Wheat nearly ready to harvest at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Your ticket to one wild ride

Do you take God seriously? I mean, do you trust Him when He promises to bless you for obedience? When God tells you to do something and you do it, what do you expect will happen? Do you think He’s just going to turn His back on you? Do you think He’s asked you to do something just to watch you dance like a puppet on a string?

God doesn’t work like that. Yes, there are many times when we’ll encounter situations in our lives that will test our faith, but it’s never God dangling a carrot in front of our faces to see if we’ll bite.

So when you obey, when you do what God has told you to do, are you ready for what comes afterward?

Wheat nearly ready to harvest at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Wheat nearly ready to harvest at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Ephesians 5:15-16.

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

God told me to do something a few years back, or at least He put the germ of an idea in my head. At the time, it wouldn’t have worked. If I would have tried, I would have failed. And even though the idea fascinated me, I didn’t hear Him telling me to jump up and do it.

And throughout the years, God kept bringing it up every now and then, kind of like a tickle at the back of my brain. “Hey, don’t forget about this! This is something I want you to do, but you’re not ready yet.”

A few years later, actually in August of last year, that idea came rushing back on me again stronger and louder than ever before. And this time I couldn’t tune it out. This time I couldn’t ignore it.

So I didn’t. I did what He was telling me to do. And guess what? He held up His end of the bargain. Way more than I expected Him to. In fact, He’s opening doors so fast that I can’t keep up. It’s all I can do to keep holding on as He takes me on what will probably be the craziest ride of my life, and I couldn’t be more excited.

But why does that surprise me? Why do I expect failure when God has never given me reason to doubt Him? I guess it’s not that I doubt Him; I just doubt my interpretation of what He tells me. And that’s why it’s important to have people around you who are on the same page as  you spiritually, to confirm what you think you’re hearing.

But how many times has fear of failure stopped me in my tracks? How many times have I not done what God was clearly telling me to do because I was afraid. I don’t want to think about it. But I need to. We all need to.

I learned today’s passage in an older translation that used the phrase “redeeming the time.” I always used to wonder what that meant. And, it’s true, it does mean to make the most of every opportunity like the newer translation says, but there’s something really beautiful in that phrase: redeeming the time.

Taking the time that might be wasted otherwise (in worrying, in anxiety, in purposeless pursuits) and using it to accomplish something for God. That’s redeeming the time. And that’s what we’re called to do. Why? Because the days are evil.

And they are. We’ve never lived in darker days. More people are persecuted for their faith in Christ today than ever before. More people are trapped in darkness than ever before. More churches are being closed due to scandal than ever before.

Frankly, Believers, we don’t have time to waste. So if God has called you to do something, don’t just stand there. Do it. You have a certain amount of time that’s been allotted to you. Some have more than others. But whatever you have God gave you for a reason, and He doesn’t make mistakes. He hasn’t put you where you are for no reason. He hasn’t walked you through all your difficult circumstances just to test your mettle. He’s got a plan for you, and because He’s good, so are His plans.

So do you trust Him? Do you take Him seriously? And if you do what He’s asking you to do, are you ready for the ride He’s going to take you on?

Don’t doubt that it’ll be wild. Because once you tell Him yes, you’re going to see amazing things happen, things that no one else will be able to explain, things that may only mean something to you–but they’ll mean something to you. And that will be enough to remind you just Who you’re working for.

You aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. Neither am I. Nobody is. The clock is ticking, and time is running out. So stop fooling around and get busy doing something that will matter when eternity gets here.

Sunflower in a field near Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

You can’t find happiness by knowing what it isn’t

The United Nations proclaimed March 20, 2013, as the International Day of Happiness. Yesterday, people all over the world celebrated in many different ways.

I guess it’s good to have a day dedicated to celebrating happiness, and the purpose for the day is to remind the world that being happy doesn’t mean being rich or famous. But in all of the materials I reviewed (briefly), I couldn’t find one where they explained what happiness is. All I could find was what happiness isn’t. And one thing I’ve learned about happiness is that you can’t achieve it without a focal point. You can’t be happy just by understanding what it isn’t. You have to have a reason to be happy.

At least, that’s how it works for me. I can’t just be happy because I know it doesn’t come from wealth or fame or beauty. I need to know what it does come from.

Sunflower in a field near Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunflower in a field near Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Jeremiah 17:7-8.

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
    and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
    with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
    or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
    and they never stop producing fruit.

What does the word blessed mean? In some instances where it shows up (bless the Lord, call her blessed, etc.), it usually means to say good things about. When we bless the Lord, it means to say good things about God, remembering what He’s done for us. But in other instances, like this one, blessed means happy.

With that in mind, check the verse out again. “But blessed (happy) are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.”

And that’s what I’m looking for. If I trust in the Lord and make Him my hope and confidence, I’ll be happy. Why? Because like trees planted by a river, I never lack for anything I need.

You can’t find happiness by understanding what it isn’t. The only way to be truly happy is to understand where it really comes from. Not wealth or fame or beauty or even health. You can’t even find true happiness in the intangibles like family and security and love because none of those things last.

The only way to be truly happy is to place your hope and trust in God. So don’t flail around looking for happiness in all the wrong places. You can try, but you won’t find it.

Trust God and let His promises become the foundation you build your life on.

Spider webs in the sunlight at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Real is what you can’t see

You can’t see them very well, but the ground beneath the cedar trees in this photograph is layered with spider webs. I couldn’t get the light right to show how many there were, but you can see a few of them. But the only way to see them at all is with the sunlight. Without the sun setting behind them, I wouldn’t have noticed the light reflecting off the webs at all.

So if I didn’t see them, would that make them unreal? If I said that, you’d tell me I’m nuts. The spider webs in this photograph are real whether I can see them or not. So if that’s true with spider webs, why can’t people believe the same thing about following Christ?

Spider webs in the sunlight at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Spider webs in the sunlight at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is 2 Corinthians 4:18.

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

I don’t know why the human mind has trouble accepting the truth of something it can’t see. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t make it unreal, but for some reasons our brains aren’t wired that way. We have to experience it to understand it. It’s the whole “see it to believe it” mentality, and it’s prevalent in our world today (for everything except evolution, but that’s a different topic altogether).

Since when did people’s experiences dictate truth? I’ve never been to Japan, but I know Japan exists. I know people who’ve visited. I’ve read stories about it. I’ve seen it on a map and in photographs. But since I’ve never experienced it for myself, I could take the position that Japan isn’t real. Now, you’d tell me I’m crazy, because everyone knows Japan is real. And that’s the truth, whether I believe it’s true or not.

The way the world tells us to think is so backwards from what the Bible says. Every day the world tells us to believe our eyes, but that’s not how a Christ-follower is supposed to live. Actually, it’s the exact opposite.  The world would have us believe that real is physical, that it’s the things and people you can touch and see. But that’s a lie.

The things we see, the parts of life we can touch and feel, are temporary. Our bodies. Our possessions. None of it will last forever, and when you die, you can’t take any of it with you.  All of it will end.

Real is what you can’t see. The human soul. Love. The intangibles of following Christ are the things that you’ll never lose, even in eternity.

So how is that encouraging? Well, I can tell you that one thing I see a lot of is trouble. Financial trouble. Health trouble. Political trouble. And because all of those things are front and center in my vision, it’s easy to think that they’re real problems. But if real is what I can’t see, all of that is just a passing inconvenience. Why waste time focusing on any of it?

Real is what you can’t see. It’s people, not their bodies, their souls. It’s relationships. It’s families and friendships. Don’t focus on the temporary things that are just passing through; focus on the real, eternal parts of life.

You can’t see them normally. You have to look for them using the Bible as a filter. The Bible reveals life and living in a whole new light, sort of like the perfect angle of a sunset can reveal a patch of ground layered in invisible spider webs.

Just because you can see it doesn’t make it real. The trouble you’re going through right now is temporary, so don’t waste time thinking about it. Focus instead on what will last forever. Your relationship with Christ. Your friends and family. Love.  Your troubles won’t go away, but they will get easier to handle because your perspective will change.

Snow on the lilac bushes at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Second-hand hope

Ever have a day where nothing goes right? How about a week? A month? A year? When you get to that point, getting through means just holding on, sometimes by your fingertips. I don’t like living by reaction, but sometimes to survive, you have to.

When life gets to that point, you can try to plan, you can try to prepare, you can try to make some sense of the chaos, but really all you can do is take one day at a time.

Snow on the lilac bushes at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Snow on the lilac bushes at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Psalm 25:5.
Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.

On those bad days, where everything falls apart and all your plans fall through, before you get discouraged, double check where you’ve placed your hope. Hope is a funny thing. It’s so important. You can’t make it through life without it. But for something so important, it’s notoriously easy to misplace.

Is your hope in a person? Or in a person’s idea? That’s not necessarily bad. Some people have ideas worth supporting, but people aren’t perfect and neither are their ideas. But should you put the whole weight of your hope in something fallible?

Is your hope in a religion? Also not necessarily bad. But when you get right down to it, religion is a system of rules derived from God’s (or a god’s) authority and communicated by people. And it’s difficult to separate man’s rules from that communication some times. As well-intentioned as people are, we don’t always get it right. So should you put the whole weight of your hope in something people claim God said?

This verse says it all. Put your hope in the God who saves us. That means put your hope in what He actually says, what’s written in the Bible, what’s true. Don’t rely solely on what someone else tells you God said. I’m not saying don’t listen to your pastor, but there’s a big difference between putting your hope in God says and putting your hope in what your pastor says God said.

Hope needs to be personal, just like faith. Second-hand hope is easy to misplace.

When life goes wrong (and it will), make sure your hope is in what God actually says. If God said it, it’s true, and you can trust it. If God said it, He’ll do it. And you can put your hope in it. No, He may not act the way you think He will. I guarantee He won’t act when you want Him to, but He will act. And it will turn out better than you expect. But if you’re trusting someone else’s interpretation of God’s word, you may end up fighting Him through the whole process.

Make sure your hope is in Him and Him alone. And if you don’t know, figure it out. Get to know Him. Learn what He actually says. Ask Him for help understanding. He’s never turned anyone who truly seeks Him away.

Old glass Christmas orb full of shredded garland, Haven, KS

Putting pieces back together with hope

It would have been the day after Thanksgiving in 1992 or 1993 when I watched my dad pull an old clear glass ornament out of the ancient, dusty box we stored our decorations in. I’m not sure what possessed him to do it, but we had a bunch of old garland just lying in the box. And he magically got the top off the ornament (it seemed like magic to me) and stuffed it full of garland. Then, he put it all back together, and what had been a blank, empty ornament ball had become a brand new ornament.

I snapped this photo in 2013, 20 years later, and that ornament is still hanging there. On the same tree. Yes, I tend to be a bit sentimental about my ornaments, but this one was special, mostly just because my dad made it out of scraps. The old ornament wasn’t worth much; it was just an empty globe. And the garland wasn’t anything special either. It was heading for the trash can probably. But my dad saw what it could be.

Old glass Christmas orb full of shredded garland, Haven, KS

Old glass Christmas orb full of shredded garland, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Proverbs 24:14.

In the same way, wisdom is sweet to your soul.
If you find it, you will have a bright future,
and your hopes will not be cut short.

Like no other time of year, Christmas is a time of hope. We sing about it, and we send Christmas cards with little sayings about hope and such all scribbled inside. But what is hope really? And where does it come from? And why does it matter?

I posted yesterday about fools and mentioned the book of Proverbs. Well, we’re back there again today, but the point of this verse is wisdom–finding wisdom means you find a bright future where hope never dies. The writer here is actually continuing from a previous sentence where he’s talking about how eating honey is good. Like honey, wisdom is sweet.

Wisdom is one of those priceless things you can’t buy, and you won’t discover it by accident either. It’s something you have to ask for many times. And the rest of the time, it’s something you have to learn. You don’t get wisdom overnight. Kind of like eating a honeycomb. Have you ever tried to get enough honey out of eating honeycomb? I always ended up with more wax then honey. The honey was great, but it took some effort to reach it.

Wisdom is like that. And once you have it, wisdom changes your entire perspective on life, on yourself, on God, on others.

So where do you get it? Well, the best place is from God. That’s the best place to get wisdom. Ask God for it. Read it in the Bible. Listen to the Spirit when you’re praying. Take God at His word, and wisdom will just come.

When you accept God’s perspective on things, it’s not that you ignore the world’s brokenness. Following Christ isn’t about living in denial about where we live and what our purpose here is. It’s that you have so much grace in your life that you can’t help but extend it to others around you. It’s that you can see yourself in other people, your sins and the consequences you had to face in the lives of people around you.

Your life might be a wreck, a shattered pile of splinters and glass shards and good intentions gone wrong, but that doesn’t mean your life is over. It just means you need some glue. You may have made every mistake in the book, you may have let everyone you know down, or you may have committed what you consider an unpardonable sin, but there’s nothing that you have done or that you could ever do that would make God love you more or less than He already does.

Wisdom is seeing the broken pieces and putting them back together anyway, trusting that God is going to do something with it.

That’s what this verse means to me. If you have wisdom, your hope never dies. Your hope never stops because God doesn’t. Even if all you have to work with are broken pieces, God can still make something beautiful out of it, something that lasts, something that changes other people.

Remember that, this Christmas. Wherever you are and whatever you’re going through, find God’s wisdom, and once you find it, you can start putting the pieces back together with hope.