God doesn’t pick anyone because they’re special

During the end of the year, people start talking about everything they’ve accomplished. I do it. Most people I know do it. And it’s really easy to hear about everything that’s going right for people and feel a little bit left out. Do you ever get that feeling? Like you haven’t done as much as you could have? Or that somehow God is doing more for someone else than you?

It’s okay to admit it. That’s a normal feeling. Not a true feeling but a normal one.

When you start looking at people and comparing yourself to them, it’s easy to start thinking that God loves someone else more than you, because all you’re looking at is them rather than God’s work in your own life. I take God’s work in my own life for granted. It can seem small and insignificant to me. And I begin to wonder why other people are so special that God would show up in their lives when He doesn’t in mine.

33E58C5499Today’s verses are Deuteronomy 7:7-9.

The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors. That is why the Lord rescued you with such a strong hand from your slavery and from the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.

The truth is, you aren’t that special. Sorry to break it to you. But God didn’t pick you (or me) out of a crowd because we had some special skill or unique talent. The only thing that makes us special is God’s work in our lives. It has nothing to do with us.

Sort of like Israel. It wasn’t even a country. It wasn’t even a family to start out with. It was just Abraham and his wife, and they weren’t even able to have children. But God made them a promise. And He kept it. And He’s still keeping it to this day. Israel wasn’t special. It was God who was special, who chose to do something miraculous. That’s how it works with us too.

Now don’t misunderstand. We are loved and unique and priceless. God made each of us, so by that token we are special, individually crafted by God Himself. So that by itself makes us special in comparison to the rest of creation, even in comparison to each other. But I don’t have anything that would make God love me more than someone else. Neither do you. We’re all poor and weak and powerless, and it’s God who comes along and gives us strength and success and victory.

God promises to be our salvation, our rock, our healer, our guide, our light. He promises that when we’re weak, we’ll be strong through His power. He promises that even in our darkest moments, He has a plan that He’s working out for our benefit. That’s not on us. That’s all on Him.

God doesn’t play favorites.

So don’t get into the habit of comparing yourself with other people. When the year-end accomplishment letters start coming in and the personal goals for the year grace your inbox, choose to rejoice with your friends instead of comparing yourself to them. Choose to marvel at God’s workmanship in people and realize that God is working in your life too. It just looks different than it does with other people.

God doesn’t pick anyone because they’re special. He picks people He can use. So if you want God to be visible in your life, if you want His blessings to be obvious, be the kind of person God can use. Be humble. Be honest. Be genuine. Trust Him. Follow Him. Honor Him. And if you’re doing all that, He’s probably more visible in your life than you think.

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A lifestyle that’s for the birds

Yesterday, a friend and I went hopping all around Wichita scouting locations for some photoshoots that will be featured on the next year’s catalog of books from Crosshair Press, and we found ourselves in the renovated jungle exhibit at the Zoo. Seriously, if you’re in the Wichita area, you must go to the Zoo. It’s amazing.

But as we were walking around, I kept hearing this one particular bird. Now, the jungle exhibit is packed full of birds. There are always birds singing. But this one bird? My goodness. That sucker had a set of lungs. And I had no idea where it was until it landed on the post right in front of me, and I snapped this photo.

Imagine. Being a bird. You eat. You sing. You hop around and look pretty. And that’s about all you’re responsible for. No wonder birds sing all the time. That’s got to be the greatest life! No worries at all!

Know what? That’s the kind of life you can have too.

Really loud bird singing his heart out at the Tropics exhibit (Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS)

Really loud bird singing his heart out at the Tropics exhibit (Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS)

Today’s verse is Matthew 6:26-27.

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

I always think of this verse when I hear birds singing. Birds are carefree because they don’t have to worry about anything. But it’s not that birds have nothing to worry about. They just know they don’t need to.

People are a different story. We have the ability to worry, so we take advantage of it. We think about what we’re going to eat. We think about what we’re going to wear. We think about what we’re going to drive. We think, think, think all the time, and when we discover that most of the things we think about are out of our control, we worry.

Stop right there. That’s not the life we were designed for. I’m talking to myself here, because worry is one of my besetting sins. I don’t talk about it out loud, but inside I’m usually a mess of anxiety and nerves about something. And in my brain I know that worrying is silly, but I can’t seem to help myself.

So it was a joy yesterday to run into this little fellow singing his little birdy head off. A great reminder that birds don’t worry about tomorrow because they’re trusting God to take care of it. God is trustworthy. He’s never let them down, and He never will. So why stress?

That should be our lives. That should be my life.

I belong to Jesus, but it’s a daily choice to follow Him and live the way He would. Sometimes is less of a choice and more of a battle. But regardless, God has promised to take care of me and provide for me and help me. He’s made the same promise to the birds, and He’s never let them down. He’s never let me down either. And He won’t let you down.

So that think you keep worrying about? Let it go. And when you start worrying about it again? Let it go again. Sing a song instead of worrying. Turn your praise music up as high as it will go and sing at the top of your lungs. Tell God how great He is and get on with your day.

It works for the birds. It’ll probably work for us too.

Fear is more than what’s holding you back

Sometimes it feels like there’s a giant wall between me and what I’m trying to accomplish. The wall takes many forms. It’s being busy. Being tired. Being distracted and discouraged. Sometimes it’s even being happy and being around other people. But that’s been the story of my life–trying to write while I’m distracted, trying to create when I’m exhausted. So I think I’ve been afraid to tear the wall down because I don’t know if I can do this without it.

And that’s true. I am afraid to tear the wall down. But I realized something: Fear is what makes up the wall itself.

Today’s verses are Hebrews 13:5-6.

Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have.
For God has said,
“I will never fail you.
I will never abandon you.”
So we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper,
so I will have no fear.
What can mere people do to me?”

There’s something in us that tells us we have to provide for ourselves. We have to take care of ourselves. Our safety and comfort and freedom and life are all up to us, and if we don’t do something, we’ll lose them. There is a morsel of truth to that, but first of all, we have to understand that none of that comes from anything we’ve done. Our safety and freedom and life are all gifts from God. And while we do have to work to preserve them, we should never accept the concept that we did anything to earn them or even deserve them.

The Bible says over and over again that God is our strength. He’s our freedom. He’s our help. He’s the one we should turn to in our dark moments when we don’t know what to do. Heck, we should turn to Him even if we do know what to do.

Work backwards through the verses. God is our helper. So we don’t need to fear anything. That verse (verse 6) starts off with the word So, which means that to understand it fully you need to refer to the verse before it. We can confidently say God is our helper and we don’t have to fear because God says He’ll never fail us or abandon us. The same is true about the word For. God will never fail us or abandon us and that means we should be satisfied with what we have instead of endlessly grasping for material wealth.

We don’t need material wealth if we have God’s promise to never fail us and never abandon us. He’s our help. So why are we afraid?

Fear is a paralytic, yes, but it’s also a drug that keeps you sedate. It mimics the idea of safety and comfort, because if you never challenge it, nothing ever changes. You never grow, so you never have to experience growing pains.

I struggle with fear and anxiety. The worry is ever-present in my brain. What if I can’t find enough work? What if I can’t pay my bills? What if I have to go back to a corporate job again? Does that mean I’ve failed? Does that mean God didn’t want me to strike out on my own like this in the first place? Have I just been fooling myself? It’s a vicious spiral of anxiety that usually ends in self-loathing and utter discouragement.

Ever been there? When you’ve made that difficult choice to follow God instead of what the world says matters? You’d think it would get easier when you give God your yes, right? Ha. Sorry, folks, it’s doesn’t work that way. There’s nothing easy about following God because we’re trying to follow Him through a minefield, and everywhere we step, we run the risk of blowing ourselves up.

It’s so easy to just stop walking. It’s so much easier to just stay where you are. Why try to climb the wall if you know you can’t do it? Why try to tear the fence down when it’ll just build itself up again overnight?

Fear is an emotion. It’s something we feel, and like all our other emotions, you can’t always trust it. Our fear is just as broken as we are. So there’s really only one way to handle it, and that’s to read what the Bible says about it and trust that what God says is right.

Fear is more than what’s holding you back. It’s the wall around your that’s keeping you in. So don’t give into it.

God promises He’ll never fail us, even if we fail Him. He promises never to abandon us, even when we turn our backs on what He says is right. And because He always keeps His promises, we don’t have to be afraid of anything. He will always provide. He will always be there. And nothing anyone does to you will change that–not even what you do to yourself.

This world isn’t supposed to work

Most days, living is a privilege. Being alive is a gift. But I’m fully aware how blessed I am, and that not everyone can agree on whether life is a blessing or a curse. At least, as far as this life is concerned. A lot of it depends on your perspective.

But something I’ve learned through the years of following Christ is that we shouldn’t get too comfortable here. Whether life is fun or not, whether it’s joyous or not, life here isn’t permanent. None of us are staying. I’m not home yet, and neither are you.

dawn-landscape-sky-sunset_1540x1004Today’s verses are Hebrews 11:13-18.

All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth. Obviously people who say such things are looking forward to a country they can call their own. If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back. But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

How many millions and billions of people have died before us? How many people went into eternity before we were even born? The world may have 6 or 7 billion people living on it now, but other people pre-dated us. And the Bible says none of them have ceased to exist. They’ve continued to “live” but their mailing address has changed to one of two places.

The whole chapter of Hebrews 11 is a beautiful tribute to many of the Bible legends we’ve grown up with. It’s a fast, awesome read, and I highly recommend it. And it points out a number of really important facts about the Christ-followers who preceded us.

None of them got to see the answer to God’s promises while they were alive on Earth. They lived their lives for Him, and He took care of them. He guided them. He was their friend. But in this life, they didn’t get to experience what God has promised.

Hebrews 11 is a tribute to Old Testament heroes. We could write a similar tribute to the heroes of the New Testament, and their story would be the same. They followed God with everything they had. Some gave their lives. But they didn’t get to experience all that God promised while they were walking on the Earth.

The same is true for heroes in other time periods too. And if the Lord continues to be patient with our world, it’s the story others will tell about Christ-followers of my generation. We followed Christ, but we didn’t get to see all of His promises fulfilled.

So here’s the question: Do you only do something right because you’ll be reward for it? Do you only maintain a relationship for what you can get out of it? Or is it enough to know what what you’re doing is right and that you get to play a role in a bigger story?

Don’t be frustrated when life doesn’t work out the way you want. Things in this world aren’t supposed to work. It’s broken, remember? And don’t even be frustrated when God’s plan doesn’t go the way you expect. He knows what He’s doing.

God has made promises. And, make no mistake, He’ll keep them all. But as a Christ-follower, we have to willing to accept that we may not see them while we’re alive on Earth. What’s great, though, is that we will see them. We just need to remember that this life isn’t about us and what we want. This life is about Jesus. Sort of like how eternity is about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. So make your life about Him and watch what happens.

Ask, ask, and ask again

Do you remember Christmas as a child? Every year, there was something specific you wanted. You would write it down on a list or tell people that’s what you wanted months and months in advance. Did you ever forget that’s what you wanted? Did it ever slip your mind?

No. It wouldn’t have, because you were focused on it. It’s what you wanted, so that’s what you thought about. It colored everything. When you’d go into a store, maybe you’d even see that one thing you wanted so desperately, but you wouldn’t buy it. Even if you had the money to do so, you wouldn’t, because it’s what you’d asked for, and you might be getting it as a present.

Sure, you’d asked for it, and you didn’t have it yet. But yet was the operative word.

739BBHC8KM_1382x922Today’s verses are Matthew 7:7-8.

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

Jesus was a fan of persistence. There were many instances throughout Scripture where He encouraged His disciples and His followers to ask questions, to challenge the status quo, to think outside the box and never give up or give in just because it was popular.

I’m afraid to ask God for things because I think He might not do what I want. I’m afraid of putting my faith in Him completely and trusting that He’ll give me what I’m asking for because what if He doesn’t? What if I’m asking for the wrong things and He doesn’t give me what I’ve asked for?

I’m not old, but I’ve been following Jesus for a long time. And I can honestly say He’s never let me down, and He’s never broken a promise to me. Sure, there have been times when I felt like He did, but that’s because I didn’t see the bigger picture.

I tried writing for myself years ago, and it didn’t work. I dropped everything and dedicated myself to getting published. I barely lasted six months because I didn’t have enough in savings to support myself in the interim. The day I had to shut down my office and go back to a regular job felt like failure, felt like the end of a dream, felt like God had promised me something only to take it away.

But that wasn’t the case at all. And those six months weren’t wasted. I learned a lot during that time, mostly that I wasn’t ready to work for myself yet. I needed time and experience, and I needed to make connections with people I didn’t even know yet.

I asked God to allow me to write for a living, and He made that happen, first by preparing the way for me to get an awesome job as a copywriter. Then, He made it happen again by opening the doors to allow me to go into business for myself.

God gave me what I asked for, but I kept asking for it. I didn’t give up. Writing for myself (for His glory, of course) had always been my dream, and it colored everything I did. It was something I knew I would do whether I could get paid for it or not.

What I’ve learned about asking is that if you keep asking, it helps you stay focused on what you really want. If you ask for something and then stop, you must not really want it.

So ask. Then, ask again. And keep asking until you get it. It’s not nagging. It’s not pestering. It’s a way to stay focused on your dream, and as long as your dream brings glory to God, He’ll help you achieve it. It won’t be on your timetable (trust me on that one), but you’ll get there.

God never promises you’ll be rewarded … in this life

I went to a book reading event last night. No, not for my own books. For someone else’s. It was more for my own education than anything else, since I didn’t know the author and hadn’t had a chance to read her books yet (even though I have them). I wanted to see how the event would work—how a professional company puts on a book release/signing event.

Well, I purchased my ticket ahead of time. A $10 job instead of the more expensive $17 one. The $17 ticket came with a copy of the book, which is number three in a trilogy. And I didn’t want to buy the book until I’d read the other two.

So I picked up my ticket and looked at it, and lo and behold! I had a $17 ticket! In very obvious words on my ticket (which I had only paid $10 for), was the permission to obtain a copy of the book! They’d given me the wrong ticket which actually gave me an upgrade. I could go to the event and get a copy of the book without paying full price!

And that’s when the little voice in my head started up.

It’s wrong. It’s unethical. It’s dishonest. And it goes against what God says is right.

So what did I do? Yep. I went back to the desk and told them they gave me the wrong ticket. And I wish I could tell you I was a good enough Christian to hope they’d let me have the book anyway, for outstanding moral fiber, if you will. That didn’t happen, of course. But they did thank me for being honest about it.

Little white flower against the gray stones at Carlisle Castle, Northern England

Little white flower against the gray stones at Carlisle Castle, Northern England

Today’s verses are Psalm 119:57-60.

Lord, you are mine!
I promise to obey your words!
With all my heart I want your blessings.
Be merciful as you promised.
I pondered the direction of my life,
and I turned to follow your laws.
I will hurry, without delay,
to obey your commands.

When you do the right thing in life, you won’t always get a reward for it right away, but God promises to bless you when you live life on His terms. He makes that promise over and over again. But just because He promises it doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily see it in your lifetime.

Just saying.

There’s no scripture anywhere that says you’ll live to see the results of your good works or your investments. There’s no promise anywhere that says you’ll be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor. But before you start to think that God’s a big stingy mean-hearted grouch in the sky, remember what He’s promised. And that He never breaks His promises. And that this life is only temporary.

Our life here isn’t supposed to be perfect and always right, where the good are always patted on the back and given things for the only reason that they are good. No, life on earth is broken. It’s falling apart and getting worse by the day. Actually in our culture now, wrong is rewarded. The people who break the law are exonerated. The people who hurt others get off Scott free. It actually feels like doing the wrong thing means you get punished, doesn’t it?

Well, when life starts feeling like that, remember where our home actually is, remember who God is, and remember what He’s promised. And His rewards are way better than anything earth can give.

Relying on our insecurities will never make us strong

Everyone in insecure about something. Some people are insecure about getting up in front of people. Other people are insecure when they deal with numbers. Others are insecure about dealing with people.

You can be the most talented person in the world, but when you are faced with the one topic you are insecure about, you’ll shut down.

Regardless of what you’re insecure about, when you’re thinking about it calmly, you recognize that your insecurity is a weakness. It’s an area where you need to be stronger. You know that. But in the heat of the moment, when you are faced with a situation that frightens you or when you have to make a snap decision, it’s easy to fall back on what we know, and the one thing we all know is our own insecurities.

But insecurities make us feel not secure. That’s why they’re called insecurities! And maybe it’s comfortable to fall back on them, but what if you had something stronger to hold on to instead? Wouldn’t that be a better idea?

InsecureTurtleToday’s verses are 2 Peter 1:3-4.

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

God has given us all a list of promises miles and miles long. God has made so many promises that we don’t have time to talk about them all. And, what’s awesome, is that He’s kept all of the promises that He’s made.

He always keeps His promises. That’s who He is.

So instead of falling back on your insecurities, what about trying to fall back on God’s promises instead? It sounds like it should be easy to do, but it’s a difficult habit to get into, especially when you’re accustomed to relying on your own strength.

How do you live by God’s promises? Or, as the Bible says in the next verse after these, respond to God’s promises? That part is easy in theory. It means you put weight to what God’s said. It means you put your money where your mouth is. It means you take God at His Word.

Example? God has promised that if you give to His work (i.e. tithe) that He will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings so numerous you won’t be able to contain them all (Malachi 3:10). This is a promise. And to take God at His Word, that would mean you would start giving to God, whether you think you have the finances to give or not. And then you just trust that God will provide for you.

That’s all there is to it. You live life trusting that God will do what He says He’ll do. You make decisions based on what God has promised to do for you.

I don’t like speaking in front of people. I despise getting up and talking in front of crowds. But it’s part of this career path God has me on right now. I don’t like it because I can’t always think of the right things to say, and I’m terrified that I will come off looking like a fool. I get so scared that I will be a poor representation of Christ because I babble like an idiot. But God has promised before that He will give His children the words they need to say when they need them.

So when it comes down to the choice of speaking in front of a group or not, what do I do? If I’m going to fall back on what’s familiar, I’ll lean on my insecurities. Those insecurities tell me I’m a horrible speaker, that I’ll say stupid things, that I’ll make mistakes and confuse people. Those are my insecurities. And they’re not helpful.

But if I choose to believe God’s promise, I’ll get up in front of people and God will help me. He’ll give me the strength to face my fears, and He’ll give me the words to speak when I need them.

See the difference?

So what decision are you facing today? Are you leaning on what your insecurities are telling you about yourself? Or are you thinking about what God has promised you instead? If you’re cowering in fear, I guarantee, it’s not God you’re listening to.

Hold on to God’s promises. He always keeps them. Trusting your insecurities will only leave you insecure and unfulfilled. Which choice do you think is better?