Old red shed at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Following God doesn’t mean you won’t have bad days

What happens when you obey God? I think we all make the assumption at times that if we do what God tells us to do, God will do what we ask Him to do. But that’s not really how it works, is it?

I’d like to think that doing what God commands would protect me from trouble, and in many instances, that’s true. If we do what God says, we’ll avoid the paths that can lead to danger and negative circumstances, but obedience doesn’t mean we’ll never face challenges.

Old red shed at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Old red shed at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 34:19.

The righteous person faces many troubles,
    but the Lord comes to the rescue each time.

Verses like this aren’t the kind that we like to read. We want to hear that righteous people never struggle, that righteous people never get sick, that righteous people never fall down. But that’s not the case.

Righteous people–or people who obey God’s Word–still live in a broken world, and bad things happen to good people in a broken world. That’s what makes it broken.

I’ve heard many Christians talking about how obeying God will protect them from trouble. Some Christian leaders in our culture preach messages that claim doing what God says prevents difficulty or challenge or struggle in our lives, but that’s not true. God doesn’t promise that we won’t have trouble in this life; He promises He won’t leave us when we do.

We are guaranteed to have trouble in this life. We don’t belong here. This world isn’t our home, and as Christ followers, the world will hate us. Plus, we have an enemy. Satan is constantly looking for ways to derail us. Put all of that together and you’ve got a recipe for conflict.

Christ followers will have trouble. Period. We’re going to run into difficult times, dark days, and challenging circumstances, but God has promised to come to the rescue. We don’t have to face those troubles alone. We don’t have to fight by ourselves. God will be right beside us every step of the way, offering His strength, His resources, and His insights into what’s really happening.

So when you run into trouble today, don’t be surprised. Don’t let it shake you. Don’t question whether God is really there. Realize that trouble is something everyone experiences, and God has promised that He’ll help us through it. So ask Him for help and wait for Him to show up. He will.

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Facing the floods without stopping

Sometimes I have to wonder at Kansas weather patterns. I mean, I expect it to be strange, but Kansas doesn’t just do strange weather. Kansas does extreme strange weather, at least in my neck of the woods. A storm spotter I work with tells me I live in the Bermuda Triangle of weather patterns because if it’s a bad storm and it’s in Kansas, it will find its way to my house. In the last few weeks, if you looked at the radar at all, you probably saw one of the crazy windy, heavy rainfall producing storms that decided to park over my house. And I’m just going to be honest: I’m sick to death of having to clean the water out of the basement.

We never used to have trouble with flooding, but a lot of different issues are playing a role in why the water keeps coming in–namely there’s just so much of it. One storm dropped six inches in an hour. That was the one I missed because I was in St. Louis, and my awesome parents came out and cleaned up for me. We’re scheduled for more rain this morning, tonight, and tomorrow night, and Friday morning too. Then, we’ll get a brief break before it all comes back down again on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.

Dad’s trying to get everything sealed up this morning, but when you’re talking about that much rain, I’m just not convinced that anything can be done to stop it. And I’m doing my best to fight off the defeatist attitude, but it’s difficult, especially when there’s really nothing you can do to fix it.

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Isaiah 43:2.

When you go through deep waters,
I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
you will not be burned up;
the flames will not consume you.

I thought of this verse today, which is actually the theme verse for a novel my best friend is writing. It’s one of those lovely, comforting verses that is easy to cling to in troubled times. Even in a superficial glance, it’s easy to love this verse, but then when you start thinking about what it actually means, it makes you just love God even more.

This verse is a promise that no matter what comes in life, God never leaves His people to fight alone. And that’s exactly what we’re supposed to be doing: fighting. Look at the verse. When you go–when you walk–it doesn’t say when you’re standing still or when you’re waiting in place. If you’re wading or swimming through waters that would cover your head or if you’re fording a river or if you’re walking in a forest fire, stopping will mean you die. Stopping your forward momentum means you’re in trouble. You’re supposed to keep moving. You’re supposed to keep going. And this is God’s promise that you’ll make it through to the other side.

When you face the figurative fires that burn all around you, God has promised that you won’t be consumed. You won’t be burned up. Now, you might get a little toasty. You can’t walk through fire and not feel some of the heat, but that doesn’t mean the heat will overwhelm you. But you have to keep moving.

When you’re fording the waters of a raging river, trying to reach the other side so you can continue on your journey, God has promised you won’t drown. But you have to keep moving.

And when it’s all you can do to just keep treading water, God has promised that He won’t leave you. But like the other two, you can’t just stop. You have to keep moving.

So if life has left you timid and tired and weary and worn, don’t give up. You’re not alone. God hasn’t left. Don’t turn your back on Him just because you think He’s not listening; He is. And whatever you do, don’t stop. If you stop, you might be overwhelmed. Just keep going. Just keep believing. And just keep trusting that God is going to work it out. It’s who He is.

Otter playing in the water, Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Waiting for God to answer

God is amazing. It’s one thing to believe it when life is difficult and circumstances try your patience; it’s something else to know it without a shadow of a doubt when you fully realize that He actually is listening, that He actually does care, that He actually does have a good plan for you.

Otter playing in the water, Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Otter playing in the water, Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 40:1-8.

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
    and he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
    out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
    and steadied me as I walked along.
He has given me a new song to sing,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what he has done and be amazed.
    They will put their trust in the Lord.

Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
    who have no confidence in the proud
    or in those who worship idols.
O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
    Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
    You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
    I would never come to the end of them.

You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
    Now that you have made me listen, I finally understand—
    you don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
Then I said, “Look, I have come.
    As is written about me in the Scriptures:
I take joy in doing your will, my God,
    for your instructions are written on my heart.”

I’m going to be brief today because I don’t know if any commentary I can add to these verses will make them any clearer than they already are, but this is the state of my heart this morning. I’m just overwhelmed and amazed that God would answer a prayer I’ve been praying for so very long. And I’m looking for some way to express how grateful I am, but I don’t have the words for it. So it’s much like verse 5 says: “O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.”

Now if only I can hold on to this level of confidence when things don’t go my way.

No matter what’s happening in your life or where you are in your walk, God has a plan. And every now and then you’ll get to see a glimpse of what it could be, a tiny part of what He’s doing. And even if you don’t get to touch it or finish it right at that moment, you still get the opportunity to glimpse the greater picture. And that’s enough to remind me that what God is doing is so much bigger than me, so far beyond anything I can accomplish on my own, and it’s so much better to let Him work on His own timetable rather than conforming to mine.

Are you waiting for God to answer? Keep waiting. He will. In some way, He will. Just be alert and pay attention. He won’t leave you hanging. Even though it may not be the answer you want (especially if it’s not the answer you expect), He will answer. It may take some time, but that just means you get longer to prepare for what’s coming. And let me tell you, if God’s got His hand in it, what’s coming will be too much for you. And that’s why He’s giving it to you, so He can help you do it.

Red rock peaks from the Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Don’t be afraid of trouble

Do you ever feel like life is just too much for you? Do you ever feel completely overwhelmed with the task God has asked you to do? Or have events in your life become so heavy and difficult that you wonder if God is still listening?

If you haven’t and you’re a Christ follower, it’s just a matter of time. If the things in our lives didn’t overwhelm us, that would mean we’re not doing things for God. Living for God is always outside our reach alone; we need His help. And honestly, life is just too much to handle without Him.

Troubles come. That’s just life. But I’m not a good enough Christian to say I look forward to the trouble. Granted, a part of me welcomes it because trouble means (sometimes) that you’re on the right track. Trouble brings growth. Trouble brings eventual joy. And even the things we see as trouble often turn into blessings. So I always try not to judge trouble when it arrives and see it for what it can be.

Red rock peaks from the Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

Red rock peaks from the Glen Eyrie Castle, Colorado Springs, CO

But when trouble after trouble after trouble comes pounding at the door, I get tired. Yes, each trouble is interspersed with great and joyful things, happy things, wonderful things, but it’s like the roller coaster of life never really ends and I can’t help but feel like the ride is just starting. For every exciting hill we crest and coast down at top speed, there’s another mountain to climb. And climbing up is always harder than coasting down.

I don’t do this very often, but Psalm 46 just encouraged me this morning. I have so many things going on, many good and the rest frustrating. It’s good for me to remember that God is always there, especially in trouble. I want to be thankful for trouble. I want to be thankful for the difficult things in life because they always help me in the end.

Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength,
always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
and the mountains crumble into the sea.
Let the oceans roar and foam.
Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
Interlude

A river brings joy to the city of our God,
the sacred home of the Most High.
God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.
The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!
God’s voice thunders,
and the earth melts!
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
Interlude

Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.
He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
Interlude

If you’re going through trouble today, don’t be afraid of it. God hasn’t left you. He’s working behind the scenes to make sure events unfold the way that’s best for you.

He knows what He’s doing. It may feel like we’re trapped in the middle sometimes. It may feel like He’s dropped the ball. And it’s absolutely tempting to give up. But resist the urge to strike out on your own and trust Him.

And when life gets to be too much, just tell Him. Run to Him. Let Him remind you that He’s still there, that He hasn’t forgotten, that He hasn’t gone anywhere, and that He still has everything under control.

My shadow at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Does your shadow ever leave?

I am always amazed at how big God is. It’s wintertime now, which means it’s the best time of year to go stargazing, and if you don’t mind dodging wildlife, you can see more stars than you can imagine from my driveway. It’s those clear, crisp, quiet evenings when I’m trying to count the stars I can see and utterly failing because there are so many that make me wonder at God.

A popular late-night talk show host was talking to an actress on his show the other evening, and he is of the opinion that if there is a God, He has more important matters to deal with than us. But the Bible tells us differently. The Bible says God made everything and holds everything together and still wants to be a part of our everyday lives.

And this isn’t something that just happened in the New Testament. No, God was in relationships with His people starting in the Old Testament, in the very first book of the Bible.

My shadow at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

My shadow at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Genesis 46:3-4.

“I am God, the God of your father,” the voice said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make your family into a great nation. I will go with you down to Egypt, and I will bring you back again. You will die in Egypt, but Joseph will be with you to close your eyes.”

This is a promise that God made to Jacob, who is considered to be one of the Patriarchs of Israel. It started with Abraham, who I mentioned on Wednesday. Abraham had a son named Isaac, and Isaac had a son named Jacob. And for those of you who know the Bible, you probably know where this passage comes from. Jacob’s youngest–most beloved–son Joseph had established an abundant and prosperous life in Egypt through God’s grace (read the story; Genesis 37-50; it sounds long, but it’s one of the most amazing stories you’ll ever read), and he had invited his father to come down and live with him because where Jacob lived was in famine.

Here’s the thing: Egypt was always considered a bad place. It was a place of pagans. It was a place of evil. And Canaan, where Jacob’s family was, had been given to his family. It was the Promised Land. So it’s no wonder that Jacob didn’t want to leave.

So this is what God told him: Go anyway. And God promised that He would go with him. God promised to go with Jacob into Egypt and promised to bring his family back out again. And if you keep on reading into Exodus, you’ll find out that’s exactly what God did.

But what stood out to me this morning is that no matter where we go, God will be there. And if God has told us to go somewhere, He’s going to go with us. There are examples all throughout Scripture about how people have tried to run from God (Jonah, being the best-known example), but in every case, what they discovered is that you can’t run from God. How can you run from Someone who is everywhere?

You can’t. It’s like playing hide and seek with your own shadow. You can’t get away because it’s always constant. Maybe you can’t always see it, but it’s always there. And it’s the same way with God.

So what does this mean today?

Well, for one, don’t try to hide from God. That’s silly.

And two? If God tells you to do something or go somewhere, don’t be afraid. He’ll go with you no matter where you go. He’ll be standing right beside you in those moments when you have to make a choice. He’ll be cheering for you when you do what He’s called you to do. He’ll be there. He promised.

In Jacob’s case, God told him to go to the worst place imaginable. God told him to go to a foreign land that had been reviled as an evil place, but even in that evil place, God was with him. And that same God who kept His promise to Jacob and all his family is our God today. He could be trusted to keep His word back then; we can trust Him to keep His word now.

So don’t be afraid of making hard choices and stepping away from your comfort zone. God doesn’t live in your comfort zone, and He’s waiting for you get out of it and come to where He is.

Cows in the pasture at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Knowing

Do you buy new brands at the grocery store? Or do you stick with the brands you have always bought? How brave are you in trying new things? I work in marketing, and one of our biggest goals is to familiarize people with our brand name. We want people to know our logo and our products and our history so that when they see our products in the store, they’ll know it’s us. Because if people know our name, that means they know they can trust us.

Cows in the pasture at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Cows in the pasture at Safe Haven Farm – Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 9:10.Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.

It’s amazing to me that some people can’t trust God or won’t trust Him. I don’t understand how they can live their lives without trusting Him, but if you ask them about it, they just don’t believe He exists or that He’s listening or whatever. But that makes no sense to me. To me, if there is nothing else certain in the universe, it’s that God is here and He cares about me and wants to help me.

But then … I know Him.

Okay, so I bought a generic brand of toothpaste one day. It was during a financially sparse time in my life, and I wanted to save some money. It tasted nasty, but hey–it was toothpaste. And even though Crest or Colgate has prettier boxes, I was sure the generic brand would be just as good. They usually are, right? Wrong. My checkup at the dentist revealed a major build up of plaque and a cavity, which was unusual for me. I asked my dentist if he thought it was because of my generic toothpaste, and he said it probably was. So I bought some Crest. And the next time, I got a clear report.

I knew that Crest toothpaste was probably better, but I didn’t want to spend the money on it. Well, I ended up spending ten times the cost of a tube of good toothpaste on a cavity caused by using the cheaper toothpaste. But in any case, I knew Crest was a good option because I had used it all my life as a child and never had a cavity; so I knew I could trust the brand. Maybe it’s a silly illustration because God is most certainly not a brand name, but the concept is there.

I know God. I’ve known God since I was seven years old, and I have learned through many difficult experiences that I can trust Him. I may not always like where I end up, but I can always trust that He’ll be there to help me. But people who don’t know Him already have a hard time believing He exists.

So don’t be surprised if someone who doesn’t know God doesn’t trust Him. It’s kind of like an untested brand at a store. Until they know Him personally, they’re going to have a hard time believing that He can actually do the things He promises to do.

So the first step is to introduce them.

And once they know Him, they’ll learn to trust Him. Because they’ll learn He never gives up on us and there’s nothing we can ever do to separate ourselves from Him.