Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

The world is scary but you don’t have to fear it

I’m a child of the ’80s. I grew up in a time when morality and faith seemed to be making a comeback. It was a time when you could almost trust strangers you met on the street. It was a time when things in the world were bad but not so bad.

Fast forward 30+ years later. What happened?

Do you ever wonder? How–in a mere 30 years–did we go from trick-or-treating outside at night to having to do it in daylight? How did we go from the personal accountability of my childhood to the government making laws so that people “do the right thing”?

I don’t think about it very often because it’s so sad. It breaks my heart to see what has become of us. Not just America. But of American Christians, who are just as guilty for the state of our nation and our world as those who don’t believe.

When I was a kid, the scariest thing we had to face was some unemployment or some local gang troubles. That was really it. Now? What kids face now? I don’t know how parents do it. I know so many precious, cherished friends with young children, and I don’t know how they help their children not be afraid when the world is falling apart.

ISIS. Ebola. Conspiracies. Oh, for the days when drugs were the scariest problem in schools. Now our high schools have daycare facilities because so many kids have kids of their own. Now you can’t travel from one place to the next without being frightened that you’ll contract a deadly disease.

But it’s even worse than that. I don’t know if the stories are true, but word is circulating now that wedding chapel ministers are being threatened with arrest because they won’t perform same-sex weddings. And there are other examples of people who are doing what the Bible says is right and they are being threatened because of it.

And if I’m not careful, I start getting afraid of what’s going to happen when that spirit stretches from sea to shining sea–when no one who believes in Christ and refuses to back down in His name is safe.

It’s coming. That day is coming. And if you don’t realize it now, you’d better wake up. You need to make that decision now before the time comes, before your faith is challenged, before it happens. Because you can’t make a decision like that in the heat of the moment. You have to make up your mind now whose side you’re on–your own or God’s.

And it’s scary. I’m not so “Christian” to tell you that a part of me isn’t scared. I don’t want to go to prison. I don’t want to die for my faith. But I will. I made that decision in high school, and I meant it. I guess part of me just didn’t expect to have to face it in my lifetime.

And I’m so glad God knew this was coming. He told us it would come. And those who take Him seriously have been anticipating the day when our world breaks down and starts targeting Christ-followers as their enemies.

Over and over and over in the Bible, God says not to be afraid. Don’t fear. Don’t be afraid. And there’s a reason for that–because this world is scary. Life is scary. And there’s so much that we can’t control because we’re just people. We have so many limitations. So many faults and failures. But God says not to be afraid because He doesn’t have faults and failures or limitations, and He promises that He has everything under control.

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunset at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 41:13.

For I hold you by your right hand—
    I, the Lord your God.
And I say to you,
    ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

Don’t be afraid. God is here to help us. He promises that so many times–more times than I can count–and He never makes a promise that He doesn’t keep.

When you get right down to it, fear is a choice. Everyone fears. But you, Christ follower, you don’t have to. You don’t have to live in fear of anything. Not of destitution. Not of disease. Not of disgrace. Not of danger. Nothing.

That doesn’t mean your life will be perfect. It won’t be perfect until we get home because this world is broken and breaking more and more every day. But that means in this scary world, you don’t have to live in fear.

So choose today. Make the choice today what side you’re on. Set it firmly in your mind, and if you have already made that decision, reaffirm it. Because the day is coming when you will be challenged, and before that day gets here, you’re going to face all sorts of things that will terrify you if you let them.

Just know you don’t have to let them.

Our God is bigger than the world’s fears. Do you believe He can do miracles? Do you believe He is who He says He is over and over and over? Do you believe He is here to help you?

Good. So start living like it.

 

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Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

When bad news has to happen

It feels like I can’t turn on the television or the radio without hearing bad news. Is it just me? Or has the world suddenly gotten darker in the last few weeks? Because it seems to me like more is wrong in today’s world than has ever been wrong before.

People dying. Churches fighting. Towns rioting. Leaders whining. Countries invading. No place feels safe. No person can be trusted. Innocents murdered. Children slaughtered. People starving and frightened and lost.

I try to stay positive. I try to remember that God is in control, but it’s hard to look on the bright side when everything I see is pitch black dark. And then–more bad news. Death. And the worst kind–the kind that could have been prevented but wasn’t because someone was careless.

Breaks my heart. And there’s nothing I can do to fix it. You can’t fix things like that. And you can ask why till you’re blue in the face, and the only answer you’ll get: “Trust me.”

Welcome to the life of a Christ-follower. It’s not all sunshine and daisies. It’s frustrating. Heart wrenching. Because you know the world wasn’t supposed to be this way. You know how things were designed to work. And all you can do is watch the world fall apart and wait for the end to come.

Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Setting sun at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

And then, I read Mark 13:5-9.

 Jesus replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately.  Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come. When these things begin to happen, watch out!

It’s easy to lose hope when so much bad is happening. It easy to give up when you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel or the climb has gotten too steep. But there’s something we all need to remember.

No matter how bad the news is, no matter what dark, horrible things happen, we can’t forget that God really is in control.

Yes, these things must take place.

Did you catch that in the passage above? Jesus is talking about a host of really horrible things, explaining to the Disciples what is coming for Israel, and He tells them that all of it must happen.

Why? Why must it happen?

I don’t presume to know why. And nobody–not even Christ–knows when. But we can know for sure that it’s soon. It’s right at the door, as the passage says above.

There has always been bad stuff happening. There has always been bad news. But the news seems worse now than it’s ever been. But don’t you find it at all comforting that it has to happen? No matter how bad the news gets, it’s not a surprise to God. And even though it may be bad news to us–even though it might break our hearts and tear us up inside–that doesn’t mean God can’t turn it around and transform it into good news.

God’s in the business of transformation.

So don’t be afraid of bad news. Hold on when you get the phone call no one ever wants, when it feels like you’ve done everything right and nothing is working. Don’t lose it when you realize just what a horrible state the world is in. It has to happen. It has to get worse before it can get better.

Wheat nearly ready to harvest at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Your ticket to one wild ride

Do you take God seriously? I mean, do you trust Him when He promises to bless you for obedience? When God tells you to do something and you do it, what do you expect will happen? Do you think He’s just going to turn His back on you? Do you think He’s asked you to do something just to watch you dance like a puppet on a string?

God doesn’t work like that. Yes, there are many times when we’ll encounter situations in our lives that will test our faith, but it’s never God dangling a carrot in front of our faces to see if we’ll bite.

So when you obey, when you do what God has told you to do, are you ready for what comes afterward?

Wheat nearly ready to harvest at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat nearly ready to harvest at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Ephesians 5:15-16.

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

God told me to do something a few years back, or at least He put the germ of an idea in my head. At the time, it wouldn’t have worked. If I would have tried, I would have failed. And even though the idea fascinated me, I didn’t hear Him telling me to jump up and do it.

And throughout the years, God kept bringing it up every now and then, kind of like a tickle at the back of my brain. “Hey, don’t forget about this! This is something I want you to do, but you’re not ready yet.”

A few years later, actually in August of last year, that idea came rushing back on me again stronger and louder than ever before. And this time I couldn’t tune it out. This time I couldn’t ignore it.

So I didn’t. I did what He was telling me to do. And guess what? He held up His end of the bargain. Way more than I expected Him to. In fact, He’s opening doors so fast that I can’t keep up. It’s all I can do to keep holding on as He takes me on what will probably be the craziest ride of my life, and I couldn’t be more excited.

But why does that surprise me? Why do I expect failure when God has never given me reason to doubt Him? I guess it’s not that I doubt Him; I just doubt my interpretation of what He tells me. And that’s why it’s important to have people around you who are on the same page as  you spiritually, to confirm what you think you’re hearing.

But how many times has fear of failure stopped me in my tracks? How many times have I not done what God was clearly telling me to do because I was afraid. I don’t want to think about it. But I need to. We all need to.

I learned today’s passage in an older translation that used the phrase “redeeming the time.” I always used to wonder what that meant. And, it’s true, it does mean to make the most of every opportunity like the newer translation says, but there’s something really beautiful in that phrase: redeeming the time.

Taking the time that might be wasted otherwise (in worrying, in anxiety, in purposeless pursuits) and using it to accomplish something for God. That’s redeeming the time. And that’s what we’re called to do. Why? Because the days are evil.

And they are. We’ve never lived in darker days. More people are persecuted for their faith in Christ today than ever before. More people are trapped in darkness than ever before. More churches are being closed due to scandal than ever before.

Frankly, Believers, we don’t have time to waste. So if God has called you to do something, don’t just stand there. Do it. You have a certain amount of time that’s been allotted to you. Some have more than others. But whatever you have God gave you for a reason, and He doesn’t make mistakes. He hasn’t put you where you are for no reason. He hasn’t walked you through all your difficult circumstances just to test your mettle. He’s got a plan for you, and because He’s good, so are His plans.

So do you trust Him? Do you take Him seriously? And if you do what He’s asking you to do, are you ready for the ride He’s going to take you on?

Don’t doubt that it’ll be wild. Because once you tell Him yes, you’re going to see amazing things happen, things that no one else will be able to explain, things that may only mean something to you–but they’ll mean something to you. And that will be enough to remind you just Who you’re working for.

You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. Neither am I. Nobody is. The clock is ticking, and time is running out. So stop fooling around and get busy doing something that will matter when eternity gets here.

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.

God’s Word won’t do you any good if you don’t listen.

Today’s verse is Matthew 24:35. And, as is normally my habit, I went ahead and read the rest of the chapter just to understand the context. And I tell you what, if you have a moment this morning, you really should read the whole chapter. Wow. That’s all I have to say. The whole chapter is both electrifiying and terrifying. And I don’t know about you, but verses 9-14 sounds awfully like the world we’re living in today. …

Matthew 24:35 says this:

35 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.

I was trying to think of something really deep and powerful to say about this verse this morning, but the beauty about Scripture is that I don’t have to be deep. Scripture is deep enough on its own without me trying to explain it. And–actually–that fact in itself pretty much explains this verse.

The Bible is the most unique book ever written. It’s the No. 1 bestseller of all time. It’s been translated into more languages than any other piece of literature. And parts of it are considered the oldest pieces of “literature” that still survive. There may be some argument that the Epic of Gilgamesh is older but I think Job may be the same age. I can’t remember. Anyway, it’s old. But even though it’s old, it’s still relevant to our culture.

Believe it or not, it is. If you have trouble believing the Bible is relevant to our world today, get a translation that makes sense to you (New Living Translation or the Message) and then read it again and you’ll understand that there isn’t a single event or circumstance in our modern world that hasn’t already happened in the Bible. There isn’t a single problem anyone has that God hasn’t showed us how to overcome through Scripture.

And I guess the thing about the verse this morning that leaves me speechless is the fact that Jesus said that His words would never disappear — and they haven’t. The Bible has been around for thousands and thousands of years. And it’s still intact. That’s what boggles my mind.

And I’m not going to go into the details of manuscript preservation and accuracy of the original manuscripts. If you want to discuss that, there are other places for that. But I’ve done the research, and anyone who can believe that the Bible isn’t 100 percent what God wanted us to have right now hasn’t read it. Anyone who can believe that the Bible is just a book of stories about morality hasn’t read it. Anyone who believes that Bible doesn’t make sense hasn’t read it.

So if you believe any of those things … read it.

Ha! And if you don’t believe any of those things … read it.

The Bible is God’s Word. It’s the way He communicates with us. Yeah, there may be a few people who God speaks to directly. I’m not going to dispute that (be careful with that, though; here’s another good reason to read the whole chapter of Matthew 24). And there are definitely times when I have felt the Holy Spirit urging me to do something but not exactly in an audible voice. The vast majority of the time, if God wants to tell us something, He’s already told us … in Scripture. And we just have to read it to find out what He wants us to do.

So you can carry a Bible around all you want or have them sitting all over your house. But they won’t do you any good if you don’t read them. And they won’t make any sense to you if you don’t study them.

So what are you waiting for? The words written in Scripture are the same words God spoke thousands of years ago. They’re the same words Jesus spoke. They’re the same words God moved prophets to write, kings to sing, shepherd boys to compose. They haven’t changed. And they won’t change. So instead of just taking peoples’ word for it, why don’t you read it for yourself?