No one is completely independent

“Me do it meself.”

That was my mantra as a child, and not much has changed now that I’m a grown-up. It’s certainly not bad to want to be independent. Actually, that’s pretty much the American dream. But you have to draw some realistic boundaries. No one is completely independent.

People need each other. Even if you’re the most antisocial person in the world, you still need other people in your life. Maybe we don’t all need the same people, but you can’t live life on your own. Sometimes you need help.

woman-cliff-balance-yogaToday’s verses are Acts 6:1-4.

But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.” 

This is a story from the early days of the Church. The way it worked back then was very much community-focused. The members of the early Church shared everything, and as the Church grew and more and more people became Christ-followers, the Church founders (the 12 Disciples) had more and more work to do. It got to the point where they were so overwhelmed with everyday tasks that they couldn’t focus on what they’d been called to do.

Prioritizing is a struggle for me. It’s hard for me to narrow down what I’m supposed to be doing on a daily basis because I want to do so many things, but just because I want to do a good thing doesn’t make that good thing a necessity. Yes, it’s a good thing. Yes, I’ll be blessed if I do it. Yes, it’s something God’s commanded us to do. But now may not be the right time for me to do that thing.

And honestly? I may not even be the best person for the job anyway. God may want me to have the humility to accept that I can’t do everything and let someone else have the blessing of that task graciously.

The early Church did it. It wasn’t that distributing food to people wasn’t important. It’s hugely important. But the Church Leaders had other things to focus on. God had called them to a certain job, and they didn’t have the capacity to do that job and another job at the same time. So they chose other leaders within the Church and asked them for help. And God was perfectly pleased with that. He blessed the Church Leaders, and He blessed the seven new folks who were running the food program. The same is true in our own lives.

What has God called you to do? That’s the question, isn’t it? It’s a difficult answer to find, but God will tell you what He wants. You just have to ask. And then you have to listen. And then you have to do it, regardless of what anyone else around you thinks. Do that one thing. And, sure, if you have time to let other things in, do those too, but don’t let the little stuff take away from that one big thing you’re supposed to be doing. And when the little things get too big, give them to someone else. Let them go. Because you can’t do both.

Seagull flying - Galveston, TX

Obeying God’s rules sets you free

I like doing my own thing. I don’t like to be bossed around. I’d much rather be on my own and accomplish my own goals and make my own mistakes and get credit for my own victories. Not to say I like the spotlight. I don’t. At all. But when it comes to living, my default is to follow my gut.

But the longer I live and the more I get to know the Lord, the better I understand that my gut–my own reasoning and my heart–aren’t always right. That is to say, my default isn’t to make choices that glorify God. My default is to make choices that make life easier for me.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s not unique to me or to you or to anyone else on Earth. It’s not even unique to this culture or this period of time. It’s born into us, and it’s something God has been dealing with since Mankind decided to take life into their own hands.

Seagull flying - Galveston, TX

Seagull flying – Galveston, TX

Today’s verses are Psalm 81:8-14.

“Listen to me, O my people, while I give you stern warnings.
O Israel, if you would only listen to me!
You must never have a foreign god;
you must not bow down before a false god.
For it was I, the Lord your God,
who rescued you from the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it with good things.
“But no, my people wouldn’t listen.
Israel did not want me around.
So I let them follow their own stubborn desires,
living according to their own ideas.
Oh, that my people would listen to me!
Oh, that Israel would follow me, walking in my paths!
How quickly I would then subdue their enemies!
How soon my hands would be upon their foes!

It’s really easy to see God as this big fun-squasher in the sky. The eternal babysitter who’s only interested in reinforcing our bedtime or making sure we eat all our vegetables. But that’s a childish way to see God.

I mean, after all, as a grown up, you learn to recognize the benefits of a bedtime and eating your vegetables, don’t you? As children, they seemed like unfair rules, but as adults we recognize that those rules were for our good.

Christians, don’t you think it’s time we grew up?

The history of Israel and its relationship with God is written down in the Bible so that we could see just how faithful God is. If He hasn’t given up on Israel after all this time, He won’t give up on anyone. But the story is also there for us to understand what happens when we try to live life on our own terms.

You may be smart and respected and moral and kind. You can be all those things and still not know what’s good for you. You can be the best person in the world and still make choices that go against what God says is right.

God’s been very plain with us. He’s gone out of His way to help us understand what He says is right and what He says is wrong. It’s written down in plain language for everyone to see and read. And if you’re a Christ-follower, if you say you follow Jesus, then surely you’ve read the Bible. Surely you’ve made an attempt to understand what God says is right. And so surely when the moments come for you to obey, you obey. Right?

I can’t say I always have. I wish I could, but I’d be lying. It’s so much easier to just do what I want to do. That’s what I tell myself. That’s how I rationalize it. I tell myself that I’m not hurting anyone or that my choices won’t affect anybody else but me. But that’s not true. I don’t know the future. I don’t know what’s coming. My choices today could have a huge impact on my future and anyone else I know. I can’t know that. But God does. So when God tells me to do something–or when He tells me not to do something–I should listen.

God won’t bless me if I live a life opposed to what He says is right. He won’t rush to my rescue when I’ve fallen into the pit I’ve dug for myself. Yes, He’ll hear me, and if I turn back to Him, He’ll come for me.

My own ideas and my stubborn desires have gotten me into more trouble than I care to admit, and it’s only in turning away from them and turning to God and to God’s rules that I’ve found true freedom. Funny how obeying the rules can set you free, while following your gut leaves you in chains to the consequences of your choices.

God hasn’t given us rules to keep us from having fun. He’s laid down His expectations so that we can live free.

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Loving good Christians with God’s grace

I experienced a really difficult situation with some really good Christians when I was younger. You know the type. They are the first to tell you that your loved one you lost is in a better place. They’re the first one to point out what they think is sin in your life. They’re the first ones to comment on how someone else isn’t living for God. They’re the ones who tell you you’re struggling because God is punishing you.

When I was younger, I had no patience for it or them. They actually just made me angry, and a lot of that came from my own experiences with hyper-religious Christians. I was bitter and resentful inside for a long time, and that anger manifested in a general dislike of anyone who came off as “too good.”

I still struggle with it, but I think I’ve mellowed as I’ve gotten older. Or maybe, the longer I live, the more I realize just what Christ did for me and how lost I would be without Him.

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are John 3:1-3.

There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. “Rabbi,” he said, “we all know that God has sent you to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Everybody needs God’s grace, whether it’s the druggies in the gutter or the Bible-thumper in the church pew. Nobody can make it without Jesus. And something that I’ve begun to realize more and more is that a legalistic Christian is in just as much bondage as someone who doesn’t know Christ.

Maybe you’ve studied the Bible. Maybe you know who Jesus is. And maybe you’ve even given your life to Him. That makes you a Christian. But if you are living with the idea that your outward appearance or your behavior will make you a better Christian or that it will make God happy with you, you’re being deceived.

You can clean yourself up all you like, but if the motivation of your heart is to look like a good Christian and talk like a good Christian so people will know that you are a good Christian—your focus is wrong.

No Christian is a good Christian. I’m so sick and tired of people calling me a good Christian. People have told me that all my life, and I’m not good. I stumble. I lose my temper. I put myself first. I have a whole long list of things I do that make me bad.

But being a Christian isn’t about how you dress or how you talk or whether or not you keep the Ten Commandments. Being a Christian is recognizing that you aren’t good enough but that God loved you enough.

Christians locked in this lifestyle of dress code and behavior standards and what you can eat and what you can’t eat and when you go to church or where you sit—that has nothing to do with being a Christian. But it’s a lot easier to put rules and regulations on yourself than it is to accept the fact that you owe God more than you can ever, ever repay—and that He doesn’t want you to repay Him. Just to accept Him.

So many Christians cling to this idea that we have to have standards. Maybe none of them will say that they’re depending on their standards or the standards set by their church to make them good—but that’s what it seems like. So how do you deal with that?

If you are a Christ-follower, freed by the blood of Jesus, justified by faith, holy in God’s sight, how do you handle “good” Christians who are trapped in the chains of their own standards?

I used to get angry at them. I used to walk away from them. I didn’t want to waste time and energy on someone who thought I was a heathen.

But what did Jesus do? Jesus ran into the religious elite of His day all the time. And, yes, most of the time He accused them or He challenged them. But when those religious folks weren’t yelling at Him, when they came to Him seeking, He made time for them. He talked to them. He showed them that He loved them as much as everyone and demonstrated that they needed Him more than they needed their religious traditions.

So isn’t that what I should do too? Just because someone is preaching at me that wearing pants is of the devil or that listening to country music is evil (that’s nothing compared to this), that doesn’t mean they have rejected God’s grace. That may just mean they don’t understand how much they need it. And who am I to turn against them because they don’t know the way?

I can be patient with them. And if I can’t be, God can give me patience. I am confident in who I am in Him and what He has called me to do, but that doesn’t give me a reason to be angry with anyone else. That just gives me a responsibility to live God’s grace and freedom.

Opportunity is an open door

What is opportunity? Have you ever taken the moment to think about it? It’s those common words that sometimes I’m not sure I actually know the definition of. Sometimes it’s the words you say all the time that you don’t know what they actually mean.

For me, I’ve always defined opportunity as the chance to accomplish something. Come to find out, that’s kind of what it actually means. So it’s nice to know my vocabulary is still hanging in there. But think about that. The Chance to Accomplish Something. Even including the word chance gives it an entirely new meaning. Because if you have to have a chance to accomplish something, that means you will encounter other times when you don’t have a chance.

Opportunity is a time when you are in a position to do something. It could be anything. Something huge and life altering. Something small and personal. Whatever. But one thing won’t change: Your opportunity doesn’t stick around forever.

You have a chance to do something at that moment, and if you don’t seize the moment, you might lose it. And you might never get it back.

Today’s verse is Galatians 5:13.

Open gate at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburg, Scotland, UK

Open gate at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburg, Scotland, UK

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.

If you’ve made that all-important decision to follow Christ, every day you wake up is another opportunity. God gives us all sorts of chances to do all sorts of amazing things in a day’s time, but the question is, are we paying attention? Are we taking advantage of the opportunities God gives us?

I wish I could say I did. I wish I could tell you that I always jump at the opportunities God sends my way, but I don’t. Sometimes I hide from the opportunities He gives me because I’m afraid or because I’m relying on my own strength and knowledge. And that’s not how we’re supposed to live.

Say you’re walking down the street, and the person in front of you drops money. That’s an opportunity. That’s your chance to accomplish something. But what you accomplish is up to you. If you want to serve yourself, it’s your opportunity to steal, to knowingly take something that doesn’t belong to you. But if you want to please God, it’s your opportunity to help someone else and maybe even tell them about your faith.

That’s what opportunity is. It’s keeping your eyes open and seeing the open doors God has given you every moment of every day and choosing to walk through them for His glory and not for your own.

In America, we have freedom to do many things that other countries only dream of. We aren’t limited (generally speaking). We can roll out of bed one morning and decide to start a business, and if we have the finances or the credit to be able to do it, we can do it. Do you know how rare that is for other people?

But just because you have the freedom to do whatever you want doesn’t mean you can use it to do what is wrong. That’s where we slip up. We think because we’re free that we can do anything and everything. And maybe there’s truth to that, because you certainly can do whatever you want. As a Christ-follower, you can break every rule you can think of, and if you truly belong to God, He won’t cast you out. He won’t protect you from your consequences either. But you are free to do whatever you want.

So Paul is encouraging us to love each other instead of fighting with each other. You can use your freedom to do whatever you want, but why spend it hurting others? Why use your freedom to destroy relationships or ruin your physical health? Instead, use the freedom you have–make the most of your opportunities–to do good for others, to help others, to serve others in the name of Christ.

Those are the opportunities you should be taking. Those are the chances you should be seizing.

So the next time you see the open door of opportunity in front of you, what are you going to do? Sure, you can serve yourself. That’s what most people will do anyway. But if you really are a Christ follower, and you want to see Him do something amazing in your life and in the lives of other people, take that opportunity to serve someone else. Focus on someone else.

If you have the opportunity to help somebody, take it. And do it in the name of Christ. You’ll be amazed at what happens in your heart and in the hearts of the people you’re helping.

American flag on the Galveston ferry - Galveston, TX

Freedom is a responsibility

What do you do with freedom? Sometimes I wonder if my generation really understands what freedom is. There’s a concept I’ve encountered among people my age and younger that freedom means you can do whatever you want to do. And maybe that’s true in some counts, but being free is more than that: being free is a responsibility.

American flag on the Galveston ferry - Galveston, TX

American flag on the Galveston ferry – Galveston, TX

Today’s verse is Romans 6:15-16.

Well then, since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does that mean we can go on sinning? Of course not! Don’t you realize that you become to slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.

Yesterday we celebrated America’s birthday. Some of us celebrated by setting off fireworks. Others of us (who live in a county so restricted we can’t even light a match) celebrated by getting together with friends. Why? Because freedom is worth celebrating.

The people who founded America more than 200 years ago had a dream, and they were willing to sacrifice everything they had to achieve it. Most of my generation has forgotten that the people who founded this country were branded as traitors. And I know the majority of the next generation hasn’t even been taught the basics of what our Founding Fathers stood for.

America was founded with an awesome purpose, not just because the colonists wanted to do what they wanted to do. Maybe that had something to do with it. But the American Revolution wasn’t a study in chaos, not like the French Revolution was. The American colonists did everything they could to avoid war, but it was becoming necessary for them to declare themselves independent from England.

But freedom from England meant everything would change. America’s needs would no longer be England’s responsibility; they would be America’s. Declaring independence, being free, always means that you will take on more responsibility than you had before.

Jesus died to set us all free from the power of sin. If Jesus hadn’t come, we would have no hope of salvation. We’re all born into sin, and without Christ, we can’t escape it. Even with Christ, we still choose it sometimes. But Jesus made a way for us to live apart from sin. He offered us the option to choose Him rather than choosing sin, when before we didn’t have a choice.

So since Jesus has set us free from sin does that mean we can do whatever we want without consequences? Does that mean sin has no power over us because we have escaped its grasp? Does that dearly purchased liberty mean we can run wild and break the laws just because we can?

Why not? We’re free, aren’t we? We aren’t subject to the Law. And this world isn’t our home anyway. Right?


If you’ve accepted Christ, if you’ve been freed from the power of sin and the power of the Law, you have an even greater responsibility.

Maybe sin won’t drag you into hell if you’ve accepted Christ, but even as a believer, you are still vulnerable to the consequences of sin in your life. If we lived in a world without sin, it would be one thing. But our world is still broken, and sin is still in charge here. And believers aren’t immune to the consequences of doing what is wrong.

If you give in to sin and live a life where you do whatever feels good, you will be a slave to that kind of life. You can be a believer and live this way because you’re free. You can choose this.

If you live a life according to the Law where you trust your own good works to justify you, you will be a slave to that kind of life. You can be a believer and live this way because you’re free to make your own choice.

But how are we supposed to live?

If you have accepted Christ, you have a choice. You have the freedom to live however you want to live, but whatever choice you make will have consequences. Choices always do.

Living free doesn’t just happen. It requires discipline. It requires sacrifice. It requires making difficult choices. It means sometimes you have to do the right thing especially when you don’t feel like it. This is true in both the Christian life and in your political beliefs, whatever those may be.

If you choose to follow Christ, beyond just simply believing in Him, those choices are up to you. God won’t force you to make decisions. Those are choices you will have to make along the way, and they won’t be easy. At least, not right away.

If you have the freedom to choose, you have the responsibility to choose the right path, because if you choose the wrong path the consequences will fall on you. You can’t shift the blame to someone else. You can’t point fingers. That’s what freedom is: responsibility. And even though Christ has set us free spiritually, we are still responsible for the lives we live on Earth.

So we can sit back and let others do the work for us and reap the benefits of indolence. We can demand all the attention be put on us and on our hard work and live for glory and admiration. We can do nothing and detach ourselves from the world. Or we can do what Scripture says: love God and love people and wait for Christ to take us home.

The choice is up to you. Just remember that whatever you choose to follow will become your master. Whatever path you choose has consequences you have to face.

It’s a huge responsibility.

So is freedom.