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.

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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?

The irony and beauty of rainbows and God’s promises

We spent last night around the television, watching the severe storms blow through the area. It’s spring in Kansas, which means that the weather is always exciting. But last night was the first of the really major storms to blow through Kansas.

But just before the storm hit, Dad and I looked out the windows and saw a GIANT rainbow outside. So I threw on my new rain jacket, grabbed my phone, and ran outside in the rain and lightning to take as many pictures as I could.

I love rainbows. I always have, ever since I was a little girl. But I don’t love them because they’re pretty or because they’re mysterious. I love them for what they symbolize.

wpid-0408151940a.jpgToday’s verses are Genesis 9:12-13.

Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.”

Did you realize that the original purpose of a rainbow was as a symbol of a promise God made to all creation? I’m not sure a lot of people remember that.

That’s what I think of whenever I see a rainbow. God’s promises.

God made a promise to Noah and his family before the Flood, and He kept His promise. Just like He’d kept every promise before then, just like He’ll keep every promise He’s made since then.

As a child, we learned that God’s promise was never to destroy the Earth by floods again. That was the original covenant that God made with Noah and his descendants. But a rainbow stands for more than that.

A rainbow means that God has made a promise, and that He hasn’t forgotten it. Maybe life is rough for you right now. Maybe things are difficult in your life today. But that doesn’t mean that God has forgotten His promises to you.

What I love so much about the photo that I managed to snap is that the rainbow showed up just before the storm hit. Usually I don’t see them until after a storm is over. But this time I got to see it before the trouble began.

And sometimes God does that for us. He gives us little reminders in a day or in a week to give us something to hold on to. He lets a rainbow show up in our lives to help us remember that He’s still around.

Maybe it’s a smile from a stranger. Maybe it’s a few extra bucks left in a jeans pocket. Maybe it’s a kind email from a friend. Those are your rainbows, friend. Don’t ignore them. Don’t dismiss them. That’s God using bits and pieces of life to reach out to you and remind you that He’s still got it covered.

That doesn’t mean you won’t have to go through the storm. No, that’s the irony about rainbows. You have to have a storm before a rainbow will show up. But we can remember that God will be there before the storm hits and after it’s over.

What happens if God doesn’t keep His promises?

You’re at work and you know you’re a good employee. You’re always on time. You always encourage teamwork. You don’t cause drama. You’re the kind of employee you would want to hire if you were a manager.

Then, one day, your boss lets it slip that the company is going to do something really nice for its top performers. If you’ve ever been there, I bet you imagine what that “something nice” is going to be. You fantasize about it. A bonus? Or maybe an extra vacation day?

Have you ever gotten what you imagined? That’s never happened to me. I imagine “something nice” as something awesome. And usually it turns out to be something like a gift card. (Not knocking gift cards. Gift cards are the best, especially when they aren’t part of your salary.) But in those moments, are you ever disappointed that your company’s “something nice” didn’t match up to yours? Do you get upset at your boss because he or she didn’t meet your expectations?

Today’s verses are Ephesians 3:17-20.

Evergreen tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Evergreen tree in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

There’s a contingent of Bible thumpers out there who love to expound on how God will give you a car or how God will make all your dreams come true, and it’s not that God won’t do those things … it’s just that He doesn’t promise them.

I’ve known people over the years who have believed with their whole heart that God would give them something specific. A specific job. A specific boyfriend. A specific house. A specific outcome in their life. They’ve claimed it would happen and believed with everything they had that it would.

And it didn’t happen.

Ouch. What do you do when God doesn’t deliver on His promises?

Well, the first thing you need to do is make sure He actually promised it. Like the situation at work–my boss didn’t say the company was going to give me an extra day off. My boss didn’t say the company was going to give me a bonus check. That was my assumption. That was my definition of “something nice” and it didn’t match what the company had in mind.

So many Christ-followers end up discouraged in their walk with God because He hasn’t given them what they think He should. And I can understand their feelings. I’ve been there. Where I was sure God was leading me in a specific direction, where I was certain what He was doing in my life–and then He does a complete 180. And my life ends up looking nothing like what I expected.

And when that happens, it’s really easy to take it out on God. We can be so sure we know what He’s doing, can’t we? And in those moments, it’s so easy to get ahead of Him, to assume He’s going to do something in our life just because we feel a sense of peace about it. But just because you feel a sense of peace about a particular outcome in your life doesn’t make it a promise that God is bound to keep.

God’s promises are set down in the Bible. He’s promised to never leave us. He’s promised to save us. He’s promised to make us a part of His family, to forgive us our sins and remember them no more, to love us unconditionally, to help us when we need it. He has promised to do what we ask and to give us the desires of our heart, yes, but our hearts have to match His before that will happen. And we have to understand that if He doesn’t give us what we want, that doesn’t mean God is unfaithful. It just means it isn’t time yet.

The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically how our lives are going to work out. All God promises us is that He’s working things out for our good and His glory.

Don’t get caught in the trap of putting God in a box, because that’s what we do when we tell God He’s unfaithful or untrustworthy. Maybe you feel like God has betrayed you. Well, friend, He hasn’t. It’s you who doesn’t understand how He works. And if you give God a little space, let Him work in your life the way He wants, and keep trusting Him even when you don’t see how things will work out, one day you’ll realize that He has answered every promise He’s made to you and more.

So when something you want–something you think God has promised you–doesn’t work out, don’t get upset. And please, please don’t get angry at God. God doesn’t have to operate inside the box we build for Him, and I’m so thankful He doesn’t. Imagine how lackluster and mediocre life would be if God were limited to our expectations.

No. Our God is a big God, an all-powerful God, and a gracious, generous God, eager to shower blessings on His children. And if you expect Him to operate within the walls of your planning and your imagination, you’re going to live a disappointed life.

So let go. Let God be God. Stop trying to control Him. Stop trying to squeeze Him into a box with your own limitations. And then sit back and enjoy the ride.

Barney the cat with his grumpy face in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Did you know you have permission to laugh?

When was the last time you had a bad day? I mean a really bad day. One of those days when everything goes wrong, when you can’t seem to do anything right, when all you want to do is go home and curl up with a cup of tea and a book and escape your life.

Ever had a day that bad? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve been there. Everyone has. It’s not every day (if it is, you have bigger problems), but the days that you want to quit are sometimes just more than you think you can take.

What do you do on those days? Do you have a plan, a strategy for fighting back on days when you don’t want to fight anymore?

Barney the cat with his grumpy face in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Barney the cat with his grumpy face in the snow at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 26:1-6.

When the Lord brought back his exiles to Jerusalem,
    it was like a dream!
We were filled with laughter,
    and we sang for joy.
And the other nations said,
    “What amazing things the Lord has done for them.”
Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!
    What joy!

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
    as streams renew the desert.
Those who plant in tears
    will harvest with shouts of joy.
They weep as they go to plant their seed,
    but they sing as they return with the harvest.

People don’t laugh enough. That’s my personal opinion, but I think just about everyone will agree with me. People–God’s children included–don’t laugh often enough.

And I’m not talking about derisive laughter or about forced laughter. I’m talking about laughter that comes from joy, from the sheer mind-blowing joy of knowing God.

When was the last time you were stressed out about something? When was the last time you were ready to quit your job? Do you have answers for those?

Okay. So when was the last time you laughed like it didn’t matter who heard you? When was the last time you laughed until your sides hurt? When was the last time you had to wipe the tears out of your eyes because you’ve been laughing so hard you started crying?

And, no, that kind of laughter isn’t bad or irreverent or disrespectful. I mean, it can be. Of course, it can be. Anything good and pure can be corrupted. But laughter by itself isn’t wrong. Laughter is something more of us need to spend time doing.

Why?

Have you ever been down or depressed or sad? I have. And in those moments, everything feels so dark. I feel isolated. I feel like I’m the only person in the world. And then someone makes me laugh. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of laughter–just a chuckle. Just something that makes me smile. And it’s like the sun comes out, and all of a sudden I can remember that life doesn’t suck all the time. There are bright spots–more bright spots than dark spots if I’m being honest.

That’s what joy does. Joy helps us refocus, helps us clear the cobwebs of depression and sadness out of our brains for a little while and remember that we’ve actually got it pretty good.

Are you down today? Are you sad? Call someone. Or text someone. Someone you know will be happy or joyful or cheerful. Someone who has light in them. Maybe you don’t know that person well, but I’m sure you know someone like that. Just take a moment and talk. It’ll help. Let yourself laugh a little. Stop taking life and all its many issues so seriously, and give yourself permission to laugh.

You aren’t doing yourself any favors by running yourself into the ground. You aren’t helping the people around you either when you stress yourself out just to get your work done. No, take the time to laugh. Take the time to enjoy your life and the people in it. And I would be willing to bet that your ratio of good days to bad days will change.

Your bad days won’t go away. Don’t expect that. But how you look at them will change.

We all have bad days. We all have sorrows. But God’s promised in so many ways that sorrow won’t last forever and bad days eventually end.

Make the choice to be joyful. Give yourself permission to laugh. And pretty soon you’ll be able to honestly proclaim what amazing things God has done for you.

Northern England / Southern Scotland on the way to Hadrian's Wall

The wait is worth it

Anyone who tells you life isn’t about waiting is lying. Some days, it feels like that’s all life is. Waiting. When you’re a kid, you are waiting for the day you can drive a car. When you’re old enough to drive, you’re waiting for the day you’re “grown up enough” to live on your own. When you’re out on your own, you’re waiting for the right person so you don’t have to be alone. You get the idea. But it seems to work that way in our walk with Christ too.

He leads. We follow. But He doesn’t always lead where we expect Him to, and He never moves on our timetable. Never. It’s either too slow for us or too fast, and we have to learn to wait. We have to learn that waiting is worth it.

Northern England / Southern Scotland on the way to Hadrian's Wall

Northern England / Southern Scotland on the way to Hadrian’s Wall

Today’s verses are Hebrews 6:11-15.

Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance. For example, there was God’s promise to Abraham. Since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name, saying: “I will certainly bless you, and I will multiply your descendants beyond number.” Then Abraham waited patiently, and he received what God had promised.

What’s one thing you’re waiting on right now? I bet you have more than one. But I know you’re waiting on something. You’ve probably been waiting on it for a while too. And, if you’re anything like me, you’re wondering why you have to wait so stinkin’ long. It’s just a simple yes or no, isn’t it?

In those moments when you get tired of waiting, on those days when you’re ready to give up because it just doesn’t feel like God is going to do anything, think about the stories in Scripture. The example today is Abraham, and he’s a great example. But he’s not the only one.

God made promises to Abraham. Ridiculous, impossible promises. And Abraham had to live a good deal of life before he even got to see some of those promises kept. And–just being brutally honest here–he didn’t actually live ( on Earth) to see all of God’s promises realized.

Even so, Abraham lived believing that God would keep His promises. He endured all sorts of trouble, holding on to God’s Word. And I know that when we meet him in eternity, Abraham will still believe it was worth it. All the pain, all the doubt, all the fear, all the uncertainty and unknowns–don’t think it’s only in today’s modern world that we face such things. People haven’t changed that much in 8,000 years.

God kept every promise He made to Abraham, even though Abraham didn’t always hold up his end of the bargain. And aren’t we thankful? Because all of us are in the exact same boat.

God has made so many promises to us, and He will keep them. Because He’s God. That’s what He does. And we need to remember that even when it doesn’t feel like He’s keeping up His end. He is. It just isn’t going to look like we think it should look.

What are you waiting on today? Don’t despair. You may have to sit still, but God is never still. He’s always working on something. And there are no better hands to leave your problems in. He has unlimited resources, unlimited time, and unlimited love, and He wants what’s best for you.

So what’s a few weeks? What’s a few years in the face of that kind of opportunity? Enjoy the downtime. Soak up the quiet. Use the time you’ve got in the interim to get to know Him better, because I promise, when He’s ready for you to stop waiting, you’re going to hit the ground running, and you won’t slow down.

He’s got it. Stop worrying. He knows what He’s doing, and He is good. Truly, truly good.

Sycamore Gap at Steel Rigg, Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Believing God will do what He’s promised

When God makes you a promise, do you believe Him? What does that look like in your life? Maybe it looks different to different people, but when someone promises to do something for me, generally that means I have to sit back and wait for them to make good on that promise.

Has that happened to you before? Someone promises to do something for you, but they don’t get it done when you expect them to? What do you do? How do you react? And what happens when their tardiness jeopardizes your future plans?

It’s hard to sit still when your future is on the line. It’s hard to sit still and keep waiting on somebody else’s actions when you have the opportunity to make something happen yourself.

So what happens when the person you’re waiting on is God? What happens when the person who’s promised to help you is God and the only assurance you have is His Word?

Sycamore Gap at Steel Rigg, Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Sycamore Gap at Steel Rigg, Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verses are Hebrews 6:11-12.

Our great desire is that you will keep on loving others as long as life lasts, in order to make certain that what you hope for will come true. Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance.

In case you blog readers don’t know (most of you are probably sick to death of me talking about this, but it’s heavy on my heart right now), I am part of a group of writers who’ve decided to start an independent publishing company. It’s ambitious. It’s unique. It’s unusual. And, oh my goodness, it’s expensive.

You never realize just how expensive starting a business is until you do it. I knew it would be, but there’s a big difference between knowing how expensive something will be and actually shelling out the money to pay for it. But starting this small press is something God has called us to do. All four of us believe that with all our hearts, and God has already opened so many doors and shown us in so many ways that this is what He wants us to do.

Paying for it is a necessary investment. But, of course, everything else that could possibly cost me money in other aspects of my life has to blow away, break down, fall apart, or just crap out at exactly the same time.

So when a new, completely unrelated opportunity to make some money drops in my lap, what do you think I thought of? Money! I can make some extra cash to supplement the business.

Great idea, right?

Okay, well, here’s the problem. I’m stretched so thin on time, I barely have time to eat and sleep. I’ve got so many responsibilities weighing on me right now, I can’t keep up with them. I’m doing better, but I’ve had to drop some things. And now I want to add something else in?

So what do I drop? Out of the things I’m doing that God has told me to do, what do I drop to make room for this opportunity to make more money to pay for the dream God has given me?

Anyone see the flaw in that thought?

Why do I think I need to provide for the dream God has given me? Why do I think I need to sacrifice something I’m already sure God wants me to do in order to make room for something else? Why is that responsibility on me?

This is me, remember? The performance-driven perfectionist. The control freak. The micro manager. I love telling God what to do because I know best, right?

Here’s the deal, friends, and I’m still working through this. But following God is a process. God never says it’s anything other than that. Following Christ takes faith, and faith takes a strange combination of hard work and patience.

Yes, I think faith is hard work. Maybe not hard work like hauling feed sacks, but it’s difficult to sit still and let God do the heavy lifting while you cling to Him, especially when you’re used to depending on your own strength to define you.

One thing I’ve learned is that God will never ask you to do something He won’t equip you for. Maybe He’s equipped you already and you just don’t know it. Maybe He’ll equip you along the way, and He just wants you to do it. Either way, He won’t send you out to tackle a job for Him without the support and the tools that you need, and no matter how you look at that, money is a tool.

It’s not your job to worry how you’re going to meet your financial needs. It’s your job to make sure you’re doing what God has called you to do, and God will take care of your needs.

God has made a lot of promises, and He’s kept every single one. And the ones that are still outstanding are just around the corner. We just have to believe that God will do what He’s promised (that’s faith) and hold on until the plan comes together (that’s endurance).

So what am I going to drop so I can make some extra money? Nothing. God has called me to do everything I’m doing. So I’m going to pass on it. Maybe you think that’s irresponsible, and maybe you’re right. But instead of trying to make it happen on my own, I’m going to take God at His word this time, and we’ll see what happens.