The victor’s timetable and my personal agenda

olympic-games-1608127_1280I’m not a big sports fan. Never have been. Something about being naturally clumsy and the least competitive person on the planet. But, oddly enough, I do enjoy watching the Olympics. This year was quite a year for Team USA, and not just for our swimming (that Katie Ledecky, man) and gymnastics teams.

We’ve got over 100 medals, around 40 of which are gold. That’s outrageous. Granted, the U.S. had more than 500 athletes competing this year. That makes a difference. But that doesn’t change how cool it is to get to hear the national anthem so many times in so many different sports.

Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, and Simone Biles

Katie Ledecky, Michael Phelps, and Simone Biles

What I find most interesting is that after I watch the U.S. win at the Olympics, I often feel like a champion. But the athletes are champions. They worked hard. They sacrificed. They risked everything they had invested to put their skills to the test against the top athletes in the world, and they came out on top. They deserve the medals they wear. So how does that translate into me feeling like a winner?

Every Team USA athlete who competed in the Olympics this year was a representative of his or her country. He or she went to the Olympics to represent me (broadly speaking). So when he or she wins, America wins. I win. We send the best of our best (and this year, I feel like I can actually say our best truly are the best and not just in their physical skill but in their character as well), and when they win, we get to claim the victory with them, even though they’re the ones who did the work.

Faith works the same way

That’s basically what God did. There was a battle that needed to be won, and all our futures hung in the balance. So He sent His best—His only Son—to fight for us, to take our place and our punishments. And Jesus won. So because He won, we all won (Romans 8:37). Or, at least, we all have the opportunity to win. There is the matter of choosing a side, of course.

It’s done. It’s over. The war is finished, and the victory is God’s, and by extension ours, if you are a follower of Christ. But that doesn’t mean we won’t still face daily battles.

All those Olympic athletes had to come back to the real world after Rio. They had to leave behind the battle fields they were used to and forge into an unknown future, possibly in areas and fields they know little about. Even the G.O.A.T. has to pay bills.

[su_pullquote align=”right”]Even though it feels like we’re the ones fighting, victory is always God’s.[/su_pullquote]

Every day is still a battle. But does that mean we’re on our own? Never. (Deuteronomy 31:8) God says over and over again that He’ll never leave us. He’ll never make us face our battles alone. But there’s something we’ve got to remember, folks. Even though it feels like we’re the ones fighting, victory is always God’s.

He gives us the strength to face the challenges of the day. He gives us the energy to keep fighting when we feel like we want to quit. He helps us stand up when we fall down, and He gives us a reason to keep pushing long after our personal motivation has run dry. He’s the only one big enough to turn the tide of a battle in His favor.

So because victory is His, that means we have to wait for Him to achieve it.

Victory doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t win an Olympic medal on a whim or by accident. Competing in the Olympics takes years of practice and hard work, strategy and intense concentration, and fierce, intentional choices. Do you think winning a battle is different? It takes time. It takes effort. It takes dedication, passion, and, yes, sometimes even failure. Or maybe it just feels like failure, because often failure is just another opportunity to rise to the challenge.

Because of Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, Simone Biles, Tianna Bartoletta, Amanda Elmore, Virginia Thrasher, Helen Maroulis, Connor Fields, Brady Ellison, David Boudia, Daryl Homer, and so many others who won a medal (or medals) at Rio, I can say I am a citizen of a winning country. I belong to a nation that allows people to chase their dreams, to work hard to make their dreams a reality. And even though I’ve never swam a competitive lap in my life, never ran any distance, never shot with any accuracy, and only mastered the belly flop as a form of diving, I get to enjoy victory because all those people and others achieved it for me.

micah7-7Because of Jesus, I’m a citizen of Heaven. I’m a child of God, with free access to His throne, invited to approach Him whenever I need Him. I don’t have to worry about tomorrow. I don’t have to fear what I don’t understand. Jesus won my battles for me.

But Michael Phelps didn’t swim faster because I asked Him to. Virginia Thrasher didn’t hit those targets with her air rifle because I told her it was time. All of those athletes competed at their own speed, their own rates, and according to their own plans. So why do I think Jesus is going to be any different?

Victory isn’t mine. It’s His. And that means I have to wait for His timing instead of pushing my own agenda.

[su_pullquote]Victory isn’t mine. It’s His. And that means I have to wait for His timing instead of pushing my own agenda.[/su_pullquote]

I don’t like waiting. Once I know the direction I’m pointed, I want to forge ahead without looking back. And while that may be an admirable trait at times, when victory isn’t up to me, that sort of impatience can spell disaster.

We all have a choice when it comes to obtaining victory, even if we’re not the ones fighting for it. You can try to fight for yourself, sure. But that will be like a regular human being trying to race Michael Phelps in a pool. You can try to win, but you aren’t going to. Sorry to break it to you, folks, but that’s just not going to happen.

So if you can’t fight for yourself, you have to fall back on the other option. You have to let someone else fight for you. And that means you have to wait for them to make a move. Waiting isn’t fun, but if the person you’re cheering for has your best interests in mind, you’ve got nothing to worry about.

As for me, I look to the Lord for help. I wait confidently for God to save me, and my God will certainly hear me. Micah 7:7

I wait quietly before God

Do you ever just have upsetting days? Those days where everything conspires against you to ruin your mood? Some days start out bad, but then other days come along and they’re fine until the end–when that one thing happens that completely wrecks your perspective.

When that happens, how do you calm down? How do you get your focus back? When you’re so angry, you can’t even speak–when you’re so frustrated, it’s all you can do not to burst into tears–how do you see God in that situation?

In those moments I just want answer. I just want God to tell me what I’m supposed to do with myself. I want to do something–run or fight or jump up and down or scream or just something. Anything except stand still.

But making hasty decisions is always a bad idea. And making hasty decisions when you’re angry will always, always make more trouble than it solves.

So what do you do? I read Psalms, and I read until one makes me cringe because it hits all the right emotions raging in my silly human heart.

That’s what happened yesterday. I was so mad, so frustrated and worn out and tired and disappointment and discouraged. You name it. It all hit at once, and I just wanted to give up. Even after I cheered up, even after I calmed down, I was still debating about how to handle this overwhelming frustration I can’t seem to shake. So I started searching Psalms, and I found what I was looking for.


Psalm 62

I wait quietly before God,
for my victory comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will never be shaken.

So many enemies against one man—
all of them trying to kill me.
To them I’m just a broken-down wall
or a tottering fence.
They plan to topple me from my high position.
They delight in telling lies about me.
They praise me to my face
but curse me in their hearts. 

Let all that I am wait quietly before God,
for my hope is in him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress where I will not be shaken.
My victory and honor come from God alone.
He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me.
O my people, trust in him at all times.
Pour out your heart to him,
for God is our refuge. 

Common people are as worthless as a puff of wind,
and the powerful are not what they appear to be.
If you weigh them on the scales,
together they are lighter than a breath of air.

Don’t make your living by extortion
or put your hope in stealing.
And if your wealth increases,
don’t make it the center of your life.

God has spoken plainly,
and I have heard it many times:
Power, O God, belongs to you;
unfailing love, O Lord, is yours.
Surely you repay all people
according to what they have done.

Wait quietly before God. People may turn against me, but my God is my fortress that can never be shaken. He’s told me plainly over and over that He repays people for what they’ve done.

I want to run. I want to fight. But all I’m supposed to do is to wait quietly before God because my victory comes from Him. Sure, that may mean I need to make some changes. But that doesn’t mean I have to take it all on my own shoulders and make decisions on my own.

But what it does mean–for now? I need to remember where my hope is. Not in people. Not in the world. But in my God.

Are angry today? Frustrated? Lost and unsure of yourself or what you’re supposed to do? Instead of scrambling to make sense of it or to defend yourself or to find an answer, think about just waiting quietly before God. Just stand still and be open to what He wants, instead of just what you want.

Lion in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Living an undefeated life by standing still

Sometimes I look at the responsibilities I have and feel like I’m the wrong person for the job. Anyone else ever get that way? There is just so much to do and it’s all so much more than I can handle. I feel like there’s no way I’ll ever get it done.

If you feel like that, don’t worry. Everyone gets there, I think. And if you aren’t there yet, someday you will be, especially if you want your life to honor God. If you want to live a life that God can use in a big way, He’s going to drop you in some situations that are out of your depth.

You’re going to feel like the least qualified person in the world. You’re going to fear making mistakes that will damage your future and the future of the people around you. You’re going to want to play it safe, and I’m telling you right now: Don’t.

Lion in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Lion in the sun at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Exodus 14:13-14.

But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Just recently I posted on verse 15 from this same chapter, where God tells Moses to get off his hiney and do something (that’s my own personal translation, in case you were wondering). So many movies have tried to capture this moment in biblical history–where the Children of Israel were trapped against the banks of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army bearing down on them.

I don’t blame them for freaking out, honestly. I probably would have too if I had been in their shoes–er, sandals.

I mean, think about it. These people hadn’t met God. God, to them, was a fairytale their parents and grandparents and great grandparents whispered about. No one in their generation had see Him work. And then all of a sudden this wild man comes from the desert demanding in the name of I AM that Pharaoh let them go. Then plagues. Then death. Then freedom.

They didn’t know what to do with freedom. They’d never had it before. How terrifying must that have been? And then how frightening to see freedom within their reach only to have it snatched back at the first sighting of Pharaoh’s charging army?

I don’t blame them for despairing. It was too much for them to handle. They didn’t understand it. They didn’t know what to do with it. It was so much easier just to give up.

How many times have we been there? When it seems so much easier to just stop trying than it Is to keep pushing forward? When you aren’t even sure where you’re going, it’s hard to keep putting one foot in front of the other. When every challenge that rises up to greet you in the morning is more than you can manage, it’s just another reason to roll over and pull the covers over your head again instead of getting up.

But hang on. Yeah, that’s what it feels like, but we shouldn’t rely solely on our emotions. Emotions change. Emotions are broken. Emotion needs to be tempered with truth, and there’s a really important truth we all need to remember on those days when the realities of life are weighing us down. It’s the same truth the Children of Israel needed to hear when they were facing death at the hands of Pharaoh’s army.

It’s not your fight.

Did you get that? This isn’t your fight. If you are a follower of Christ, your life isn’t your own, so why would this fight be yours too? Yeah, you’ve got to show up. Yeah, you’ve got to keep standing. Yeah, you need to be strong, but when it comes down to taking the hits, you aren’t the one who has to stand in the ring.

God Himself fought for the Children of Israel, and they didn’t have to do anything. They just had to stand still and be calm and watch. And, Christians, that’s where we are today too.

Are you fighting to get through the day? It’s exhausting. And not many of us have the strength to do it day after day after day. I don’t.

So stop. It’s not your fight anyway.

If you’re living the way God has called you to live, following Christ, trusting His Word, God has put you right where He wants you, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. You don’t have to do the fighting. God will take care of that. Your job is to show up and be calm and watch.

That’s it. You don’t have to be a super human. You don’t have to know every answer. You don’t have to be everywhere at once. Just love people the way Jesus loves them and trust God to do the rest.

Stand still. God Himself will fight for you, and He is undefeated.

A tiger showing his teeth at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Fighting never makes it better

Have you ever heard yourself say something and cringed inside? I have. When I’m overly tired or stressed out, sometimes my mouth runs away with me. I have a sarcastic streak too, which can be very funny when it isn’t being used for the forces of evil.

I’ve learned, firsthand, the truth of today’s verse.

A tiger showing his teeth at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

A tiger showing his teeth at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 15:1.

A gentle answer deflects anger,
    but harsh words make tempers flare.

People don’t like fighting. Maybe they like arguing or disagreements, and arguing and disagreement are part of every healthy relationship, whether you’re best friends or married or even family. But from my experience, people don’t like a real fight, especially between two people who care about each other.

So why does it feel like we go out of our way to start fights sometimes? Our culture has certainly dramatized relationships to the point where people like to see domestic strife on the television, but in real life it’s not always exciting or romantic–it’s miserable.

Whatever kind of relationship you’re in, it’s important to understand that answering a cruel word with more cruel words will only make a situation worse. If the person who started the fight is already that upset, fighting back isn’t going to scare them. It’s just going to make them angrier.

Yes, it’s true that some people just want to fight. Some people are just angry as a general rule. But generally speaking even people who start fights don’t really want to fight. There’s usually something else causing their problem, and they’re either too scared or too insecure to talk about it openly.

So what do we do? What can we do? It’s hard to stay calm when someone comes at us in a fighting mood, but I promise if you refuse to engage with them like they’ll run out of steam. And most of the time, if you’re close enough friends, they’ll tell you what’s really going on. Or they’ll give you enough clues that you can figure it out yourself.

And if you’re the offender–well, first pray that you have friends close enough who understand your moods. Again, when I get stressed out or really tired, I say things I don’t mean. Or I say things in ways that I don’t mean. And I am so very fortunate to have friends who understand that and forgive me for my harsh tone.

The point is, whether you’re the offender or the victim, harsh words never help anything. They may make you feel slightly better when you’re saying them, but that good feeling only lasts until the fight starts.

So when you’re tempted to snap back, when you’re tempted to say something you know you shouldn’t, when you’re tempted to release your frustration in the form of harsh words, don’t. It’s not worth it. Yes, talk to someone. Yes, be open and real about what you’re feeling. But don’t turn someone else into the focal point of your frustrations. And don’t fool yourself into thinking that meeting cruel words for cruel words will solve anything.

Answer cruel words gently. And if that doesn’t work, if the person you’re talking to doesn’t calm down, stop the conversation or leave. If he or she is that upset, nothing you can say will make it better until they calm down on their own.

Fighting won’t solve the problem. Fighting only hurts feelings and separates friends, and I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I ever want to do.

Front entry at Glen Eyrie Castle - Colorado Springs, CO


I have a thing for castles. There’s something about castles that just really fascinates me. I love the architecture. I love the history. I love the sheer size of them. They just conjure up images of a world that we’ve lost, probably for the better honestly. Because castles were really in vogue in a very dark time of our history. In the times when castles were big, people still fought with swords.

Today, people don’t fight with swords anymore. We shoot each other, if we’re actually fighting. Swordsmanship was a personal and intimate form of warfare. You couldn’t stand in the background and be an observer if you fought with a sword. You had to know what you were doing, and you had to know who you were fighting.

Front entry at Glen Eyrie Castle - Colorado Springs, CO

Front entry at Glen Eyrie Castle – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Ephesians 6:17.

Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Ephesians 6 has always been one of my favorite chapters of the Bible, mainly because I love the entire concept of the Armor of God. I love the symbolism of it, and if you haven’t had a chance to study it, I really recommend that you do. Because these are the weapons that God has given us to fight our enemies.

And who is our enemy?

Certainly not other people. That’s also what Ephesians 6 explains, that the people around us aren’t the ones we’re supposed to be fighting, that there’s a war going on that supersedes this world. It’s so easy to get caught up in the thinking that this world is all there is, but there is another life that is more real than this one on the other side. And Satan, our true enemy, will do anything he can to prevent us from reaching it.

We don’t fight other people. We fight spiritual battles against spiritual forces. And if we’re going to win, we have to have spiritual weapons. That’s the meaning of the Armor of God. Because we need the belt of Truth and the breastplate of Righteousness and the shield of Faith to stand up against the attacks that Satan throws at us, lies and wickedness and doubt. And there are some days when we need to stay behind the shield, but there are other days when we need to go on the offensive.

That’s when we need a sword. According to this passage, part of the Armor of God is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” What does that mean? It’s the Bible.

Other passages of Scripture identify God’s Word as a sword, but in some instances it’s difficult to think about it like that. Because it’s just a book. Right? How can you use a book like a sword?

Well, when the book you’re talking about contains truth it’s easier than you might think, especially if you’re fighting a spiritual battle. But before you can use the Bible like a sword, you have to believe that the Bible really is effective, that it’s real, and that it’s true. If you don’t believe the Bible, you can’t use it.

One of the best examples of how to use Scripture as a weapon comes straight out of Scripture itself, Matthew 4:1-11. This set of verses recalls the time when Jesus was tempted to sin by Satan. Satan threw all sorts of sneaky curve balls at Christ, but Jesus didn’t once give in. How? … He used Scripture. Every time Satan tried to convince Him to sin (using Bible verses taken out of context, if you’ll notice), Jesus quoted Scripture to him.

That’s how you use the Bible as a sword. You know it. You know what’s in it. You know what God says. You know what’s right and what’s wrong, and you’ve made up your mind that you’re going to obey it. And when Satan comes at you, telling you to do something you know is wrong, you can toss Scripture at him and tell him you choose to do what God says.

But there’s a trick to it. Because you can sit in a pew and learn all the Scripture in the world and know every verse in the Bible, but if you never apply it, you’ve just wasted your time. If you never take what you learn and use it, what’s the point? It’s like standing on the front lines of a battle with your sword ready but not moving, even as your enemy shoots at you. You’re neither attacking nor defending; you’re just standing there. What sense does that make? None.

But that’s where a lot of Christians are. We have tons of Bible knowledge. We wear Christian t-shirts with truth all over them. We listen to Christian radio that teaches us the ins and outs of living a Christian life. We know everything we need to know, but we still bury our heads in the sand and let Satan take ground on a daily basis.

It has to stop. We haven’t got that much time left. So pick up your sword, Christian. Get to know it, and get to know your real enemy — not the culture and not the unbelievers but Satan and his army of spiritual forces. And once you learn how to use God’s Word, don’t just stand on the sidelines. Attack. You’ve got armor; use it.