You don’t have to choose between faith and common sense

I went to the theater yesterday to see the new Star Wars movie (loved it, by the way), but I noticed something. A lot of people didn’t come into the theater until after the previews had started, and there were even some trickling in after the movie had begun. I was close enough to overhear some of them talking, and one particular couple muttered to themselves that they should have come earlier.

That kind of made me chuckle. I mean, it’s only the most anticipated movie of the year–maybe the decade. And, sure, Wichita isn’t like the crazy big cities that sell out movies, but it’s common sense to expect that it’ll be busy.

Just struck me as funny how often we don’t think about a situation before we jump into it and find ourselves over our heads.

night-television-tv-theme-machinesToday’s verse is Romans 12:2.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

I think some people believe that you either think or you live by faith, but I’ve discovered that they aren’t mutually exclusive. You can have faith and still think about a situation.

The movie theater is a lame example, but it works. You can go to a newly released (highly anticipated movie) with a few minutes before it starts and pray that you find a parking place and a seat, but wouldn’t it be better to think about it beforehand and leave a little earlier to get there in time?

God didn’t give us a brain just so we’d have it. We don’t have the ability to think just as some random accident. We’re supposed to use our brains to make wise choices.

Granted, we don’t always do that. Sometimes we do dumb stuff, and it’s those moments where we need to learn how to accept the consequences of our choices.

You don’t have to choose between faith and common sense. Think about your next step before you take it. The key is thinking about life, the universe, and everything the same way that God does. Read the Bible and see how God sees things, and let the truth transform the way you think. That’s when your thinking matches up with God’s wisdom, that’s where faith and common sense intersect.

Trying to make faith make sense outside of God’s way of thinking will bring nothing but confusion and frustration. You can’t make God fit with any religion or set of rules. You can’t explain the Bible using mythology or politically correct idiom.

But even after you’ve let God change the way you think, you still have to choose to think. We’re supposed to live by faith, but that doesn’t mean turning your brain off.

Black rhino at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

You never know … but God does

Life doesn’t always go the way you want it to. Sometimes, it goes the opposite direction. Sometimes you end up stuck in situations you would never have chosen, and you didn’t do anything to deserve it. You didn’t break the rules or do something stupid. Life just happened, and boom! You’re stuck.

When was the last time you thanked God because you were stuck? When was the last time you thanked God because something bad happened in your life? Those occasions don’t usually call for a praise service. It’s escaping those circumstances that normally bring on the adulations and exultations. But the Bible says over and over and over again throughout the Bible that we are to be thankful and that we are to thank God for our circumstances, good or bad, when we’re through them or when we’re in them.

Why is that? Is it just for the sake of our perspective? I do think that plays a role. When you wake up and you choose to be thankful no matter what, it does something to your attitude. But is there more to it than that?

Black rhino at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Black rhino at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Isaiah 55:8-11.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
The rain and snow come down from the heavens
    and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the grain to grow,
    producing seed for the farmer
    and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
    I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
    and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”

Who gets God? Who understands Him? Who can wrap their mind around the way He thinks? Anyone?

I don’t know anyone who can claim that. Granted, I know people who do claim it without really saying that they claim it. But no one really understands God in the same way that people understand people. Why? Well, there’s no one like God. No one else even comes close. So why do we think that we can think they same way He does? Why do we think we can put words in His mouth?

Now, I do believe Christ-followers have insight into why God does what He does, and maybe even a glimpse into His plan through the power of the Holy Spirit. But there’s a difference knowing God’s heart and knowing His thoughts.

Here’s the thing about bad circumstances or unhappy situations: they might just happen sometimes but they don’t ever happen in a vacuum. When something bad happens to you, the way you react to it will set the tone of the circumstance as a whole. You can treat it like a curse, like a problem, like a punishment. Or you can treat it like an opportunity to get to know God better. The way you tackle trials in your life makes all the difference in the world.

But I still think this concept goes deeper than just perspective. I honestly think there’s a very practical reason why God tells us to be thankful for every part of our lives, including the bad parts. Simply because we don’t always know what’s good for us and what’s bad for us. Sometimes we see things in our lives, and we think they’re bad. But God allowed those bad things to cross our paths because He planned to make something good out of it. Sometimes we look at a bad problem as a punishment, when it’s really just God preventing something worse from happening in our lives.

This is a corny example but how many times have I gotten on the road later than intended? For whatever reason. Cats underfoot. Garage door broken. Can’t find my pants. I could get upset in those moments and take my frustration out on God, but what would have happened that day if I had made it out the door on time? I might have run across a wreck, a wreck I missed because I was running late.

There have been so many other examples like this, but you get the point. It’s quite practical.

Bad things happen. Horrible things happen in life, things that tear you up inside and rip you apart and leave you a shell of who you were. But just because a situation looks bad now doesn’t mean that it will always be bad.

That’s what’s so amazing about God is that He can take those bad situations and turn them into something we’re thankful for down the road. In some instances that doesn’t seem possible. How can the dark, horrible parts of my life ever be something I’m happy for? I used to think that; now I’ve lived it.

What bad thing has happened to you? What terrible trouble is hovering over your head? Stop looking at it like it’s bad. Yes, it may be bad, but just because it’s bad now doesn’t mean it will always be bad. God has a habit of redeeming the bad and making it better than good. Who knows? The bad in your life right now might be what’s keeping you from running into something worse.

You never know, but God does.

Stray milo at sunset

What does your brain think about?

What occupies your thoughts most frequently? Do you think about work? Do you think about what you get to do on your day off? Do you think about your hobbies? Or your friends? If your brain ever has a chance to wander, what do you think about? It’s a fair assumption to say that you are going to spend your time thinking about the things (or the people) you love.

I’m not sure why that is. But I’ve noticed that the human brain tends to spend more time proportionately thinking about things we love than it does about things we hate or dislike . . . unless you’re just a miserable person in general. Then you focus on things you don’t like or the things that are wrong in your life. But that’s not the topic for this morning.

Stray milo at sunset

Stray milo at sunset - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Psalm 139:17-18. And this verse isn’t about our thoughts–it’s about God’s thoughts.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand! And when I wake up, you are still with me!

I don’t know if this amazes anyone else, but it leaves me speechless to understand that God thinks about me. And not just passing thoughts. Enough thoughts about me that they outnumber the grains of sand on the beaches. That’s a lot of thoughts.

That God would take so much time to think about me is beyond my comprehension. It doesn’t really make sense. But that’s what this verse says. And the rest of the chapter talks about how God knows every inch of us, knows what we’re going to say before we say it, knows what we’re thinking before we think it, knows everything there is to know about us. So I don’t think I’m misunderstanding the concept here.

I can’t help but compare it to how many times I think about God in a day. I wouldn’t say my thoughts number into the grains-of-sand level. More like, having-to-count-on-fingers-and-toes level. And compared to how much God thinks about me, that’s pretty pitiful.

Most of the time, my thoughts are consumed with my busy schedule. If it’s not my schedule, the writing nerd in me is thinking about the book I’m working on or the next short story I need to finish or a skit that needs to be written. I’m doing better about leaving work at work, but it still pops up too. And, boy, do I spend a lot of time thinking about church, which isn’t the same thing as thinking about God by the way.

I get so busy. I am constantly running around like my hair is on fire. With all the responsibilities I have taken on, some days it’s like I can barely keep my head above water. There’s too much to do at work. There’s too much to do at home. There’s too much to write. There are too many people I need to communicate with. Too many and too much of everything. And all of them are jockeying for position in my head.

So in all that thinking about my life, when does that leave me time to think about God? My hour-long commute? Two hours, if you count the round trip? And that’s not really thinking about God. That’s my prayer time. When was the last time I just sat and thought about God? When was the last time I just sat at all?

I’m not really a thinker. I’m a doer. And I’m a fixer. So sitting and thinking is difficult for me. But taking some time to sit and think about what God means to me might help my perspective. Because if I can slow down and remember who my God is, I can do anything.

God loves me enough to think about me. And not just once or twice a day. Constantly. So am I constantly thinking about Him? Not really. So maybe that needs to change.