Christ-follower will work together for our good and His glory. We know He’ll never abandon us. We know so much about who He is and what He does in our lives, how can we ever think that God is keeping secrets? How do we ever assume that God doesn’t love us, when He tells us in His Word over and over again all that He’s done to reconcile us to Himself.

So maybe you can’t see everything. Maybe you don’t have the answers to every question. Know what? That’s okay. You can know enough about one or two questions to give you an idea of where you need to go or what you need to do.

Maybe the view out the back window is obstructed, but you can see clearly enough from the sides–maybe not the whole picture but enough to know you aren’t going to run into or over someone else.

God gives us what we need so we know when to leap and when to stand still. He doesn’t just shove us out into the world and expect us to follow Him blindly. He does expect us to follow, yes, but He will provide all the information you actually need to make a decision. You just have to look for it.

The difference between knowing truth and doing truth

I was in a really bad car wreck a number of years ago, but miraculously I walked away from it. Looking back, I should have let the ambulance take me to the hospital, but I was too stubborn and didn’t think I was badly injured. And, truthfully, I wasn’t badly injured. I did find out later that my left shoulder had indeed separated, and because of the delay in treatment I ended up in physical therapy.

That’s where I learned a very important lesson in life. See, I could go to my physical therapy appointments and meet with the doctor, but my shoulder didn’t get any better until I started doing the exercises he prescribed for me at home. I didn’t want to do them. They were uncomfortable and time-consuming, and I just sort of let them slide until I had to go back to my therapy appointment. Surely just meeting with the doctor and letting him poke my shoulder was enough. I didn’t have to do the exercises at home, right?

Right.

Anyone else ever been there? Where you think that you can get away with just doing half of what you’re supposed to do? And you wonder why things never change? I’m sure all of us have been there before, and that’s probably why we think we can get away with just listening to God’s Word instead of actually integrating it into our lives.

first_wreckToday’s verses are John 8:31-32.

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

It’s one thing to know the truth, but it’s something else entirely to do the truth. Knowing and Doing are two very separate, very different things. Everybody knows that your car will run out of gas unless you fill it up, but just knowing that fact won’t stop you from running out of gas. You have to stop, pay too much money, and put gas into your car if you want it to keep running. Just knowing doesn’t make a difference. Just knowing won’t change anything.

It’s true that knowledge is power, but it’s only powerful if you put it to use. Otherwise it sits on a dusty shelf like that ancient book in the second hand shop that nobody wants. And all it’s good for is a paperweight.

God’s Word is the same way.

You can know a thousand Bible verses and still not live by them. You can know Jesus died for your sins without giving Him your heart. You can know that God exists without offering your life for His service. You can know that adultery, lying, stealing, is wrong and still do all of the above. You can know everything, but it won’t change your life until you do it.

As Christ-followers, we are called to do truth. Truth is a tool, just like God’s Word. The Bible calls itself a two-edged sword, but even a sword isn’t good for anything if all it does is sit around.

So what does that mean for you and me? Don’t just know God’s commands, do them. Don’t just know what God says is right, do it.

Want God to change your life? Want to see a difference in your world? It won’t happen if you just sit on what you know. You won’t see any difference at all just by osmosis. Doing truth is an active process, and it’s something you have to work at every day, a conscious decision you make every morning when you get up.

Stop resting on your blessed assurance, Christians. Get up and start doing what God says.

Waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

It’s hard to hide an ark

God asks us to do crazy things sometimes, or at least they seem like crazy things to us. To Him, they make perfect sense, but He operates on a level higher than us. But when was the last time God asked you to do something that didn’t make any sense? He’s asked me to take strange international trips. He’s asked me to give financially when I didn’t really have the finances to give. He’s asked me to give time and effort when I was running low on both. And He’s asked me to talk to people about things I don’t want to talk about. Crazy stuff.

But after reading today’s verses, I think maybe I need to redefine crazy.

Waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Waves on Jamaica Beach, Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Genesis 6:14-16 and 22.

“Build a large boat from cypress wood and waterproof it with tar, inside and out. Then construct decks and stalls throughout its interior.Make the boat 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Leave an 18-inch opening below the roof all the way around the boat. Put the door on the side, and build three decks inside the boat—lower, middle, and upper.” … So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.

Crazy, right? It’s so crazy, it makes all of the “crazy” things God has asked me to do sound pretty tame. And I don’t care who you are, as far as I know, Noah is the only one in history who ever received this command. I don’t know of anyone else who God asked to build a giant boat and fill it full of animals. It makes me wonder what my reaction would have been if God had asked me to do something like that. I’d like to think that I would have said, “Yes, Lord! Of course!” But my reaction probably would have been more like Bill Cosby’s famous Noah routine: “Right.”

But whether God asks us to build giant boats or not, following Christ does require us to do some strange things that make us stand out. Believe it or not, that’s kind of the point. Many times believers are referred to as symbols of light or examples or ambassadors to the world, and it should be impossible to conceal any of those. I think it’s in Matthew where believers are called a “city on a hill” because they can’t be hidden. Remember the song “This Little Light of Mine”? Yeah, same concept.

And as a result of following Christ and doing all these things like loving our enemies and giving to God’s work financially and reading the Bible and believing what’s in the Bible, many times we invite criticism and mockery. I can’t tell you that I have been put in front of a room of people and publicly humiliated; that hasn’t happened (yet). But I have heard my beliefs and the foundations of my faith mocked by people in authority over me. I’ve seen the basis of all I believe torn apart and held up as an example of ancient, irrelevant ritual. I’ve been in a class with a teacher who has pretty much said that anyone who believes in the Bible is a fool.

And if being called a fool or a backward person or a crazy bothers you, maybe those sorts of things will affect you. But honestly, if you’re going to choose to follow Christ, you need to realize that you’re going to be made fun of. And we don’t even have to build a giant boat. American Christians are renowned for hiding their faith. Noah didn’t have that option. You can’t exactly hide an ark. Everyone around him knew exactly what he was doing.

And what’s more, for poor Noah, not only did he build the ark, he told people about it. Over and over and over. He told them what it was for, why he was building it, and why they needed to come with them when God destroyed the Earth. But nobody believed him. Can you imagine the ridicule he faced? Can you imagine what he had to endure from his neighbors and his friends and maybe even his family?

But he didn’t let it phase him. Oh, I’m sure he had bad days. Remember, this didn’t happen overnight. It was like 120 years or something. I can’t remember, but Noah built the ark and then had to wait and wait and wait while God gave people the chance to change their minds and come with him and his family. But nobody did. They all kept their distance and made fun of him.

And that’s a lesson I need to learn. It’s not that people’s opinions matter so much to me, but I like people to like me. I’m a people pleaser. I don’t like rocking the boat. I don’t like being in the spotlight, especially as the person who causes conflict or difficulty. But part of what I want to accomplish with my life is to become a writer that challenges the way people think, and I’m not going to be able to do that if I’m always worried about whether or not people like me. I’m going to have to get to the point where it’s okay that people don’t.

The one person we need to worry about pleasing is God, and if we can get that right, everything else will fall into place. So whether God is telling you to write a book or quit your job or to be a missionary or to build a giant boat and fill it full of giraffes or whatever, do it. Make sure it’s from Him, but once you determine that it is from God, do it. But realize that you’re going to turn heads. You’re going to draw attention. And many people won’t understand, even if you explain it.

But don’t worry about that. You just do what God has told you to do. He’ll work out the details. He did it for Noah, and the same God who took care of Noah and his family is the same God I talked to this morning just before I sat down to write this.

And just because I can … and because it’s really funny, enjoy:

The Pink House at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

A Kansas driver with Florida plates

Identification is important. We carry government-issued IDs to prove who we are and that we have a license to drive a car. You carry a library card to prove that you have a right to check out books. You carry a passport that identifies you as a person who can exit and reenter countries. You drive a car with a license plate that tells what state you’re from and even what county.

Well, the latter is true if you’re driving your own car. If you rent a car? Not so much. Example? Today is our last day in Miami, and we needed a car when we arrived here on Tuesday. So we rented one (a manly Nissan Versa … hamsters included). This car has Florida plates, but the driver is from Kansas. So we’re out on the highway with all the other millions of people who live here, and because of our Florida plates they think our driver knows how to get around in this city. Well … they’re wrong. I’ll let your imaginations fill in the gaps and just say it’s been an exciting couple of days.

Everyone carries identification of one sort or another. But not all identification that we can see is real.

The Pink House at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

The Pink House at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

The verses for today are Matthew 7:21-23.

Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

This is Jesus speaking, and even as a child, this set of verses chilled me. I struggled with my salvation when I was a young teenager because I just wasn’t sure that God had saved me, and every time I would see this verse, I would get really scared. Because how did you know for real if you were saved? What did it actually mean to do God’s will? I thought I was doing it, but was I really?

If I had read this verse in the Message as a child, I might have found some comfort because the context is a little clearer.

Matthew 7:21-23 (The Message)

Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance— isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’

Serious obedience. Not just a show but doing what God says to do in Scripture. That’s how you can identify yourself as a Christian.

It’s so easy to sit back and see preachers on television or people doing good deeds all over the world and instantly put them in the Christian category, but I don’t know their heart. Granted, because I don’t know their heart means I can’t say they’re not a Christian; but by that same token, I can’t say they are either.

What matters is that I can say I am.

I don’t want to be that person who presents an image of Christ on the outside but on the inside is only interested in what “being a Christian” can get me. I don’t want to be that person who uses religion to rope people in and manipulate them. I don’t want to be that person who puts on a show. None of that is about Christ, and none of that really makes a difference in peoples’ lives.

Doing what Christ says is the only way to help others. Obeying the Bible. Listening to the Spirit and doing what He says. And being serious about it. Loving others and loving God, and then not only will you know for sure that you are a Christian, but others will know too.