Lions chilling out at Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

What God requires

I like to perform, not on stage but in life. If I don’t deliver a good performance that meets or exceeds expectations in anything that I do, I get depressed. I like to please people, and I like to go above and beyond what people expect of me. But to accomplish that, I have to know what they expect me to do to begin with.

I’ve tried to break myself of this whole performance-based acceptance concept because God doesn’t work like that. God doesn’t care about our performance in regards to how much He loves us, but He does have expectations for how His children should behave.

Lions chilling out at Sedgwick County Zoo - Wichita, KS

Lions chilling out at Sedgwick County Zoo – Wichita, KS

Today’s verses are Micah 6:6-8.

What can we bring to the Lord?
What kind of offerings should we give him?
Should we bow before God
with offerings of yearling calves?
Should we offer him thousands of rams
and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
to pay for our sins?

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.So many times I think we try to bribe God with money or giving up things we view as essential or important. I have many friends who give up things for Lent, which I believe is a period of time before Easter. It’s a religious tradition in some families. One friend gave up pop for a year. Another friend gave up chocolate for a year. And so on and so forth. They do it to show devotion, that things like that mean less to them than God does.

But is that what God requires of us?  What does God require from us? What does He want us to give up? What does He wants us to do for Him? What does He want us to sacrifice?

Well … here’s the thing. All of those requirements have been met through Christ. Christ was our sacrifice. Christ paid the price for our sins. Christ was the offering God required to symbolically cleanse us of our wrong and make us right with Him. So we aren’t required to give up anything. We aren’t required to sacrifice anything. We aren’t required to do anything, save making the choice to trust Christ in the first place.

People like to add things to God’s free gift so it makes us feel like we have some say in it. But God doesn’t need us to do anything more. He already did it all.

However, He does expect that we will behave in a certain way, and because God is a God of communication, He tells us exactly what those expectations are:

Do right. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God.

Here’s how The Message puts it:

Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.

Is that too much to ask?

It’s certainly not easy. In the world we’re living in, doing what is fair and just is difficult because those qualities mark a higher road. And the higher road is always harder.

And when it comes to loving others? Love is easier from a distance, but that’s not real love. The kind of love here is compassionate love and loyal love, and both  of those require closeness. Another way to translate that says to love mercy and kindness, and that means to look for opportunities to show mercy to people. And that is even harder than taking the high road in doing right. You can take the high road and do the right thing without having to interact with people. But God expects us as His children to look for people to do good things for, even if they aren’t interested in doing good back to us.

And walking humbly? Not taking yourself too seriously? That’s difficult too, especially if you’ve already accomplished the other two. Because if you can always take the high road and always manage to do good to others, it’s easy to slip into the thought that you’re better than everybody else. But you’re not. You just take God seriously. That’s the key. You’re no different than anyone else; you just made a choice.

Another interesting thing to note is that each of these expectations starts with an action verb. Just a fun fact for all the grammar nerds out there. God expects us to move, to do these things, to be people of action, not people who absorb Bible verses and rest on their blessed assurance.

So get out there. Do right. Love mercy. And be humble about it. That’s what God expects from us.

The barn at Safe Haven Farm

Don’t build a bigger barn

Probably my favorite musical of all time is The Fiddler on the Roof. I loved it as a child before I really understood what it was about, and I love it as an adult now because of the music, because of the history, because of the characters, because of the setting. It’s a brilliant, beautiful story, and I’m super excited that Music Theatre of Wichita will be performing it this summer. Tevye, the main character, wants to be wealthy. And that’s what I thought of today when I read this morning’s verse.

The barn at Safe Haven Farm

The barn at Safe Haven Farm - Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Luke 12:15.

Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

This is Jesus talking. This statement comes from the Parable of the Rich Fool. You can find it in Luke 12:13-21. It’s a story Jesus told about a man who lived on a very fertile farm that produced a lot of crops. And so he decided that he would build more barns and store all of his grain and be wealthy so he didn’t have to work anymore. This is also where we get the phrase, “Eat, drink and be merry!” because that’s what he told himself he would do. However, just after the man accomplishes all of this, he dies. And everything he worked for was for nothing because he couldn’t take it with him.

It’s very tempting to want to measure the worth of our lives by our possessions because possessions are easy to value. You can get to thinking that you are wealthy because you have so much money or so much land or so much of this or so much of that. And when you think that you are wealthy because of those things, it’s easy to rely on them.

There is nothing wrong with being wealthy. The Bible says repeatedly, not only in statements but also in concept, that it’s the love of money that is evil. It’s loving money more than God that is dangerous and leads to sin. It’s not money itself. Money is a tool to be used to help bring more people to Christ. But we have a difficult time looking at money that way.

Going back to Tevye from The Fiddler on the Roof, he wanted to be a wealthy man because he didn’t want to have to work anymore. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but what’s more important? Seeking wealth or treasuring the wealth you already have?

Most of us are more wealthy than the richest king in the world. If you live in the United States or if you live in a developed nation — or if you have your health — or if you have a family — you are wealthy. Maybe not in terms of possessions or in terms of your bank account, but if you have food to eat and a roof over your head, you are already better off than many other people in the world. And if you have a car to drive? That sort of wealth puts you in the top percentile of the world.

And, as my awesome Pastor likes to say, King Solomon was the richest person to ever exist, and he’d never had a hot fudge sundae. Think about that.

We. Are. Wealthy.

And where has it gotten us? We focus on money until we can’t see anything else. We focus on obtaining riches so we can live a comfortable life. Well, I don’t know if we were necessarily meant to live a comfortable life here. Yes, it’s good to take care of our families. Yes, it’s good to have a roof over your head. But spending the exorbitant amount of money we do on our things? On possessions that won’t last and do nothing to reach into eternity? Is that what we’re supposed to do? Is that how we’re supposed to use our money?

Build bigger barns? Eat, drink and be merry?

I don’t think so.

If you have money, don’t love it; use it. And do as Christ says. Don’t measure the worth of your life by what you own because when your life on earth is over, you won’t have your possessions anymore. What you’ll take with you into eternity are your good works and your heart. And if you spent all your time on earth pursuing money and wealth and fame, those things will burn to ashes because they’re made of nothing more substantial than straw.

But if you leverage your resources to do good for others who can’t do good back to you, if you spend your time and your effort helping the less fortunate, if you sacrifice to see that the things God is doing are done well, those things will last.

Don’t build a bigger barn. Fill up the one you have and give the rest away. That’s more than wealth. That’s how God wants us to live.


I don’t like tests.

I always enjoyed going to class (unless it was math or math-related), and I have always loved to learn. But taking tests to prove that I learned it? Not my favorite thing in the world.

Most of the time I would do all right on any test I was given, but usually I would miss silly little things. Easy questions that I really did know the answer to but that I just neglected to really think about in the middle of the test.

I never really thought about this, but that’s kind of like life. When I run into tests in life, I usually do all right. I know quite a few right answers, so I guess I usually score pretty high. But the answers I miss — the problems in life that really trip me up — are simple. They’re easy things. Like not worrying. Like not getting stressed out. Like not getting impatient with people. And I know how to handle those situations. But in the heat of the moment, in the middle of the test, I don’t think a situation through and I choose the wrong answer — like letting my impatience get the better of me or worrying myself into a pit of depression.

Tests will always come out better if you think about the answers you think are right.

The verse this morning truly encouraged me about this.

Job 23:10-11

 10 “But he knows where I am going.
      And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.
 11 For I have stayed on God’s paths;
      I have followed his ways and not turned aside.

 God knows where we’re going. I can’t even begin to explain how encouraging that is by itself. He knows where we’re going because He knows the future, and because He knows where we’re going, He knows how to help us get ready for what’s coming.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve wondered why God allows certain things to happen in my life. And then (usually about ten years later) after I’ve grown up a bit and gotten a little deeper into life, I can look back and see His hand leading me all they way. I can see the reasons why He let me experience things that at the time felt negative or stressful or overwhelming. He was testing me, getting me ready for something bigger and better that He had for me.

God has given us every resource we need to pass any test we face.

We have the Bible, which tells us how to live. We have the Holy Spirit in us, who prays for us and gives us direct access to God. We have God Himself who is on our side and who wants to help us every chance we let Him. If you’ve in a situation today that you don’t know what to do, pray about it. Read the Bible. Ask God to reveal the answers to you. The answers are in there. Maybe it’s cliched, but–seriously–what would Jesus do? Love God. Love people. I know that’s a general statement, but it’s true.

Do the right thing. Do what God says to do. Honor your parents. Don’t frustrate your children. Respect your husband. Love your wife. Obey your bosses. Pay your taxes. Live a life above reproach. Work as though you’re working for God and not for people. Do everything in your life like you’re doing it for God. Keep your perspective straight. There’s so much about how to live in the Bible, and many times people don’t even look for it.

God has set out a path for us to follow. He’s given us directions. He’s not only told us how to live but when Jesus was here, He showed us how to live too. He set down a path for us. So we should get on that path and stay on it. We need to follow Christ and not deviate. That’s what it means to be a Christian. Not being baptized or taking Communion or singing hymns or wearing special clothes or belonging to a church.

Stay on God’s path. Follow His ways. Don’t deviate. Then, when God allows life to test you, you’ll have the answers you need.

Then, you’ll be golden.