Help each other, but do it yourself

I’m great at making lists and plans and schedules. What I’m not so good at is sticking to them. Do I have any brothers and sisters out there? It’s not difficult for you to see everything that needs to be done, and you don’t even have to fight to get them into a somewhat-reasonable schedule. But when the day comes to actually follow the schedule, other priorities have popped up. People ask you to do things you didn’t plan for. Life happens.

And you have to adjust your schedule accordingly. But then you’re faced with a dilemma, because the new things you’ve added into your schedule prevent you from having enough time to do what you planned originally. So you push everything back. And then by the end of the week, it snowballs, and you’re completely buried.

I struggle with this so much because I have a hard time accepting that my plans and my goals are more important than the plans and goals of other people. And that’s where it gets tricky, because you can’t very well put yourself first and still follow Jesus, can you?

0D9BF61E08Today’s verses are Galatians 6:2-5.

Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important. Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct. 

On first glance, this passage almost contradicts itself, doesn’t it? One one hand, we are to share each other’s burdens, but we’re supposed to be responsible for our own conduct too. Can those two statements exist in the same sentence? Help each other, but do it yourself?

Every Christ-follower has something to do that God has designed them for. It’s a unique and individual task assigned to every believer. And you should never ever undervalue that fact. What God has called you to do matters, and you shouldn’t set that calling aside lightly.

But, sometimes life does happen. Sometimes the people in your life need your help, your support, your love, and when that happens, you have to be willing to do what’s needed. Because you’re called to help your brothers and sisters in Christ just as much as you’re called to fulfill God’s destiny for your life.

But there’s a difference between helping a brother or sister who needs you and constantly putting out fires. Helping someone with a burden isn’t the same as doing your own work, and if all you’re doing is carrying other people’s burdens for them, you’re going to wear yourself out, you won’t accomplish what God has called you to do, and you’ll prevent your friend from learning a lesson God needs to teach him.

So what does this paradoxical approach to scheduling your life even look like? Beats me. It’ll be different for each person.

Once you figure out what God wants you to do (and that’s a whole different blog post in itself), you need to do it. You need to get your life to the place where you can do what God tells you to do without delay or excuse. Then, you have to DO it. That’s another step. It’s one step to find it. It’s another step to plan it. It’s a huge step to take action, but you must. Don’t just sit there. Do it.

My problem is that I don’t see my calling as equally important to someone else’s. I know I’m called to do something important, but if someone else comes along and needs help, I put more value on their calling than on mine. And that’s not necessarily wrong. I mean, who knows, maybe your calling is to help others achieve their callings. Anything’s possible, and the Body of Christ has many parts.

But if you know for sure what you’re supposed to be doing for God, don’t let anyone else tell you it doesn’t matter. That means if it’s important enough to put on your schedule, it’s important enough for you to do it, and it’s important enough for you to turn down other projects for it.

Don’t be hard-hearted about it, of course. And if life happens (as it so often does), stop to help. But ask God about it first. Ask God’s permission to step away from your calling in order to do something else.

Maybe you don’t know what your calling is, and that’s fine. Don’t give up until you find it. Ask God to reveal it, because you have one. Everybody does. Sometimes it’s a dream. Sometimes it’s a goal. Sometimes it doesn’t even look like a calling. But you’ve got one.

What you are doing for God matters. Period. And, yes, it’s important to help other people. Yes, it’s important to encourage your brothers and sisters. But don’t treat your calling as dispensable. God designed you for a purpose. There’s nothing insignificant about that.

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A roller coaster that holds on to you

I think I’ve been looking at God-opportunities wrong all my life. So many times when God starts doing something, I’m ready and willing to jump on board and hold on tight as the ride shoots forward at a breakneck pace. But is that really the best way to ride?

On a roller coaster, you’re usually strapped in so tightly that holding on white-knuckled can’t make you any more secure. The only exception to that was the old wooden roller coaster at Joyland in Wichita, which was a death trap.

What do you do with your hands on roller coasters? Most people hold on for dear life, yeah, but what should you do with them? I’ve never tried it, but some brave souls throw their hands in the air. Why? Maybe it’s a crazy trust exercise. Maybe it’s to demonstrate that they’re fearless.

Either way, I’m sure you’re probably a lot more comfortable after the ride is over if you aren’t having to use a crowbar to pry your fingers off the harness.

But that got me thinking. If God is inviting us to ride the wild roller coaster of life with Him, would it be better to hold on tight for dear life or let go and enjoy the ride?

Courtesy of Joel A . Rogers, http://www.coastergallery.com/

Courtesy of Joel A . Rogers, http://www.coastergallery.com/

Today’s verse is Exodus 14:15.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!”

This is what God says to Moses just before He parts the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross to escape Pharaoh’s army. Really, you ought to read the whole of Exodus 14 to get the feel for the story. But it comes down to God telling Moses what to do, and the Moses does it. But the Israelites aren’t just standing there. When the Red Sea parts, they still have to cross it.

Maybe my thinking is all wrong, but all my life, I’ve looked at the rapid pace of God’s plans, and I’ve automatically decided that the best way to approach them is to hunker down and hold on tight. If I don’t, I’m bound to fall off, right? Because there’s no way I can keep up on my own.

Going back to the roller coaster analogy, if we’re riding it, we don’t need to keep up. We’re strapped in six ways from Sunday. We’re on the ride, and a roller coaster doesn’t stop to let you off. Once you’re strapped in, you’re committed.

What would rapid-pace running with God look like if I weren’t holding on for dear life? Because there’s a big difference between holding on to the ride and participating in the ride.

What if I trusted Him enough to let go and put my hands in the air? If all of my strength and focus wasn’t invested in holding on tight, I could use that strength and focus in other ways. Like enjoying the ride. Like marveling at how fast we’re going. I could keep my eyes open and see what’s coming.

What is it about running with God that makes us think we have to do something to stay on the ride? If He invited us to get on, don’t you think He’ll make sure we stay on? The only reason why we’d fall off is if we sabotaged our harness, and any thinking person wouldn’t do that.

The point is this. Instead of holding on to the ride, hold on to Christ and reach forward together. You’ve got two hands, and you don’t have to cling to your harness with all your strength. You can be busy doing things while you’re on the ride. Don’t be afraid of the speed. Don’t be afraid of the sharp corners and loud sounds. God knows what’s coming, and He’ll make sure you stay in your seat.

You don’t have to keep up. You don’t have to add anything to the ride. But what you can do is be ready. If all your focus is on holding yourself in one place, you won’t notice the opportunities to help others. You won’t anticipate the moments when you can do something more than just let go.

If we’re on the ride with God, we should spend less time holding on and more time letting go. It’ll be fast, yes. It’ll be wild, absolutely. But it’ll also be the best thing you’ve ever experienced. And you won’t spend it holding on for dear life.

Sheep grazing in the distance along Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Jump at God’s opportunities

Have you ever noticed that sometimes opportunities crop up in our lives out of the blue? You aren’t expecting them. They sort of just land in your lap. They show up in the form of people, in promotions, in your job itself.

Sometimes opportunities can be difficult to identify. For me, most of the time, opportunity appears as one more responsibility. And it’s true you have to be wise about which opportunities you choose to pursue, but there are instances in life when God opens a door in front of you, and it is obviously from Him. It’s those moments you need to be prepared for.

Sheep grazing in the distance along Hadrian's Wall, Northern England

Sheep grazing in the distance along Hadrian’s Wall, Northern England

Today’s verses are Genesis 12:1-4.

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.

Have you ever walked away from an open door? I have. Lots of times. God has dropped opportunities in my lap, and I’ve passed them by for one reason or another. Fear or anxiety. Uncertainty or insecurity. Laziness is one too. Sometimes it’s because I wasn’t paying close enough attention to recognize it in the first place.

Put yourself in Abram’s shoes. In case you didn’t know, Abram and Abraham are the same person. Later in Abram’s life, God would change his name. This passage is from where he first appears in Scripture.

A lot of time I think we forget that people in the Bible didn’t have the Bible to read. So when God appeared to Abram or spoke to him or however He chose to communicate, Abram couldn’t go reference it in Scripture. It hadn’t been written yet.

But whatever God did or said, Abram made the choice to believe Him. And not only did Abram believe, he acted.

I want to be more like that. When God gives me an opportunity, I don’t want to question it. I want to jump on it.  Because God isn’t going to give us an open door for no reason. No, it might not lead the way we want it to. No, it might not take us the direction we expected. It’ll take a lot of courage. It’ll take a lot of faith. It probably won’t be easy because you’ll have to do something you’ve never done before. But if it’s a path God has opened for us, it’s worth traveling.

Are your eyes open? Are you paying attention to what God is doing in your life? Don’t miss the opportunities He gives you. And don’t ignore them because you’re afraid of them or because you aren’t sure you’re talented enough (that’s what God is for). Just do it. Just go. Let God work out the details. He’ll do a better job of it than you will anyway.

Moon rising over Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

No excuses

Has God ever told you to do something specific? No, not in an audible voice, but still in an undeniable, unshakable, inescapable desire to accomplish something. It starts out as a spur-of-the-moment idea, one of those concepts that you should be able to easily brush aside as nonsense, but it doesn’t brush away. It’s like a sand burr in your brain, and it keeps poking and poking until you can’t ignore it anymore. Or pressure on your heart.

At least, that’s how God talks to me outside of Scripture. Maybe I’m nuts, but that has been my experience. And I wish I were a “good” enough Christian to tell you that every time I realize it’s God talking to me I jump right up and do exactly like He’s commanding.

Right. Most of the time, I duck my head down, stick my fingers in my ears, and hum a song to myself in hopes that He’ll leave me alone and ask someone more qualified to take care of it. And it’s not that I don’t think He equips people for tasks. For me, most of the time, the issue is time itself. I don’t have much to offer. But something happened yesterday that made me remember exactly Who is in charge of time.

Moon rising over Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Moon rising over Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Joshua 10:12-14.

On the day the Lord gave the Israelites victory over the Amorites, Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of all the people of Israel. He said, “Let the sun stand still over Gibeon, and the moon over the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies. Is this event not recorded in The Book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the middle of the sky, and it did not set as on a normal day. There has never been a day like this one before or since, when the Lord answered such a prayer. Surely the Lord fought for Israel that day!

So much of the Old Testament can be confusing because of cultural references, and–let’s not beat around the bush here–the Old Testament records a lot of major supernatural things happening that we just don’t see anymore. True, the New Testament records miracles too but not like the first 39 books of the Bible. And today’s passage is just one small mention of one major thing.

According to this passage, the sun and the moon stopped moving until Israel defeated their enemies.

What the heck? That’s not something you hear about every day. That’s not something you hear about every thousand years. I mean, shoot, we get all excited for lunar eclipses. What would happen if the sun and moon both just stopped moving in the sky? It would make the Mayan apocalypse of 2012 look like a bad science fiction movie…. wait….

What am I getting at here?

Okay. Confession time. God told me to do something recently, and my response to Him was, “Are you freakin’ crazy? That’s nuts!” But God’s not crazy, and when He wants me to do something, He doesn’t stop leaning on me until I get it through my thick skull that, yes, He is talking to me. So I said yes, but I reminded Him how busy I was. I reminded Him how much work I had to do and how little time I had to do it in. If He didn’t help me out, it wasn’t going to work.

So what happened? To keep this long story short, the day after I stopped fighting, I got more accomplished than I have in ages. And I got it done everywhere, at work, at home, in my personal to do list. Everywhere.

Seriously?

I don’t know why God doesn’t just knock me over the head with a two-by-four some days. He has so much more patience with me than I deserve.

Here’s the thing, Christians (and I’m so talking to myself right now). If God has told you to do something, He isn’t going to leave the whole weight of it on your shoulders. Yes, many times, we have to take the initiative, but God doesn’t expect us to carry out His plans all on our own strength. After all, they’re not our plans; they’re His. So why would He give us something to do and then leave it entirely on us?

I have no excuse for refusing to do what God has asked me to do. All my supposed obstacles became opportunities.

So what’s stopping you? Are you scared? Ask Him for courage; He helped a teenager slay a warrior giant. Are you broke? Ask Him for resources; He can take five loaves and fishes and feed 10,000 people. Or are you like me and you’re too busy? Remember, you’re talking to the God who can stop the moon and sun in the sky whenever He chooses.

No excuses, Christ-followers. Think about it. Let’s stop handing Him a bunch of lines and just do what He asks. I think we might be surprised at what He does in our lives.

Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Dawdling

The English language fascinates me. It’s a melting pot, a strange concoction of so many different languages and influences. But I imagine it’s a nightmare to try to translate from and into. I’ve worked with enough people who speak different languages (Arabic, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, German, etc.) to grasp that. English, and especially American English, is broad and indolent and verbose; American English likes the sound of its own voice. But even so, it’s a fun language to learn about because the more you learn about English, the more you learn about other languages.

Granted, I’m a word nerd. But today’s verse made me think of a word that I really haven’t heard used much recently. The word I thought of is dawdle.

Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Funky lizard staring me down at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 2 Peter 3:9.

The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.

Did anyone else hear, “Don’t dawdle!” in this verse? Or was that just me? Maybe it was just me because, again, I’m thinking this word has fallen out of common usage.

I looked it up on dictionary.com, and the word actually started into common usage around 1775, probably based on the word “daddle” which started in 1656 and meant to walk unsteadily. The thought is that the daw bird influenced the word because of its reputation of being sluggish and silly. And that’s what dawdle means. To waste time. Being sluggish. Being idle. Lingering for no purpose other than to linger. It’s the kind of word I used to think only stiff and proper nannies used when telling unruly children to get busy.

The thing about dawdling is that it’s purposeless. It’s a waste.

And what I see in this verse today is that God isn’t dawdling. He’s waiting. Sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between waiting and wasting time, but the way you can tell is that one has a purpose and the other doesn’t. Waiting means there’s a plan in action and you’re just anticipating when it’s your turn to jump in; dawdling, wasting time, is knowing the plan but refusing to jump in even when it’s your turn.

God isn’t dawdling. He has a plan. He has a purpose. He’s waiting to come back for us because He wants to give everyone the opportunity to make a choice. He’s waiting because there are still some people who are dawdling.

By that same token, it’s a good idea to think your decision through, though. Don’t make snap judgments ever. I truly believe that many people decide to follow Christ on a whim. It’s easy to say; it’s much more difficult to live. And if that decision wasn’t truly a decision made with both heart and head in tandem, it’s not real. It has to be a commitment, not just a statement. Unfortunately, I think people who don’t believe are confused by those of us who do when we tout the Christian life as easy.

Yes, there are aspects of it that are easy, but it’s not an easy life. Not by a long shot. It’s a life full of joy and gratitude and contentment and wonder and awe at what God can do. But it’s a life of sorrow too because we are constantly surrounded by darkness and contempt and foolishness–and there are days when holding up “This Little Light of Mine” makes my arm really tired. And those are the days that we need to be honest with people about.

So it’s good to think about your choices. But dawdling over choices can get you in trouble. We are a culture of procrastinators, and that would be all right if we had all the time in the world. But we don’t. You need to make sure you understand what you’re changing your mind to, but don’t dawdle about it. Know your choices. Make your choice. Don’t waste time because it’s rapidly running out.

And that works the same in life. We can linger and loiter over choices all day long, but all you’re doing is wasting time. And if God doesn’t dawdle, we shouldn’t either.

So check your heart. Are you wasting time on a decision you need to make? Are you waiting for God to show you what you need to know to make that decision? If you are, that’s between you and Him. But if you already know what you’re supposed to do, do it. Don’t dawdle.